Monday, July 25, 2005


Here are some of the questions that have come up about this blog:

Why are you doing this?
This may come as a surprise, but I have a lot of opinions, and I enjoy sharing them.

How long does it take to run your blog?
I spend roughly an hour on my day-off. (More than that, and I figure that it's turning into a substitute for reality.)

How much does it cost you to run a blog?
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. It's free.

Why would someone let you post a blog at no cost?
I don't know. I think it has something to do with Google's plans to take over the world, but I'm not sure.

You said something that was really stupid, and somebody needs to set the record straight before millions of innocent people are hopelessly misled.
Fine. Each "article" has a line at the bottom that tells you how many comments have been posted in response to it. If you'd like to read the posts, just click on that line. If you'd like to respond yourself, just click on the line, and add your comment to the list.

I tried to respond to one of your articles, but nothing happened.
Send me an e-mail. (I'm not going to post it here, but it's in the Conference directory. Go look.)

How can I start my own blog?
Click on the orange-and-white logo for Powered by Blogger, and it will walk you through the directions. All told, it should take you no more than 15-minutes to be up and running.

Pastor Greg

And remember: "The best way to predict the future is to make it happen yourself" -- Allen Kaye.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Be an expert -- or just look like one!

HMS Richards used to say that every pastor should be an expert in something – even if it didn’t always seem very practical. We can all see why a pastor might want to know a lot about the Book of Romans, for instance . . . but Russian literature?!?

Then again, if you are an expert in baseball, then you can probably come up with all kinds of examples of the times this helped you in your ministry – in sermon illustrations, for instance, or the ability to relate to the spouse of a church member.

The same is true of almost any topic: the Book of Romans. Islam. NASCAR. The Trinity. Astronomy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yes, maybe even who’s who in the world of Russian literature. Just pick a subject, and see if it doesn’t turn into a window on the world for your ministry.

And the good news is that it’s not that hard to be a “good enough” expert in almost any field. A good rule-of-thumb is that anyone who reads ten books on a topic probably knew more than 90-percent of the people out there – and if you read for just ten-minutes a day, then you can read ten books in a year’s time.

So pick a topic. Give it ten-minutes a day. And see the difference it makes in just one year’s time!

Pastor Greg

And remember: “A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking” – Alexander Matz.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

HIPPA hurray?

There’s a new joke going around the health-care industry. It goes like this:

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“HIPPA who?”

“I can’t tell you.”

That’s because HIPPA – the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 – makes it extremely difficult to share information about hospital patients. As a result, it can be tough for us to find out just what’s happening with a sick church member.

It wasn't always this way. When I began as a pastor:
  • the hospital would call to tell me I had a church member there.
  • church members who worked in the hospital would pass along anything they'd heard.
  • And Mrs. Schadenfreude (who was never sick herself, but loved to gossip) would be sure to call and fill me in on all the gory details!

No more! Thanks to HIPPA:

  • the hospital won’t tell me if a church member is there – not even if I call to ask!*
  • church members who work at the hospital can’t tell me anything.
  • And Mrs. Schadenfreude could be sued . . . even if she tried to disguise her gossip as a “prayer request” in church!

Now myself, I like HIPPA. I think people have a right to privacy – even if they’re sick. And I’ve found that I can still do my job as a pastor if I just:

  • remind church members over and over again to let me know if they (or someone in their family) is in the hospital.
  • ask the patient (or family) if I can share the news that this person is in the hospital – and if so, then who would they like me to tell and what would they like me to say?
  • Even if the patient (or family) gives me permission to spread the news, I should never say more than the simple fact that “such-and-such is in the hospital and is doing well” (or “is in serious condition,” or “is not expected to live.”) And yes, Mrs. Schadenfreude, this applies to “prayer requests” too!

But if people ask me “just exactly what’s wrong,” then I shrug my shoulders. I smile. And say, “Do I look like someone who would know the answer to that question?”

And remember: “When I pray, coincidences happen – but when I don’t, they don’t” – William Temple.

*By the way, you can still find out if a church member is in the hospital by calling and asking to speak with them. If the operator puts through your call, then you know they’re there . . . and there's nothing HIPPA can do about it!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Strangers in a very strange land

It's hot. It's dusty. You're not eating right, sleeping right, or getting enough exercise -- and on top of it all, nobody has time to wash their hands.

Welcome to Campmeeting!

But with a little preparation, you can avoid a lot of the aches, pains, and bugs that plague many pastors during this week. All you need to do is pack:

1. Sunscreen (factor 30 or higher).
2. Chapstick (make sure it includes sunblock).
3. saline nasal spray (good for dealing with dust).
4. Visine (ditto).
5. cough drops (mega-ditto!)
6. water bottle (and wouldn't it be nice if the Conference gave away free bottles of cold drinking water to all pastors during the week?)
7. whistle (saves the voice when you're working in a children's division).
8. hand sanitizer (I carry a small bottle of Purell).

And if the pressure gets too much at the Oregon Campmeeting, just remember there's a Burgerville USA just ten minutes north on McLoughlin Boulevard -- and this is the week that they always sell Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings!

Into the Wild Blue

Okay, so the paperwork is shuffling along nicely . . . but how do you make sure that you've not forgotten something important?

Myself, I've taken a tip from the Air Force, and divided my tasks between mission and base. Simply put, mission is the stuff that needs to happen; base is the stuff that makes it happen.

In the Air Force, the Mission Commander is in charge of everything that happens after a plane leaves the ground; he gets to worry about targets and tactics.

The Base Commander, on the other hand, gets to worry about housing, payroll, spare parts, and deciding whether the vending machines will stock Pepsi or Coke; he gets to worry about everything that happens before the plane leaves the ground.

Now when it comes to a church, the mission is clear:

  • Service -- programs that help the community (such as Community Services).
  • Nurture -- programs (such as Sabbath School) that help members grow spiritually.
  • Outreach -- Bible studies, public meetings, and other forms of evangelism.
  • Worship -- everything that happens in church on Sabbath morning.

Think SNOW, in other words, and you have the mission of your church. (And if your church runs an elementary school, then just think SNOWS.)

And when it comes to base -- the things you need in order to do the mission? That takes the 4Bs:

  • Bodies -- church officers you've recruited and trained.
  • Bucks -- as in money.
  • Buildings -- rented or owned, you need someplace to meet.
  • Bulletins -- and yes, this includes newsletters, webpages, blogs, and anything else you can use to get the word out.

So . . . which of the two is most important: mission or base?

Well, the mission comes first -- but it doesn't happen without a good base. That's why I take time every now and then to ask two questions:

  • how am I doing on mission? (Remember: think SNOWS.)
  • do I have the base I need for my mission? (And for that, of course, I need the 4Bs.)

And if I'm doing well in those two areas -- mission and base -- then I'm probably not forgotting anything too important.

This week's quote: "A good administrator knows how to deal with complexity. A good leader knows how to deal with change" -- William Willimon.