Sunday, September 30, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Satire?

I received the following story on a discussion group last week and I do not know where it originated. Pardon me for failing to cite its author. For those who want more control over their pastors, read on.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Don Lawrence preaches three times a week to an appreciative congregation at Life Baptist church. His sermon tapes often sell out, and this year he is leading the people through a study of Matthew's gospel.

But Lawrence is not a real person. He is a virtual, on-screen pastor whose sermon topics, personality, even mannerisms are chosen collectively by his congregation.

"We've never been happier," says head elder Louie Francesca. "We finally got the pastor we all want."

Virtual Pastor, a UK company, began pioneering the "virtual pastor model" in 2005, and has created a dozen lifelike, on-screen avatars which preach, joke and give personal anecdotes as if they were real people. All their sermons and personal stories are scavenged from the Internet.

When a church subscribes to Virtual Pastor, each person in a congregation helps "shape" their pastor by entering likes and dislikes into a response box during services. This live feedback is fed into the company's servers and helps to change the pastor's sermon topics, hair style and more in following weeks. The result is a pastor perfectly tailored to the will of the congregation.

"We unify churches and remove any reason for quarreling," says co-creator Gavin McReady, standing next to the servers in Scotland where all the virtual pastors reside. "It's a monumental achievement."It takes eighteen months for a congregation to fine tune their pastor so he becomes a perfect representation of what they want, he says. The shaping include gestures, physical appearance, personality, hobbies and sense of humor.

Different churches have produced widely differing results. A congregation in Huntington Beach, Calif., adopted the Virtual Pastor model last year. Within weeks their on-screen pastor stopped wearing suits and started wearing Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops."We loosened him up quite a bit," says one congregant with a laugh.

The pastor also stopped preaching expository sermons in favor of topical sermons like "How to Make Life Matter" and "Surfing through Paul's Greatest Hits."

Some church-goers have been surprised by the results. A woman in Bangor, Maine, was alarmed to see her virtual pastor turn progressively more "British and tweedy." He began quoting C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, speaking in a British accent and wearing wool vests.
"My church was a bunch of Anglo-philes," she says. "You learn a lot about people by how the pastor gets shaped."

Mc Ready and his programmers also like to throw random events into the pastor's life, such as an unexpected crisis, decision or funny occurrence. A virtual pastor might walk on-screen one day and announce he is going on a diet to lose 35 pounds by Christmas. That theme plays out for the remainder of the year as he announces his progress week after week.

"People like surprises as long as it doesn't impinge on their basic control of the pastor and his message," McReady says.

Churches with virtual pastors say troublemakers tend to quiet down or leave because they don't have a real person to target with complaints.

"People can't pin their problems on the pastor anymore," says an associate pastor who handles day-to-day matters at a Virtual Pastor church in Idaho. "He's their creation. They can only blame themselves."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Seasoned Believer Movement Grows

It has only been a few months since our ministry, Sweeten Life Systems, launched a new thrust we are calling, Seasoned Believers Unleashed, and yet, we are getting enthusiastic responses from people all over the US and Europe.



Anyone who has known and served God for two or three decades knows that Conventional Wisdom does not have much positive to say about them. So, when we suggested that God has a very special plan for those with Seasoned Souls, they wake up and pay attention.
There are few places where people with enlarged souls can find their Center of Significance. Of the 35 to 50 million Seasoned Christians in the USA and Europe, most have served God and church faithfully. They have developed a lot of practical "street" wisdom at work, at home and in their neighborhoods.
Beacues there are so many Seasoned Citizens(TM) in the world, Seasoned Believers(TM) have a wonderful opportunity to influence tons of people. Several years ago I read that there has been a strong upsurge in conversions among people over 50 in the USA and Europe. Let's face it, we have enough collected Spiritual Insight and Wisdom for the World that all it needs is to be unleashed.
The ups and downs of life have knocked off the sharper edges of youth and they have an enormous reservoir of insight and biblical wisdom to pass on to the younger generations. Our ministry is focusing on all sorts of people, but mostly on the average man and woman who worked hard, saved their money, reared their children and have many common sense insights that other would find valuable.

Join us on October 13 or write to us about how we can help you and other Seasoned Saints who find ways to to pass your wisdom on to future generations. Leave a Legacy for the future.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Needed: New Term for Seniors

When I began to consider developing the new thrust to Seniors I quickly discovered the "Term Wars". Even Star Wars Heroes are now "Senior Citizens"! Harrison Ford is "Over the Hill".
First of fall, think about how many different terms we have for people over fifty.

Senior Citizens/Seniors
Gray Beards/Gray Panthers
Prime Time
Old Folks
Baby Boomers
Greatest Generation
Grand Parents
Elders/ Elderly
Social Security
Old Age
Over the Hill Gang
Grumpy Old Men
Silver Heirs (My friends at Evangelical Community Church)

Add your own terms. Especially international readers.

When I attempted to talk with people about this critically important time of life I soon discovered that many of them are rather defensive about the terms I used and I was corrected on several occasions.

For example, at one point I used a little slogan as short hand. I would try to explain who this ministry would serve by saying, Don't Retire-Refire I thought it was clever and memorable but a lot of people said, "That is too restrictive. Many people who have matured in the Lord are not near ready to retire." (They were exactly right so I dropped the slogan even though I like it so well I secretly say it just before dropping off to sleep.)

I have found that many times the term Boomers is used to sum up almost all of the above. In actuality, Baby Boomers are those born from 1946-1964, often the offspring of returning WWII soldiers and their wives. However, since so many of the WWII Generation, sometimes called Builders, are living healthier and wealthier lives for so much longer the line between those generations is blurring.

Another issue is blurring the distinctions between generations. Many of the group of people who were born after the Boomers have waited longer to marry and have kids. This group has sometimes been called, Busters, and they want to be included in our new ministry thrust but do not want the designation. BOOMER hung around their neck. A large percentage of the Busters have known Christ since childhood and have gone through the first three stages of spiritual life at ages younger than their parents and grand parents.

My solution was simple: Come up with a new term to encompass all of these generational groups that have none of the baggage of the former terms. Finding such a term was not simple but it occurred to me one day that the word Seasoned had a connotation of being older and mature without the pejoratives of the terms listed above.

So, I chose to use Seasoned in league with other terms and copyrighted them for Sweeten Life Systems.

Seasoned Citizens
Seasoned Saints
Seasoned Believers
Seasoned Servants
Seasoned Souls
Soul Seasoning

I like the word Season/Seasoned. It can be used to indicate growth and change. For example, food and drink that has been allowed to gain its full potential in the growth cycle. In the case of wine and steaks, to "age well".

It is also a term that can be used in various ways. I like well seasoned food; spicy; alive; dynamic; not flat and tasteless. For example, we will have well Seasoned Gatherings. We will offer, "Soul Seasonings" instead of a curriculum. The aging process is more, Seasoning for the Soul. A positive aspect of aging is the strengthening and expansion of the Soul even while the body is losing its power.

Now I need a term to encompass all the generations we are covering. Let's retire the sports jersey for Boomer. That is so over used and hasn't been washed in years. Likewise, Builders, Busters and all that is confusing and misleading. What do you suggest? Write me your suggestions.

(Winners will receive a picture on my blog and a wonderful article about their creativity, insight and brilliance.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You Have Paid Your Dues Now Speak Up!!

Barna says, "Boomers are always leading and ahead of the curve. Now it is time for Boomers to step aside and let others have all the leadership fun."
I have a slight disagreement with the vaunted Mr. Barna. He is an excellent researcher but I think he is missing an important perspective. People in their forties to the eighties are still vital, well educated, well experienced, spiritually wise and still able to make great contributions to the world and the Kingdom of God.
People over fifty were expected to retire, resign and relapse into a coma in past generations. That is different today. People are not just living longer they are living stronger. They have a legacy to leave future generations.
How will they leave a great legacy? Find fellow travelers and become Unleashed to enjoy, worship and serve the Lord in their own, unique, chosen manner. You have earned the right to soar in the Spirit with the other Eagles.
Sweeten Life Systems
Seasoned Believers En-Visioning Day
Saturday, October 13
Winton Woods Mill Conference Center
9:00 am – 3:00 PM

Gary Sweeten is focusing his next initiative on unleashing Seasoned Believers to love, enjoy and serve the Lord. As a Seasoned Believer, you are invited to an exciting day of discovery and development of God’s vision with Dr. Sweeten.

What might this new ministry vision include?

1. Lifelong Leisure Learning with Christian thought leaders.
2. Topics in basic and cutting edge areas of Interest so we can “Finish Well”
3. Simple technologies for connecting, learning, building, caring and serving, see and seize opportunities, write, speak and fun.
4. Lifelong serving with others of a like mind and call.
5. Opportunities to mentor and support young believers, including your family to leave a legacy of wisdom and wealth.
6. Opportunities for local, national, and international learning and serving.
7. The sponsorship of the Significance Center™ – equipping Christians of all ages in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe who are hungry for the skills and knowledge necessary to build God’s Kingdom where they have been planted.

This discovery day is a faith step by Sweeten Life Systems so we suggest a donation of $50 per person to defray the cost of facility rental and food. You’ll have fun contributing to this vital, new ministry.
To help us plan please RSVP to Ron Peake today

Please share this invitation with other Seasoned Believers or let us know their names, phone numbers and email address.

This event will be held at Winton Woods Mill Golf Course Conference Center 1515 West Sharon Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45231 Take I-275 to Winton Rd-Forest Park exit, south on Winton Rd to Sharon Rd & right to Mill Conference Center

Ps Food, materials, recreation, memory gift, photos and DVD’s will be provided to all participants. Seating Limited, register today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Relational Skills are Key to a Good Life

I did a doctorate in the Sixties and Seventies graduating in 1975. Even back then the leaders of the counseling professions like Carl Rogers were saying that listening well was the key to being a good or great counselor. But that seemed unlikely because most of the books and classes I took emphasized how much I was supposed to know about the theories of psychology and human development.

But, when researchers started doing what is called, "Outcome Studies" and discovered that Dr. Rogers and Dr. Carkhuff were right, I became convinced that the ways we treat people are more important than what we know about people. As the old saying goes, "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."

The outcome research made a lot of sense to me so I did a lot of reading and research and discovered that the key to good marriages, good parenting, good sales, good pastoral care, good management, good leadership and good living was also good listening and good caring.

Listening with love and understanding are not just for the pros. Everybody can grow and learn to relate better by learning the simple skills of listening. Why not order my book, Listening for Heaven's Sake from

Just type in my name and see all the titles that come up. Buy one of my books and write me what you think. We have just published a version of Listening in Russia to join those published in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Kudos to Jan Osborn

Jan Osborn is a lady who epitomizes resilience and Christian love. Jan and her husband Tim came to College Hill Church in 1978 with their two little sons. I did not know them well but over the next few years I came to know them quite well.

Tim came down with brain cancer and All of us at CHPC got very involved in praying for him and his family. When Tim passed away it was a terrible blow to all of us because the loss of such a young, vibrant man and father of two children touched a nerve deep within us. Our pain and disappointment were palpable and we made a decision to support Jan and the boys as well as other families distressed by loss.

About that time Maurie and Lorraine Loomans along with Karen and I came together to start a ministry of prayer, healing and growth with Lay and Professional Counseling. The founders chose the name Teleios Center to emphasize the goal of wholeness.

One part of Teleios was selecting and training counselors. When Jan approached us about pursuing a Masters' Degree to counsel children traumatized by death and loss we stood up and applauded and helped her attend UC. Jan became one of the best counselors and children's therapists in the region. I called upon her in several crises and she always responded with skill and care.

Many years later Jan left private practice to head the Teleios Center at CHPC. She restored it to a wonderful place of ministry in the church and the community. Last Saturday night Jan was celebrated as she retired after eight years of heading Teleios and Care Ministry at CHPC. She became known as a terrific trainer of Lay and Professional Helpers here and internationally. Many people gave voice to how Jane had ministered to them personally and professionally and we all cheered again.

Thanks Jan for your poise, grace, wisdom and love. Surely God is satisfied with the ways you have turned tragedy into triumph.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Video

Several days ago I posted a link to a videop on YouTube called, Did You Know that has been watched thousands of times. It has also been changed but the new versions are not as good as the first one. Here is the video that I think we all need to see and think about.

For your question on digital, I found this video helpful perspective.

Watch and let me know what you think.

The Difference in Discipleship

This is what a football "Wanna Be" looks like. He can talk like a player but he cannot walk the talk. Just one look will persuade us that this guy cannot play the game because he has never been properly coached.
Christians who are not learning, growing and getting coached will end up like this guy: in the Dog Pound.

Research on Christian Growth

I just bought some copies of the latest research from Willow Creek on the high number of people who are dissatisfied with the church. Some 25% of the most committed members are so upset they say they will drop out in the next year. WOW! What a shock.

See the research summary called Reveal.

Carson Palmer

I think this research will hit the Seeker Centered churches like a ton of bricks. It will also shake up the rest of the church growth movement because it shows that Christians with any kind of years with the Lord are left out of the growth continuum of church life. It also reveals the startling lack of knowledge among Willow and other groups about how people grow and change. Their assumptions about growth that they discovered were wrong fly in the face of all educational, counseling, consulting and biblical knowledge, but these unlearned folks have led these churches for several years.
Carson Palmer did not learn to play football by simply listening to lectures. He had team mates, coaches, practices and drills. Too many leaders now confuse the pep rally with coaching. Pep reallies are exciting, fun, energetic and upbeat. Football practices can be hard work, dull, draining and you get beat up.
Willow Creek is one of the most influential churches in the world so this research is important. I admire them for sharing their insights with all of us.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thanks to the Lord

I am thankful tonight! It has been a very busy and exhausting weekend but the activities were wonderful and many brought back great memories from our earlier life.

Friday our daughter invited us to have dinner with her and the family at a new Mexican restaurant. The food was medium but we hardly noticed because the fellowship was so good. Our grand kids are growing and developing into sharp conversationalists and great at table games. Both are essentials for the Sweeten clan.

Once when Julia was first married she came home from college and we had a family council. After taking a family quiz about the dynamics of the Sweeten family life we had a very interesting discussion. It revealed such things as the "Family Personality" and what we as a family found important. There was a lot of agreement that "Communication, especially listening" was central to our family life. Communication is still important to our kids who are passing it on down to their children and they have both married people who strongly value open communication and caring for one another.

A part of good communication is playing games and having fun. For almost 45 years my mother-in-law hazel and I have played Pinochle as partners against Karen and her sister Toni. When Tim and Julia were born we continued the tradition of games and it has taken hold in the grand kids who have their Great Grand Mother Hazel's incredible skill and luck.

If more people were to play together they would also pray together and stay together. Play builds camaraderie, self respect and mutual respect, good sportsmanship and humility. It also teaches children to honor their fathers and mothers, even to the third and fourth generation.

My grand daughter of five was my partner at the electronic game of Wii. She beat all the rest of us fair and square. Lily had us all in tears of laughter because she scored over 220 points when no one else was even close to 200. It was a great night and she was feeling very good about her self despite being the youngest in the bunch.

Inter Generational Games are healing balm to everyone involved. Contemporary families need to grab every opportunity to grow in grace, love and fun.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why Seasoned Believers?

From Cruising to Caring.

I just received a note from Steve Sjogren, who, as usual, asked a good question about a new focus of my ministry. "What is your goal for Seasoned Believers?"

The way I see it, most dynamic and growing churches are rightfully focused on outreach to younger people. They are "the future of the church," it is said. But that can lead unimaginative folks to adopt "Tunnel Vision" and neglect the older, wiser and more experienced Seasoned Believers out of the mix. That is a deadly mistake.

When Steve was "riding the wave" of an enormous surge in growth at the new church he had planted in Cincinnati, I gave him some sage advice: "Go recruit Seasoned Servants who can walk along side you and provide pastoral care, wisdom, finances and balance."

Steve quickly responded and invited Larry and Ellen Chrouch to join his team. They prayed about the invitation and soon heard the Holy Spirit tell them to accept the "job offer" as "Dollar a year" lay ministers. One of the reasons Sjogren has been so successful as a planter and leader is his willingness to break the molds around who can minister.

My goal is to inspire thousands of leaders and millions of Seasoned Believers to break the Certification Ceiling to leave the life of passivity and enter or re-enter some aspect service for Jesus. Our Movement will develop ways to inspire and Season the Souls of Christians tired of the padded pew and the cruise ship of living in a gated community and who long for meaningful ministry.

Ps. Order my book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty" if you want to learn how to be an influence to others.


I just finished reading a well written article in Christianity Today about Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The title of the piece was pointedly about how CONTROVERSIAL many people find Mr. Driscoll.

(Christianity Today Daily Newsletter-HTML [ ]

Read the article and consider what he is doing that is so radical. I admit I can't find much that is so different from the Bible.

He is making quite a splash in Seattle, Washington, one of the hardest places in America to witness to unbelievers and disciple believers. His congregation has some 6,000 members and is still going and growing. The members who were interviewed seem turned on the the Lord but many people are turned off by Mr. Driscoll's manner. Is that good or bad?

Leading a church is difficult. In fact, it may be the toughest job in America. Every Pastor certainly needs God's anointing and direction. Read the article and see what you think about the controversial thought leader Mark Driscoll.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

All We Have To Fear is...

What the world needs now is not only love but creativity. A few posts ago I placed a link on this blog entitled, "Did You Know?" It is a very powerful video of a slide show with some simple statistics and questions on it. But they cause many of us to have a powerful emotional response.

The statistics are about what is happening in the world scene and the Shifts in population, economics, creativity and how they are changing the world. The slide show was presented for a teachers' meeting in Colorado and designed to challenge them to think about whether or not we as a nation are preparing kids for the future.

But where is Christianity in this regard? We are already well within the 21st Century but I do not see many Christian leaders able or willing to "Take us into the Promised Land". It seems to me that we are far too often ruled by FEAR not FAITH. As FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

FEAR causes many religious leaders to prepare their people for the Sixteenth Century. The current model of Christian education has not changed much since Luther and Calvin, and that is tragic. Only one or two persons in a church can"Minister/Serve" and everyone else is passive.

Only one person is allowed to speak and everyone else is passive. What does this teach us? To listen passively. That Christianity is passive for almost everyone. A few people get to talk and work but everyone else is supposed to shut up and sit down.

After a while the speakers get worn out and the people get angry and they fight. The talker complain that the listeners won't do anything and the listeners complain that the talkers don't do enough for them.

The Middle Ages Church Model is a lot like a cruise ship. People pay to ride, see the sights and eat well. Their money goes to pay the captain and crew to dress up in special clothes carrying drinks and blankets. The staff also gets everyone to play deck games or they will complain of boredom.

Some ships advertise that they are going to teach the people how to sail. They deliver a few lectures in air conditioned halls on the frightful and difficult history of sailing and how the heroic sailors risked life and limb so we can sail in the comfort of a modern vessel. After the cruise is over the passengers unload with no idea about how to row a boat let alone sail a schooner.

We need a new model.

Bucky Fuller-A Thought Leader

I remember Bucky like this photo on the right. Bald as a billiard ball and wearing huge glasses. On the left is his most famous creation. Read more below about this creative genius.

Think Creatively!

Many new ideas have arisen during the planning of our new ministry thrust. The Seasoned Believers brand is joining our current family of brands at a Gathering of Friends on Saturday, October 13. We are inviting a hand full of creative, experienced and Seasoned Servants to come together at the Mill Golf Course Conference Center in Winton Woods for an exciting day of ideas to Feed Forward into the future of American Christianity's Fourth Great Awakening.

One of the most exciting and stimulating ideas arose out of my experience as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University. A requirement of my program in Student Personnel Administration and Counseling was a two one year stints in some area of Student Affairs.

It was during one of those years that I met and learned from one of the most creative and exciting minds of the post WWII era. And, it was my interaction with him and other Seasoned Thought Leaders that led me to understand the brilliance of SIU's President, Delyte W. Morris.
The man whom I came to know through the Office of Student Affairs' was the genius R. Buckminster Fuller. This is what Wikipedia has to say about him. Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895July 1, 1983)[1] was an American visionary, designer, architect, poet, author, and inventor.

Throughout his life, Bucky Fuller was concerned with the question "Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?" Considering himself an average individual without special monetary means or academic degree[2], he chose to devote his life to this question, trying to find out what an individual like him could do to improve humanity's condition that large organizations, governments, or private enterprises inherently could not do.

Pursuing this lifelong experiment, Fuller wrote more than thirty books, coining and popularizing terms such as "spaceship earth", ephemeralization, and synergetics. He also worked in the development of numerous inventions, chiefly in the fields of design and architecture, the best known of which is the geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes or buckyballs were named for their resemblance to a geodesic sphere.
Late in his life, after working on his concepts for several decades, Fuller had achieved considerable public visibility. He traveled the world giving lectures, and received numerous honorary doctorates.

Fuller taught from 1959 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as an assistant professor, receiving full professorship in 1968 in the School of Art and Design through 1970. Working as a designer, scientist, developer, and writer, for many years he lectured around the world on design. Fuller collaborated at SIU with the designer John McHale.
In 1965 Fuller inaugurated the World Design Science Decade (1965 to 1975) at the meeting of the International Union of Architects in Paris, that was in his own words devoted to "applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity."

Fuller believed human societies would soon rely mainly on renewable sources of energy, such as solar- and wind-derived electricity. He hoped for an age of "omni-successful education and sustenance of all humanity."

His position as a "was the brain child of Dr. Morris to bring numerous well known Thought Leaders to the sleepy little town of Carbondale, Illinois on the banks of the Big Muddy River. Dr. Morris wanted to allow these famous and near famous men and women's reflected glory illuminate the then tiny school in the hills of southern Illinois. And the scheme worked. I had the pleasure of serving as an assistant to Bucky and I visited his geodesic dome home on several occasions.

I had the opportunity to learn from several of these brilliant elderly men. When the Lord inspired me to "Unleash" Seasoned Believers from traditional ways of viewing "Senior Citizenship" I remembered Bucky Fuller and the other wizened thinkers.

It hit me that, although most current churches have no special places to recognize the accumulated wisdom and gifts of Seasoned Saints, one way to stimulate the thinking and creative juices of the Forty Plus Crowd would be to apply Dr. Morris' idea to the Gatherings of Seasoned Believers. Many of us would enjoy meeting and chatting with cutting edge Christian thought leaders.

I remember when I first met Dr. J.I. Packer at a reception on the campus of Gordon Conwell Seminary. After recovering from the initial shock I asked Dr. Packer if he would accept an invitation from me to come to College Hill Presbyterian and hold a series of talks, discussions and dialogues. He immediately got out his calender and said, "When do you want me to be in Cincinnati?"
Dr. Packer preached and lecture of course and they talks were wonderful. But what I remember best were the times we sat around a table chatting and asking questions about the Bible and church history as well as his opinions on current church politics. It is my dream to have people like Dr. Packer come to retreat centers or Gatherings for a few days to interact with Mature/Seasoned Servants; Citizens of the Kingdom whose lives have been richly blessed by service in the Lord's Army.

Here is my question: With whom would you like to share a Rabbinical three days of dialogue and discussion? What man or woman has inspired you but you could only listen to a talk or TV or radio program? Send me your nominations. Attend the October 13 Gathering #1. and share your dreams and hopes.
Think big. Think creatively. Cost is no object. Many of our guests are like us: old and unwanted by the youth possessed churches of the world. But we Seasonde Believers have loved and learned at the feet of some wonderful men and women. Why not get to know them as people; up close and personal?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What is Next for Boomers?

Barna says,

Within the local church, Boomers rule the roost. Boomers are:

61% of Protestant Senior Pastors
58% are current lay leaders
50% of the money given to churches (More than double any other generation.)

In his book, Revolution, Barna says it is time for the Boomers and Builders to retire, get out and give everything to the younger leaders. Is that good stewardship? Is it biblical? Will it work?

Barna completely ignores what those millions of Boomers and Builders will now DO with all their time, money, wisdom and experience. Golf? Vacations in Hawaii?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Welcome to the Gathering

The Seasoned Believer Thrust of our ministry will have its first of many Gatherings on Saturday, October 13. The location is a beautiful conference center adjoining the Mill Golf Course with food, fun, fellowship and a fantastic opportunity to give us input into the development of our future.

We have scheduled a full day of leisurely but stimulating activities with pre-meeting food beginning at 8:30 and finishing after a great lunch followed by developing a vision for the future of Christian Ministry and the Fourth Great Awakening.

If you are interested in being with us and seeking God's best future with us on October 13, send me a note at

Darfur, Egypt and Israel

Most of us have heard the horror stories coming out of Sudan and Darfur. Yet, most of us were unaware of the pain and horror the poor people of Darfur are facing even in Egypt and Israel if they are able to escape from Darfur. The Egyptian situation is brutal and Israel has no "Room in the inn". Here is a photo of a woman and her two children after they have crossed the border from Egypt into Israel. As we can see, the Jewish soldiers, despite being generally hated by Islamic jihadists, are showing compassion toward the refugees. However, such compassion has implications for Israel for there are thousands of Darfur refugees who are clamoring to enter Israel and the 1000 or more who have already gotten over the border have few places to stay.

Thankfully, Dr. Eldon Clemm, an Israeli Jew who studied at the Hebrew Union College here in Cincinnati, had set up a ministry in Israel focused on reconciling Jews and Muslims. After some opportunities to see their desperate situation, he was convicted to reach out to the refugees as a way to fulfill his call.

You can send donations to:

The Olive Branch Institute
P.O. Box 62722
Cincinnati, Ohio 45262-0722

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Dramatic Set of Slides

For those interested in what is happening in the world, this video is very important. How will we make sure our Christian heritage thrives?

After you watch it, respond with your comments.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

School Leaders Refuse to Teach History

"Out with violence", says some educators. "We just cannot allow our kids to think about the past. They need to move on."

So, there goes history. I only wish I had been in one of these schools when I was a kid. I had to read about history and remember well enough to write it on a test. I know the younger kids will not believe it but, we had no video tapes of the past. But memories are to be squashed now because the kid's psyches are perceived by so called educators to be so fragile that they cannot learn about one of the most heinous and cowardly attacks ever on American soil.

The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, WWI or WWII and no films of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation along with The Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement are kaput! I am an educator with a BS, Ms and ED D in Education and I have spent my life teaching. I must admit, however, that I am confused by such decisions as these.

Here is the story in a Salt Lake City news release. (KUTV) SALT LAKE CITY - Several Utah schools have decided to let Sept. 11, 2007 pass without observing the sixth anniversary of the unprecedented terror attacks against the United States -- over fear of re-kindling the haunting memories for those who vaguely remember them, or introducing them to children who weren't born yet.

This year, Sept. 11 falls on a Tuesday for the first since since the actual attacks. But some school administrators believe that commemorating the tragedy may inhibit the ability for students to make forward progress."We don't want our kids thinking about that. We want them to move on,'' said Beth Johnston, principal at East Layton Elementary in Davis County, whose oldest student was just 6 on Sept. 11, 2001. "It might be age-appropriate for older students to acknowledge and talk about it, but for our younger kids, we don't want them to dwell on violence."Education officials say it can be difficult to explain to young children what happened on that day, because of the many factors and political reasons linked to the terror strike.

"There is so much additional context and so many other stories there, that it can become daunting to a teacher to figure out how to be selective enough, sensitive enough and to provide the right balance and depth,'' said Robert Austin, a social studies specialist for the Utah State Office of Education.

The terrorist attacks are currently not part of Utah's core social studies curriculum, but they could become so later this year when the required studies are updated. But still, many schools will observe the sixth anniversary since the World Trade Center towers fell in New York City and the Pentagon was damaged in Washington, D.C.

Eastwood Elementary School in Salt Lake City generally observes a moment of silence, secretary Tina Jensen said. "We try to keep it pretty low key because some of the kids weren't even born. We try not to scare them,'' she said. Indeed, many students because of age barely remember it and feel little emotional connection.

Scott Crump of Bingham High School in South Jordan asks his students to write essays about whether they would like to be remembered as the "9/11 generation.'' (If they say, "No" then will it change the facts?)

(© 2007 Four Points Media Group, LLC., All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

As an educator and therapist let me assure you that children will NOT be traumatized byt history lessons about wars and rumors of wars. They may be traumatized by misleading them on the reality of living in a violent world.

Post Traumatic Stressors

We are just passing through a time of remembrance for the people killed and injured in the 911 attack on our nation. I have a special place in my heart and mind for 911. We at the Life Way Counseling Center were asked by the Salvation Army Officers to fly to travel to New York to provide counsel and spiritual support for the First Responders. We met a lot of genuinely good people who tried their best to find and recover the lost.
I, along with, Jerry Kelly, MD, Steve Griebling, PCC and Carla Faison, PCC spent a week at the epicenter now called Ground Zero, listening, handing out food and drinks, listening, praying, weeping, drinking coffee, listening, praying, counseling, walking around and fighting our fears.
Now, six years later, I still feel sick to my stomach when I watch TV shots of the chaos, the fires, the wreckage and the devastation. I am still in recovery.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Things Have Changed in a Century

It is hard for us to imagine how greatly things have changed in the US over the past few years. Yet, change is not slowing but increasing and the overload of information and change is pretty overwhelming sometimes. One of the reasons we are launching a new ministry thrust to Seasoned Believers is to develop Seasoned Communities of Practice where we can design ways to buffer ourselves against the destructive affects of change while utilizing the positive aspects of things made new.

Here are some of the U.S. Statistics for the Year 1907

The average life expectancy in the U.S. Was 47 years old.

There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. for the 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. (See the old car above and the roads today)

Only 14 percent of the homes in the U.S. Had a bathtub and 8 percent had a telephone. A three-minute call from Denver to New York City Cost eleven dollars.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California . With a mere 1.4 million people, California was the 21st most populous state in the Union .

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in the U.S. Was 22 Cents per hour. The average U.S worker made between $200 and $400 per year . ! A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, A dentist $2,500, a veterinarian $1,500, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the U.S. Took place at home . Ninety percent of all U. S Doctors had no college education. They attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee was fifteen cents a pound. Most women only washed their hair once a month , and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from Entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death in the U.S. Were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet. The population of Las Vegas , Nevada , was 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet. There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 U.S. Adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school. Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

There were about 230 reported Murders in the entire U.S.A.

Before moving quickly on to a new and different blog or magazine article, think a minute about the changes that have occurred in your own life time and how they affect you and your family.

Then, imagine what massive changes will occur over the next two or three decades. How are you planning your life to make sure you are able to live a free and joyful life in the midst of the changes?

More Seasoning for the Seasoned

I like my food with a bit of seasoning. Over the last twelve years or so I have traveled to Asia I have taught my palate to accept spicier foods, even when it makes me sweat.

I also like my teachings to include a bit of spice. However, as you may know, most Christian literature is so basic that we have heard if dozens of times over the past years of Sunday school and church sermons. A few posts ago I asked readers to send me the things they were doing to spice up the bland teachings at their places of fellowship.
I received not a single comment. I did get one e mail from a great preacher friend who asked me several good questions. Maybe he and I can get together and discuss this issue soon.

Does that indicate that no one is teaching their people to think and act more deeply? I do not know. However, I am still looking for ideas, and while talking with my sister-in-law this morning I heard one from her.

The Sunday school class of their church, Village Baptist in Bowie, Maryland, has started using an electronic study guide that looks very promising. Click

Each week the class receives an e mail with some story from recent news. The authors then choose pertinent passages of the Bible for the class members to read and then ask some good questions so a dialogue will be started. That sounds great to me.

I suggest that you take a look at it and see what you think. It cost about $80.00 per year and I find that to be quite inexpensive when contrasted with paper quarterlies.
Do you have any other suggestions for a deeper look at God's word, works and will? Click the comments link and let me know.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Greatest Generation is Alive

Bob Robinson was a key speaker at both of our New Ministry Launches in July and August. It was there that we cast our vision of Seasoned Believers Unleashed to Love and Enjoy the Lord. In his presentation Bob made a statement that struck me deeply, perhaps because of its counter intuitive nature. He said something like, "I want to be a part of the Greatest Generation."

We usually think of the men and women who fought and defeated Hitler and Tojo as the Greatest Generation. The crosses shown in France indicate their sacrifice. They not only won our freedom they also build the USA into the greatest democracy in history.

They also birthed more children than any other generation in history and those kids have build upon the shoulders of their fathers and developed America into an amazing economic and spiritual powerhouse. The men and women who are over forty took the education, rights and freedoms they were given and became the most creative and entrepreneurial group of people in history. In the next twenty to thirty years that generational cohort will complete the greatest transfer of resources to future generations that the world has ever known.

The transfer of resources has two main components. #1. The transfer of Wealth. There are trillions of dollars in cash, stocks, real estate and bonds waiting to be accepted by the next generations. However, there is a cloud hiding behind that silver lining called, "debt".

So, there are two extremes represented here. Some of the current Seasoned Saints need to carefully plan how to transfer their wealth so it does not corrupt their heirs. The second group needs to plan how they can get out of debt and live on a reduced income without further draining their heirs. Both groups need to get their financial houses in order.

The other component is #2. The Transfer of Wisdom. The creativity, knowledge and experience of the Seasoned Saints can be easily lost unless churches, para-church groups, schools and community groups actively organize themselves to make sure our Seasoned Believers have avenues to share their experiences and insights.

This can be the Greatest Generation if it makes these two transfers with stewardship in mind. Just think of the wizened men and women you know who could use their experiences to maximize the insights of the next generations.

  • What if the Seasoned Believers in your area volunteered to be Mentors to schools two or three days each week?
  • What if the combined Wealth of your church was unleashed to provide college tuition for hard working young believers who would influence future generations?
  • What if the entrepreneurial insights of the creative class were brought together to solve world problems? Take a look at one crative approach in this film.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sixties and Seventies Revivals

There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal electronic version today.

Take a look at it.

The author, John Wilson, noted that historians on the Sixties and Seventies write a great deal about it being "the hippie era" but fail to recognize that it was also the time of a great outpouring of God's Spirit. Millions of people encountered Christ and the Holy Spirit in life changing ways.

I did. Did you?

Mr. Wilson is correct, of course, but he is barking up the wrong tree. I responded to him by suggesting that we need to read and write our own articles and books. Christians must research and write for themselves and find academicians who are not so defensive about Christian life that they "edit" their reports.

I am reminded of an African Proverb: "Until lions have historians the hunters will always be the heroes." But one historian has gotten much of it correct. Robert Fogel, a self-confessed secular Jew, has researched and written about the impact of Revivals and Awakenings in American life. It has been his contention that it is through these spiritual movements that the economic and political history of America and the world have been radically altered.

Dr. Fogel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993 for his ideas about Revivals and Awakenings. I must ask: "Why has no Christian preacher, teacher or historian even mentioned that to me? I simply stumbled upon the fact in doing research on the Abolition of slaves, a topic Dr. Fogel has written about in depth.

(I am sure you all know that it was Evangelical Christians who led the Abolitionist Movement and who brought freedom to the American slaves.)

I believe that we are being swept up by the Holy Spirit in the Fourth Great Awakening right now. We, products of the Fourth Great Revival, have matured and grown until we have the wisdom and wealth necessary to make significant differences in the world.

My new ministry thrust is all about Unleashing Seasoned Believers to Love and Enjoy the Lord. Love and Joy always come as a result of believers who are fully alive. We now have all the resources we need to develop innovative solutions to world problems, creative insights into intractable issues. Builders and Boomers have been the most dynamic and creative people in history and it is time we Unleashed the 50 Million Believers into more meaningful lives. We must do what we love and express ourselves from the deepest areas of our hearts.

We are holding our first Gathering of Seasoned Believers on Saturday, October 13 in Cincinnati to share, laugh, dream, network and see what is possible in the future. We want you there if you qualify as a Seasoned Believer who is wondering "What is next for me?"

We need your input and insights. Sign up today and make your plans to participate.

Seasoned Servants as Heroes

I subscribe to a well known magazine called Christianity Today. It is a well written news magazine and very informative about theology, ministry and church politics. However, my primary complaint about CT is similar to my complaints about Christianity in general. The focus is almost exclusively about famous people who are clergy.

As well look back over the history of Christianity, a very large majority of its success is due not to famous clergy who became well spoken as leaders but to ordinary men and women who walked with God as mothers and fathers, Sunday school teachers, neighbors, friends, nurses and doctors, engineers and janitors. And some became involved in politics.

Today I am going to write about one such lay man whose conversion to Christ energized him to fight successfully in England for the freedom of slaves. He worked and prayed, talked and wrote, chatted and lectured to the point that the pro-slavers cried out in anger and his friends begged him to stop. But William Wilberforce persevered and the laws were finally changed in Great Britain ans slave trading was stopped.
Here is a bit of his biography.

William Wilberforce is perhaps the best known of the English abolitionists. He came from a prosperous merchant family of Kingston-upon-Hull, a North Sea port which saw little in the way of slave trading.

At twenty-one, the youngest age at which one could be so elected, he was elected to Parliament for his native town. Four years later he was again returned to Parliament, this time for the county seat of Yorkshire which was large and populous, and which therefore required an expensive election contest.

Wilberforce's early years in Parliament were not untypical for a young back-bencher. He was noted for his eloquence and charm, attributes no doubt enhanced by his considerable wealth, but he did not involve himself at first with any great cause.

A sudden conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1785 changed that and from then onwards he approached politics from a position of strict Christian morality. In 1786 he carried through the House of Commons a bill for amending criminal law which failed to pass the Lords, a pattern which was to be repeated during his abolitionist career.

The following year he founded the Proclamation Society which had as its aim the suppression of vice and the reformation of public manners. Later in 1787 he became, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, the parliamentary leader of the abolition movement, although he did not officially join the Abolition Society until 1794.

Were Mr. Wilberforce alive in America today the ACLU and other radical left wing groups would be strongly condemning him for mixing religion with the government. I am sure we would be hearing over and over that "Wilberforce is a fundamentalist Christian who wants to set up a theocracy in America."

Lay Christians of an Evangelical or fundamentalist persuasion overcame slavery in England and in the USA. These Seasoned Believers became Seasoned Servants and touched society deeply in ways that brought economic, political and spiritual freedom. May God do it again in America.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

LifeGate Church

One of my joys in life is knowing Dennis and Sheila Cole. Dennis is Senior Pastor of LifeGate Church in Kentucky and one of the brightest men I know. He is also a red neck so he hates to admit that he is smart.

Dennis and I met many years ago when I was deeply involved in the Jesus Movement and he was a student at Cincinnati Bible College. I have had the privilege of working with Dennis and his people for many years and God is making a lot of changes in the people and the church body.

Two Sundays ago I was able to speak to the church about the various phases of spiritual growth. You can listen to it on the church web site. PHPSESSID=2692cea4cf3694f929a5f7e2977c0193

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blog Report

People seem to be interested in the topics I have thrown up recently for the numbers of hits is increasing. However, few are courageous enough to comment on the blog itself but some are writing me off line.

I do love to get feedback. Your comments keep me sharp and also alert me to what you all are thinking and feeling. I need to state clearly a few of my assumptions.

Being a Pastor is one of the most difficult careers known to humanity. I worked on a church staff for 16 years and it was a great experience. However, I was not the Senior Pastor so the entire weight of leadership was not on my shoulders.

I was a pretty good "Second Banana" but I think I would be a terrible "First Banana". Jerry Kirk was the Senior Pastor and he was made for the role. It came to him as effortlessly as swimming to a fish.

While at CHPC some people said "You should get a congregation where you could be the Senior Pastor. You preach so well that you should be in the pulpit more often." I certainly loved to hear the warm affirmations but I knew that being a Senior Pastor was not for me.

Leading a congregation is less, much less about preaching than making sure the staff and team and congregation all work toward a common goal. Preaching skills help but motivating, mobilizing and managing change is the real key to leading. Interpersonal Skills, especially listening well, are so much more important than talking.

Almost every ministerial failure arises from a lack of relational skills with the family, elders, staff and members. Yet, it is almost impossible to find a school or seminary that teaches ministers and leaders how to listen, solve problems and deal with conflict.

I did what was easy for me. I spent much of my time teaching the staff and elders how to manage change and conflict. As one pastor said, "Gary, you and I need to start a ministry in conflict management. I make it and you manage it."

We worked almost weekly on group dynamics, problem solving, communications and planning. This is one reason CHPC was so successful, dynamic and growing in influence. For the past twelve years I have focused on Consulting and Coaching Leaders. I am amazed that so few have been trained in the most basic skills of building solid relationships.

Preaching can draw a crowd but only involvement in an ongoing relational community builds disciples and changes lives. Truth without experience always remains in the realm of doubt.

Steve Griebling and I wrote a book that summarizes the best ways to disciple, coach, consult and counsel Christians. For a mere $20.00 you can also become an expert. Just read Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Balance in Life

In the previous post I quoted recent news stories about educators and police agencies who seem to have lost their balance when it comes to "safety". Americans are worried about the Federal Government spying on citizens but this is unhealthy fear.

The stories about police and school intrusions and over reactions indicate another problem in American life. The lack of emotional balance. After the terrible crimes at Columbine investigators indicated that officials failed to act quickly enough on signs and symptoms of the murderers to prevent the killings. However, now many agencies and school officials are over-reacting to the slightest evidence.

Such an over reaction indicates what we call "Societal Regression". Such a regression occurs when society at large seems to lose its balance and ability to calmly respond to events that might be dangerous. There is an automatic REACTION of anxiety that is actually worse than the original "threat". Before Columbine the police REACTIVELY ignored clear signals of danger. Their anxiety stopped them from intervening in a serious threat.

After Columbine the OVER REACTION was and is just as great. Police anxiety is still present but in the opposite direction. Now officials REACTIVELY INTERVENE in clearly non-dangerous activities. These REACTIVE INTERVENTIONS make violence more likely. They look like they are "crying wolf" and produce callousness in the public over time.

Anxious and REACTIVE people are in churches, families and community organizations. Parents are especially vulnerable to regressive anxiety and become over any mild threat faced by their children. One local mother went to the school board to complain that a six year old kid had called her son a bad name and wanted the offending child punished.

OVER REACTION and OVER PROTECTION is unhealthy. Children grow best when they can learn how to take care of themselves when other kids "bully them" and all we are teaching bright kids is to have a strong distrust for leaders who are so rigidly reactive.

Strange Educational Policies

Every once in awhile I read about schools suspending a young kid for committing an egregious crime like, drawing a stick figure of a person and a fire arm. I do it because I think it is further evidence of mental illness sneaking into our society under the guise of "security" or "politically correct thinking". Sometimes the only way to stop idiocy is to make fun of it.

For the second time in as many weeks, an Arizona eighth-grader has been suspended for drawing a gun--that is, for creating a visual representation of a gun, not for removing an actual gun from its holster. This time it happened in Florence, southeast of Phoenix:

The eighth grader at Florence's Walker Butte K-8 school was suspended for three days on Friday for sketching a gun during class.

Stephanie Vardarkis said her son, Joshua had drawn the images on index cards, sort of like a cartoon that included a stick figure holding a gun.

In one image, the boy included the name of the school resource officer. Rather than it being a threat, Vardarkis said the character was meant to be calling the officer for backup.

Larry Cline, a spokesman for the Florence Unified School District, said the student was told by the teacher to put the cards away. He didn't and the cards were confiscated. Cline said the cartoon content warranted suspension "because it is the intent of the district to provide a safe environment in which to learn."

Can anyone tell me what is unsafe about a ten year old kid drawing a stick figure?

In the Denver suburb of Centennial, meanwhile, "sheriff's deputies and bomb squad members searched Peakview Elementary School [Thursday] after a 10-year-old student reported receiving an image of an explosive device on a cell phone," reports the Rocky Mountain News:

The incident was reported about 9:30 a.m., and deputies locked down the perimeter of the school to make sure the building was safe, said Sheriff's Capt. Mark Fisher. . . .

A criminal investigation is continuing as authorities try to determine who sent the image to the student, he said.

It is no wonder that our kids are dropping out of school in droves. They have to worry about the cops showing up and shutting their school down if their cell phone receives "an image of an explosive device".

Every news program in America shows dozens of photos of bombs, guns, rockets, tanks, airplanes, helicopters, Humvee, foreign terrorists, IUD devices and other modern means of killing every hour of the day and night. Thus, any time a kid in school watches Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS or the local news they can expect a squad of black vested men to swoop in and shut down their school.

"An investigation will be forthcoming to see who sent the image to the student," they say. Well, knock on any TV station door and you will find out who sent the image. Anyone who has a cell phone will find it near impossible to avoid seeing violent images as well as nudity, child porn, sex toys, ads for Viagra and pictures of Victoria's Secret and Hooters.

I sure am happy that the police are spending millions of dollars every year to discover who is sending dangerous and enticing images through the Internet.

Where Do Seasoned Believers Go for Teaching?

Several months ago I received an iPod as a gift from Van Cochrane, the Pastor of Cincinnati's newest Vineyard Church. I have been enjoying it a lot because I am using it to download quite a few pod casts as well as carry music around with me. In my view, it is much better at playing pod casts than for playing music in the car because the fidelity for automobiles is poor.

So, I have been subscribing to several groups' pod casts and downloading a fair number of their presentations for my times of exercise and driving. Here is my reaction. Not many of them are well produced, especially the Christian presentations. Most of the Christian pod casts are simply taped sermons with all their inside jokes and poor quality. And, worst of all, the sermons are skim milk for babies in the faith.

Rick Warren has a regular pod cast for pastors and leaders. They are mostly technical and strategic discussions about the church. Even Rick needs help in editing and thinking about how to make the presentations suitable for an invisible listening audience. Rick's discussions are the best of the Christian lot for mature or Seasoned Believers but there is still a need for some teachings for those of us who have been in Christ for many years.

Does your ministry or church have any program or ministry to the people who have known Christ for decades? If so, let us know what they are?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

What is Christianity Supposed to Accomplish?

I am eagerly awaiting the comments from our readers. I know that the experiences, wisdom and insights from you far outweigh anything I can write.

I was talking with my son Timothy tonight and he made a comment about the fact that so many Seasoned Citizen Believers are bored and dropping out of church. His comment really struck me. He said something like, "This is very interesting Dad. The church is supposed to be a Launching Pad not a Landing Zone."

Who is helping you launch out into the creative zones of life with all your wisdom and insights? The Seasoned Citizen Believers who have served God faithfully for several decades have great Wisdom and it needs to be transferred to the next generation.
Remember, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones himself, is 60 this year and we need the experience of guys like him and wisdom of folks like you.

The Reveal Book

The two posts that follow discuss the research in this book. I think the data are interesting and somewhat disturbing. Read the posts and respond with your insights.