Change is Good (Why I Retired) time to time someone will ask me about my retirement. It’s been about a year since I took that step, but it’s still a little bit difficult for me to answer.

Q: How do you like being retired?
A: I love it.

Q: What do you do all day?
A: Depends on the day. I didn’t retire in the sense that I do nothing, I just don’t do what I used to do.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky and outdoor
One of my jobs: volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

Q: Are you looking for a job?
A: I have lots of jobs. I’m just not getting paid for any of them.


Maybe it’s just my own insecurity, but I always get the sense that underneath these questions is another, unasked question: Why?

The “Why?” question is difficult to answer in a casual conversation, so I thought I’d take this space and try to articulate some of my motivation for taking this big step. I use the word “some” intentionally because there many factors that entered into the decision. Many are practical, but many are very subjective, having more to do with feelings, intuition and “gut.” I suppose, if I’m completely honest, when it comes to decision making, I have always depended more on these things anyway.

In order to explain my thinking, I need to start with some background.

It seems that my career in ministry has been characterized by leading change. I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, it just seemed I was in the time and place where change was necessary. What I have learned is that leading change is what ministry is all about, and that if you’re not leading your people to change, you’re not really doing your job.

I believe this is true on an individual level through evangelism, discipleship, education and growing in service to others. It’s also true on an organizational level. The systems, methods and styles used to accomplish change in an individual need to, themselves, change and adapt to the environment in which you serve.

My first church staff position was youth ministry. I had no idea what I was doing, really, but I quickly discovered that I didn’t have the personality or skills to simply plug into the methods and systems used by my predecessor. During my time there I led the change from a ministry built around a large and energizing weekly gathering to a small group approach. It was difficult. Some of those in leadership never quite bought into it. There were a couple of times when I thought my job might be on the line. However, in looking back, I think the changes were effective. But not only that, this approach was more suited to my gifts and abilities.

My second church staff position was a “music ministry.” You remember those? It was before the title “worship leader” came about. My job there involved administering graded children’s choirs, handbell choirs, a “chancel” (read: adult) choir, an orchestra (occasionally), other small musical groups and soloists, planning and leading weekly worship services, and staging seasonal musicals including their traditional “Living Christmas Tree.” I served this church from 1986-1992. During that time we began to make incremental changes in our Sunday services to include some of the newer worship music. We also killed off the Living Christmas Tree so we could implement more variety and dramatics in our seasonal productions. I believe these changes were needed in order to remain effective. But, again, they also fell into my sweet spot in terms of personality and gifts.

At the same church, but on another front, I was also asked to lead the implementation of a new approach to the use of volunteers in the church which we termed the “Ministry System.” I won’t go into detail about this because variations are fairly common today, but this was a big change for us at the time. I also felt that I was the right person to lead it.

My most recent ministry staff position lasted almost 24 years. There have been so many changes during that time that you would barely recognize it as the same church.

When hired, I was tasked with moving the worship services from a very traditional (hymns, piano, organ, choir robes) to a more contemporary (think Don Moen Integrity Music in the 1990s) type service. This involved establishing our first worship band. I still remember the first Sunday we used a drum kit in worship. I also remember the after church meetings with groups of people who were extremely unhappy.

But the changes were necessary, and they fit me well.

We began doing some very large scale dramatic/musical productions in order to reach our community. The idea was that our people would invite their unchurched friends and neighbors to an entertaining, yet thought provoking and inspiring evening that would introduce them to our church.

We stopped doing the very large scale dramatic/musical productions because we realized they weren’t really being effective. Turned out our people were inviting primarily friends and family from other churches.

These were hard changes, but they were the right ones, and they fit me well.

We added a Saturday evening service.

A few years later, we killed the Saturday evening service.

There were some who thought I wasn’t moving in the “contemporary” direction quickly enough, so, against my better judgment, we began doing two different styles of services on Sunday morning.

We became a multi-site church by establishing a second campus.

We added a third campus.

My team and I became convinced that our services across all three campuses needed to have more alignment. Certainly, each campus should be able to connect in unique ways with their community, but we felt that all campuses should reflect the same DNA. In other words, we thought a person should be able to attend any of our three campuses and identify it as White Oak Christian Church.

At the same time, I was becoming more convinced that offering two different styles of worship services at our Colerain campus was a bad idea. I mentioned that I had reservations about this, but after doing it this way for a number of years I (and my team) were convinced that we needed to bring people together instead of dividing them. Also, this change would be important on a practical level because we could plan similar services across all three campuses.

I believe strongly that this was the right move, and I was instrumental in making the transition. But there was something that felt different about this change.

I became convinced that, in order for this transition to be complete, I was not the right person to lead these services. We needed to move forward. It was time for a new generation to take the lead.

I see my role now as one of support. I don’t plan to be one of those stereotypical oldsters who complain that it’s not like the “good old days.”

In fact, I’m glad it’s not. Because it’s better.

I’m not making a comparison of the quality. It’s better because it’s more appropriate for the time and place.

The church does not exist to take people back in time to a previous generation. The church is where the living Jesus works to change the lives of this present generation.

Change is not only inevitable, it’s required. Change is the life-blood of the Church. If there is no change, there is no life.

As I said before: leading change is what ministry is all about, and if you’re not leading your people to change, you’re not really doing your job.

Further, if you’ve done your job well, there will come a time when the change that is necessary is you.

That’s at least one of the reasons why I retired.


Tuesday Picks ~ 9-20-2016

Picks Tuesday

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

The post-reality paradoxSeth Godin
When Hillary Clinton lies, her standing decreases. But when Donald Trump lies, it actually helps his standing among his followers. That’s because he’s not selling reality, he’s selling something else. It’s confusing to outsiders, because he’s not working on the same axis as traditional candidates.

The hallmark of post-reality thinking is that it watches the speech with the sound turned off. The words don’t matter nearly as much as the intent, the emotion, the subtext. When we engage in this more primeval, emotional encounter, we are more concerned with how it looks and feels than we are in whether or not the words actually make sense.

A common misconception…

Leadership Is Not For The PrivilegedDanny Franks
“Leadership is not for the privileged, it’s for the servant.” You can’t buy your way into authority, but you can serve your way there.

Beware the leader who wants to hold a title before they hold a towel.

This is a link to a podcast. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I think the highlights look really good…

Worship Leading Relationship between the Pastor and Music LeaderThom Rainer/Mike Harland

A couple of highlights:

  • “What happens on Sunday morning isn’t two things (music and preaching)—it’s one thing (worship).”
  • “Worship is not a performance ministry. It’s a discipleship ministry.”

Good reminder of the graciousness of our God…

Jesus Won’t Let It Be Awkward Between YouMichael Kelley
…today, I will wrong Jesus, and so will you. Today, we will give Him reason to make it awkward between us, as He looks down His nose at us, waiting for us to grovel and apologize in just the right way. And even when it happens, to still hold out some measure of forgiveness from us. But Jesus won’t make it awkward. He won’t avert His eyes from our presence. In fact, He will come and seek us out. He will serve us. And then He will move forward in relationship.

I think I prefer “sitting-with-your-feet-propped-up” desks…


Deuteronomy 7:12-26

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 7:12-26
12 “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. 13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples that the Lord your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once,[a] lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. 25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction[b] like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What are you afraid of?
Is it bigger and more powerful than you?
Is it bigger and more powerful than me?
That’s what I thought.

Monday Picks ~ 9-19-2016

Picks Monday

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Are you reading the Bible wrong?

Stop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’
an interview by Drew Dyck
We’re not honest with people about the Bible. There’s this fear that if we admit it’s a difficult and challenging book, we’ll scare people off. We want to tell people, especially new Christians, about all the great things that will happen to them by reading it.

Since we’re not honest about what kind of book the Bible is, and how it’s supposed to work, when people start reading for themselves, they encounter all kinds of crazy material that doesn’t fit the paradigm that we’ve given them. They find stuff from ancient cultures, from different parts of the world, and they don’t understand it immediately. And it’s hard for them to get something they can apply to their lives every single day from just reading through the Bible. So it leads to cherry-picking verses. Because there are these gems, these verses that seem to contain important spiritual truths…

We need to start equipping people to understand the Bible on its own terms. We have to go back into the Bible’s world, rather than demanding it be immediately relevant to ours. We need to give them pathways from the ancient world into today’s world.

“Friendly.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means…

Six Reasons Why Your Church Members May Not Be Friendly to GuestsThom Rainer
Of the thousands of on-site and virtual consultations I have done, it is the most common sentence I hear from church members:

“We are the friendliest church in town!”

With rare exceptions, it’s just not true.

We surveyed guests who visited the church and found a dramatically different perception. Their most common comment is:

“The people at that church aren’t very friendly.”

So how do so many church members have such a disconnect with reality? I see six common reasons…

Do your young leaders really get to lead?

Young Leaders – Train or Control?Dan Reiland
12Stone Church Residents, the best young leaders in the country!
I don’t think any supervising leader intentionally sets out to control a young leader, but it happens. The young leader is inadvertently not trusted or trained and thereby not empowered to lead. Perhaps this is not exactly the same as controlled, but it “feels” that way to any sharp young leader.

An unhelpful side-effect of the celebrity pastor culture…

Respect Your PastorsJared Bumper
This, I am afraid, is the danger of celebrity pastors and digital discipleship. We see a Christian leader’s strengths from a distance and appreciate their ministry, but we are not close enough to see flaws. Conversely, we are so close to our elders and leaders that we see their flaws and fail to appreciate their strengths and their heart for us. Our exposure to great preachers and leaders inadvertently leads to us to fail to appreciate those in our own church who are over us and admonish us.

7 Things I Miss About 90’s CCMStephen Altrogge, I’m not saying that CCM music in the 90’s was perfect. But I long to return to the days of luxurious hair, vests, and military songs. Or maybe I just want to be young again. Actually, that’s totally it.

Because, yeah some music was good. But some was just plain awful. Kinda like my wardrobe.

Talk Like a Pirate Day…
Off the Mark



The Bridge is Open

I’ve taken some time off from blogging but I feel like I’ve been fairly busy the past several weeks.

There was the usual stuff:

My current Habitat construction site

weekly volunteering with Habitat for Humanity,

Hubsters at WOCC

serving at church,

reframing my garage door

home projects, and more.

We also took the major step of moving my dad to Mt. Healthy Christian Village. This has been, and continues to be, a big adjustment for him, and really for the whole family. My mother is still very independent and continues to live at home. But, living in the house alone is a big adjustment for her. In addition to dealing with loneliness (They haven’t really been apart since dad returned home from his service in the Air Force at the end of the Korean War.) she is in the process of settling into her new routine.

42nd anniversary on 42nd Street

Also, Kathie & I went on a road trip to celebrate our 42nd anniversary. We spent a couple of days in Gettysburg then went on to New York City for a couple of days.

No relation.

We took in some of the usual sights and saw our first Broadway Show: Hamilton! It was amazing!

Along the way we were able to visit and reconnect with some friends and family whom we haven’t seen in a long time. (see below)

I said in my last post that I was planning to do some evaluating and thinking about some possible changes to this blog.

Well, as you can see, I haven’t changed the look of it. I tried out several different “themes” and designs but I really didn’t like any of them as well as this one.

I’m going to try a slightly different approach to social media sharing, but the truth is, the only actual change I’m making to the blog itself is to do my best to write more original material. I have found this to require more discipline, entail more work, and be more time consuming, than I expected. Discipline and hard work are not my strong suits (ask anyone), but I’m determined to try.

Thanks for reading!


In Gettysburg we had dinner with Georgianell. “George” and her husband were volunteer youth sponsors when Kathie & I were in high school. We’ve been FB friends for a few years but this is the first time we’ve seen her in about 45 years!


We had lunch near Philadelphia with my aunt and uncle, Ken and Pauline. Ken is my mother’s older brother. He and my dad were best friends in high school and that friendship is what led my dad and mom meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.


We had breakfast with Brad and Joy. Brad was an intern at WOCC when I came on staff in 1992. He later became WOCC’s Youth Minister. After 9/11/2001 he and Joy felt called by God to minister and serve the people of New York. He began a new church. This photo is taken at Postmark Cafe in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. This place was founded by Brad & Joy as a place to build relationships in the community. It is a unique work and I can’t tell you how impressed I am by this family and their love for God and for serving people.


Kathie works for a firm with offices in several cities, including NYC. This is Mary, one of her long-time co-workers. We were able to tour the offices there and to finally meet many people face to face with whom she has regular contact via email and phone.

Deuteronomy 7:1-11

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Deuteronomy 7:1-11
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.[a] You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does that “complete destruction” and “no mercy” thing bother you? (v. 2)
Why is that, do you think?
Spoiler alert: it bothered them, too.
What if the Israelites had taken this seriously?
Do you think their story would be any different?
Is there anything that you need to deal with in the same way?
Complete destruction? No mercy?
Something that continues to turn you away from me?

Ordinary People

Image result for cs lewis

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal,
and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with,
work with, marry, snub, and exploit–
immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind
(and it is, in fact, the merriest kind)
which exists between people who have, from the outset,
taken each other seriously–
no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love,
with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners–
no mere tolerance, or indulgence
which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself,
your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way,
for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified,
Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory