Monthly Archives: August 2012

An Apology, A Hope and A Prayer

I think I may have to spend the rest of my life apologizing.  Not for the things that I have done (I probably need eternal life for that!) but for the things that I didn’t do, or even worse, the things that I didn’t realize were so serious.

I never understood the tears of parents on the first day of Kindergarten!  Didn’t they realize how much fun their child was going to have?

I couldn’t for the life of me understand the angst when a child moved to first grade!  Just think about all the time you will have all day with them in school!

How can you not be thrilled as they begin Middle School?  Don’t you know that it will not be long before you can have intelligent conversation?

What do you mean you dread them getting their driver’s license?  Now you have someone else to make that run to the grocery store in the middle of the game!

I understand college, with tuition!  That one I always got!

And even FOB–Father’s-of-the-Bride!  Again expenses!

But going through it!!!

So let me begin!  I am sorry!  I am sorry that I didn’t call on the first day of kindergarten, Middle School and College.  I promise you that I have so much more sympathy for FOB after walking my daughter down the aisle, just wondering if I was going to be able to hold it together.

I am so sorry!

But someone never told me about Graduate School!  I left Savannah in Austin, Texas where she is beginning her MSW.  And yes I know Austin is a great place and UT is a wonderful school and she will have a great time!  I know all that!

But it isn’t about her!  It is about me!  That is what I said to her yesterday morning, through tear stained eyes, as I held on to her standing in her apartment.  She said very simply, “You will be OK.”

Suddenly I was walking across the parking lot at First Baptist, Greenville, taking her into her last year at kindergarten.  I reached for her hand to head across the parking lot because that was the rule!  She resisted, because after all, she was 6!  And I told her, “But next year I won’t have anyone’s hand to hold.”

Savannah reached over and patted my hand and said, “You will be OK, Daddy.

16 years later that is still my prayer and my hope.



Filed under Life issues

The Ideas Issue

It is one of my favorite issues of the year!  Every year The Atlantic publishes their “annual compendium of prescriptions, provocations, and modest proposals for making the world a better place.”  It is always a fascinating read—something that gives the reader a lot to ponder, to consider.

In the past they have tried to identify the “Big Idea” of the year, things that are already shaping the way we live, think and act.  Recently they have identified

This year however they did something a little different.  They have proposed ideas that perhaps we should consider.  Here are just a few:

  • Hold lotteries for college admission.  Every applicant who is good enough gets his or her name put in a hat and then “winners” are chosen at random.
  • Charge coaches for losing.
  • Sell birth control pills over the counter
  • Don’t treat the sick who don’t have insurance.  Many say the government cannot and should not require people to buy health insurance.  The trouble is the government can and does require hospitals to treat people who don’t have health insurance and who can’t pay.
  • Have boot camp for teachers.
  • Boot the extra point.  The PAT is a vestigial part of the game leftover from the days when kickers weren’t anywhere near as efficient.  It makes no sense.  Why do you get to score more after you have already scored?

See!  I told you they were provocative!  You can read the whole list here!

As I read through the list I found myself asking, “What are the big ideas in church, both those that are already floating around, but even more, those that we should be considering?

So I decided to put together a list of my own.  They aren’t all original with me, and some are already being used in some places.  But here is the 2012 Don Flowers List of Big Ideas for Churches.

  1. It is time to drop the “agricultural” schedule for church.  The sacred time of 11:00 on Sunday has more to do with the milking feeding schedule than anything sacred.  The church needs to a time that fits with our modern schedule—perhaps a late evening time, after work, before supper/homework time for worship.  Maybe even an early Friday evening time prior to football games.  Perhaps different churches will choose different times, reflecting the schedule of their congregation.  It may be a shock to the Sunday restaurant rush, but they will adapt as well!
  2. Admit that faith does not come one-size fit all—and that is OK!  There are many wonderful churches that do “introductory faith” very well, but what happens when you go beyond?  What happens when a person begins asking difficult faith questions?  Is there a place for them?  To use an educational model, there are some churches that do “college church” very well, but fail to give the introductory classes, to teach the stories, to invite people into the journey.  What if we could team together?  What if ministers were able to bless and send members out to another church where they could continue to grow in faith?  Or are we more concerned with keeping people right where we are?  (Don’t answer that question!)
  3. Allow churches to die, merge, and unite.  On any Sunday morning you will find church parking lots with plenty of real estate.  There are enormous sanctuaries where the pastor could throw a hand grenade into the congregation without fear of harming anyone!  If churches were a business, these congregations would have been merged, consolidated, closed years ago. Yet, because of a devotion to the church where Granny used to worship, these congregations continue to struggle to stay open, using funds more for survival than ministry.  What if we were willing to admit that the life span of our church has reached its end?  What if we were willing to talk with another congregation to see if there are ways that we could combine resources, ministries, and buildings in order to reach our world?  The reduction in overhead might enable an afternoon program, a mission endeavor that hasn’t even been imagined, a sanctuary with people sitting around.  It will be a struggle, but the journey of faith isn’t supposed to be a luxury cruise.
  4. It is time to move from a socialist church to a more capitalistic one.  This means we must move to a Fee for Service budget.  On any morning as I read the obituaries I read that the memorial service will be held in the funeral home chapel.  In Charleston SC I would dare say that most weddings are not held in a church.  So if people aren’t coming to church to be “married or buried,” why do they come?  It is time to recognize that people are willing to pay for what they want/need.  The church can move to that schedule—wedding are this price, funerals this price, hospital visits, pastoral care calls, marriage counseling, theological inquiry… Of course we will build in administrative cost to the budget, just like any other “business.”   But at least we won’t be subsidizing those who aren’t contributing—unless it comes out of the ministry budget that is a part of the administrative costs!
  5. Be entrepreneurial in our missions.  We have individuals in our congregations who have experience beginning/running businesses.  Why not use that to assist others.  We could even run them out of our empty churches until they get up and running.  How about the “Bread of Anxious Toil Bakery” (Psalm 127:2) This model is already being used by organizations such as Kiva, and Acumen Fund.
  6. Move to yearly church membership.  Ask members each year to re-commit, renew their membership.  This would force churches to be clear why membership has its privileges, as well as its responsibilities.  Why should someone “join” your church?
  7. Team with other congregations to reduce our footprint while expanding our ministry.  If we are willing to move beyond 11:00 on Sunday as the only sacred time, could several congregations worship in the same facility?  What about the Friday night church, or the Thursday morning church?  Different congregations, even different staff—but one building.  Shared overhead and more ministry—and isn’t that what we are about?  (Again, maybe we shouldn’t answer that!)

Just a few “ideas,” and granted, some of them may be wacky, and will never see the light of day (and probably shouldn’t!) But then, it is just a start! What ideas might you have?  Add them to the comment section.  It might just be the one that someone somewhere needs!

Besides, it really can’t be anymore crazy than getting rid of the PAT!

This originally appeared this post originally ran on the ABPnews Blog.  

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Pier Pressure

I know it happens all the time–to teenagers.  Their so-called friends put pressure on them to do things that they know in their heart of hearts and their mind of minds that they shouldn’t…and yet, so often they do!  As adults we warn them about it all the time!

Just say no!

I just didn’t think it could happen to me…but it did.

I should have known there was something suspect when Russ Dean started whispering on the pier, “I think all the guys should ski together.”  (Now all Russ can do right now is whisper due to an issue with his voice, but still, I should have known he wasn’t up to anything good!)  Quickly John Ballenger and Jim Somerville succumbed to the siren’s call, but I tried to resist.  I even sang the old song, “Mama told not to come…that ain’t the way to have fun, NO!”  But the pressure was too great, and soon I found myself putting on skis and grabbing for the rope.

Now let me say, I can ski!  I used to do it all the time at Uncle Hugh’s lake house.  I would ski around, even slalom!  But that was when I was 18 and weighed just slightly more than the ski!  Now, I am 3 times that old and weigh…let just leave it at a bit more!

But due to Pier Pressure I was in the water waiting for young Jackson Dean (a co-conspirator with his father) to jerk us out of the water.  Russ kept telling me, “Keep your arms straight.”  “They are straight!”  Pull your knees up closer to your chest!”  “They are as close to my chest as my stomach will let them!”

But with his coaching it happened!  (Not the first time, nor the second, nor even the fifth, but it did happen!)  Here’s the proof!

It was so much fun..skimming across the water!  Laughing with my friends!  Cheering when we got back!

But today…my elbow is swollen because Jackson ripped it apart; my shoulders ache because Russ told me to hold my arms out straight; I have muscles aching that I didn’t even know I had…all because I succumbed to Pier Pressure!

May this be a lesson to you!  Just say “No!” when you friends try to convince you to do something that you know you shouldn’t!  Say no when you are tempted to believe you haven’t aged in 35 years!  Just say NO!

And keep your arms straight and your knees up close to your chest!

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