A Mess of Metaphors



First published in Sunday U Magazine.

Most church conflict is not about worship styles, theological affiliations, or carpet color.  Most church fights are about metaphors.

Everyone has an operating metaphor for what the church is supposed to be.  Some think it should be a cruise ship, where the staff offer stellar customer service and glittering performances.  Some expect it to be a classroom, whose primary purpose is to instill a hearty theology in the minds of the students.  More than a few want a circle of wagons that keep them safe from the evils of post-Christian culture.  Some just want a punch clock that they use at Christmas and Easter to check in.  Whatever the preferred analogy, most people have one, and that frames all of their expectations for the church.  Nothing is more disorienting than a new pastor who comes to town with a fresh, vision-inspiring metaphor that isn’t the one the last pastor preached.

One of the biggest conflicts in churches in the 20th century came when….

Read the rest here.



Preparing for a Church Interview


Job interviews are so stressful that they can cause pain. We think through every word, over-analyze the questions, and beg God to tip the scales for us. And I’m describing what employers like me, not just applicants like you, must endure… In almost 20 years as a pastor (and a veteran of youth ministry myself), I’ve interviewed a lot of potential youth pastors. Through them all, I’ve collected a storehouse of awkward stories, memories that make me wince, and an overpowering determination to help youth workers navigate their next interview with more confidence and impact. Mistakes are golden, of course, as long as we learn from them…

Reposted from Group Magazine.  Read the rest here.

A Pastor’s Confessions

As a pastor, I work the weekends, so Friday is the one day of the week I have free.  After I send the kids to school and my wife heads off to her daily projects, I have the run of the place.  So today, in the quiet of my sanctum, with a free morning, I decided to replace the kitchen faucet.

My wife had purchased a faucet of her choosing, which for some reason was a touch-activated type, and thus had an added electronic component located alongside the normal irritating combination of pipes, connectors, rust, and leaks which must be assembled in a place that a yoga instructor couldn’t get to.  I assume she did this for either of the two usual reasons – that she found this one on sale, or that I have done something to anger her.

I regularly tell my congregation that if they sin, they should confess, both as a spiritual exercise that rights their relationship with God and as a therapeutic way of owning up and moving on.  As a consequence, I feel it only appropriate that I model the behaviors I teach, if only in a small way on this blog that hardly anyone reads.

Because I was alone this morning, I said aloud a number of things about a number of people who have done me no wrong, and who really deserve more respect.  Therefore, I would like to apologize to, in no particular order:

  • The former owner of my house
  • His mother
  • The President of the United States
  • Various members of Congress, whose names I don’t actually know, but whom I nicknamed
  • Anyone whose name rhymes with a profanity
  • Anyone whose name begins with the same first letter as a profanity, and thus can be alliterated
  • My dogs
  • The neighbors dogs
  • Most of the zoo animals, particularly the primates
  • Charles Darwin
  • Martin Luther, for encouraging me to sin boldly
  • Other historical figures, both Catholic and Protestant
  • The Romans, for inventing aqueducts
  • The residents of California
  • The French (this is just a go-to for me)

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work.”



  My new book is

  Hardwired: Finding the God You Already Know

  (Abingdon, 2013).