Surplus Or Sacrifice

Thanksgiving is one of the most challenging seasons to celebrate authentically because we in America have so much.  We are at the top of the world scale in per capita income and standard of living.  While we have only 4% of the world’s population, we have 47% of the world’s millionaires.  There seems to be a tendency in human nature to be less grateful when people accumulate a lot.  When people have less, they seem to be more grateful for what they do have.

I am convicted by that Pew Research Center survey of 48,643 people in 44 countries .  They found that people in poorer nations in Africa and South America were much more likely to say they were having “a good day” than people in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.  The study seemed to show that the people who have the least seemed to have the best attitude and make the most and  enjoy life as “a good day.”  The people who have the most didn’t acknowledge having “a good day.”

The whole world was shocked by a picture recently of a homeless Filipino boy when he was photographed studying on the sidewalk by the light of a McDonald’s restaurant.  Daniel Cabrera, 9, captured the hearts of the world.  People responded by making donations of cash, school supplies, and even a college scholarship.  McDonald’s has pledged to create a reading program for 400 first grade students at the young boy’s school in Mandaue City.

The response of this young boy and his family has been one of deep gratitude.  Daniel’s mother said, “Our family can’t be more thankful for all the support given to us.”

Two wealthy Christian gentlemen were a part a tour that carried them around the world.  While they were in Korea they visited a field by the side of the road.  They saw a boy pulling a crude plow while an old man held the plow handles and directed it through the rice paddy.

The wealthy Americans were amused and took a picture of the scene.  One said to the missionary accompanying them, “That’s a curious sight.”  The missionary replied, “Yes, that is the family of Chi Noui.  When the church building was built, they were eager to give something, but they had no money, so they sold the only ox they had and gave the money to the church.  This spring they have to pull the plow themselves.”

The wealthy Americans were silent as they tried to process what their eyes were seeing.  One of them then said, “That must have been a real sacrifice.”  The missionary replied, “They did not call it a sacrifice.  They thought they were fortunate that they had an ox to sell.”

It changed the attitude of those two men.  Both of them admitted that they had never given from a standpoint of sacrifice, only from surplus.  Real giving doesn’t come from surplus, but from sacrifice.  The size of a gift is never determined by the amount of the gift, but by the amount of the sacrifice.

Mark 12:41-44 tells how Jesus sat by the temple treasury and observed as people put in money.  A poor widow came by and dropped in two tokens – the smallest coins in the currency.  While the people watching thought it wasn’t much, Jesus said that she had given more than anybody else.  They thought Jesus didn’t know much about economics.  Jesus stunned them by offering a whole new economic theory when He said that she had given the most because she gave all that she had.  Her gift was from a sacrifice – not a surplus.

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving.  I remember as a child we used to challenge each other by saying “how high can you count?”  How high can you count with your blessings?

Thanksgiving – give thanks from your surplus – give a gift from your sacrifice.

Wise Words

Words are powerful.  They are a reflection of who we are. They determine how we will enjoy and reflect life.  We use thousands of words every day.  How carefully do we pick those words?  The Book of Proverbs gives us insight.

Oftentimes we speak before we think.  Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; a quick reply can ruin everything”.  When someone says something, do we think before we speak?

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.”  In any situation we have the option of either dispelling a volatile situation or adding fuel to the fire to make it worse.  The words we use have an effect on the situation.  Proverbs 15:4 says, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”  It is a choice that we make.

We must trust God in giving good answers.  Proverbs 16:1 says, “We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer.”  It goes on to say in Proverbs 16:24, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”  I love honey and put it in my coffee every day.  Someone told me years ago that it was healthy.  I now realize that kind words are even more healthy than honey!

It is always easy to repeat something without knowing if it is actually true.  This usually has a bad outcome.  Proverbs 16:28 says, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife – gossip separates the best of friends.”  How we respond in situations either makes the situation better or can become gossip which is destructive.

Oftentimes people have words of wisdom which come in the form of constructive criticism.  Proverbs indicates that wise people listen to criticism and respond appropriately.  Proverbs 13:18 says, “If you ignore criticism you will end in poverty and disgrace:  if you accept criticism you will be honored.”  Proverbs 15:5 says, “Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline:  whoever learns from correction is wise.” Proverbs 15:21, 22 remind us, “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.  If you reject criticism, you will only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction you grow in understanding.”

We act and talk like the people with whom we associate.  I have a Southern accent because I have lived in the south all my life.  My accent reflects the language of people around me. When I was in school at Princeton people would buy my lunch to hear me talk.  In India I had several people ask if I was from Australia.  They said I had an Australian accent.  That is really strange!

We become like the people with whom we spend time.  Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise:  whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.  Trouble chases sinners while blessings chase the righteous.”  We will be caught by something that is chasing us.  It can either be trouble or blessings.

Proverbs 15:14 says, “A wise man is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.”  Fishermen tell me that there are some fish that feed on trash on the bottom of a pond or a lake.  They are referred to as “bottom feeders.” Because they feed on trash they are not worth eating.  People are like fish – we either feed on truth or on trash.  Our friends help feed us!

Hanging around good people can bring encouragement, good advice, and unexpected victories.  Proverbs 15:22 said, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice:  many counselors bring success.”

Wise words make winners!

Do We Get It?

What motivates people?  Some people are motivated by guilt – others by fear – others by the drive to succeed in their profession – others to accumulate financial security.  The ultimate motivation for life comes in our desire to carry out the commandment of Jesus to love Him completely, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves.

When Pope Francis visited Washington recently, he reminded us, “The spirit of the world tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy.”  The Pope then emphasized, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world.”

A great-grandmother, Anne Lorimor, 85-years-old, recently climbed Africa’s highest peak Mount Kilimanjaro.  She now holds the world record of being the oldest woman to climb that mountain.  She encountered some challenges such as coming down with the flu halfway into the eight-day climb, but she was motivated to reach the summit of the 19,341-foot mountain.  Her motivation was not to be the oldest woman to climb the mountain, but to raise money for the Challenge Youth Fund which supports disadvantaged kids across Arizona.

When quizzed about this phenomenal feat of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, she said, “If I combine my interest in climbing with my passion for helping children, what could be better.”  Anne gets it.

Alex Thomason is a 40-year-old lawyer in the state of Washington.  He is fascinated with fire trucks and recently bought an old fire truck for $5,000.  A few days later the biggest wildfires in Washington state history broke out.  Alex got his old fire truck and joined forces to help fight the blaze.  He drives the truck with a team of volunteers from Okanogan County.

People asked the 40-year-old lawyer, “Who’s paying you?”  Thomason’s response was, “Well nobody.  I’m just doing this because these are people, these are Americans, and that’s what we do!”  Alex gets it.

Ashley Aldridge is 19-years-old and lives in Illinois.  She came to a railroad crossing and heard a man, Earl Moorman, shouting for help.  His motorized wheelchair scooter had become stuck on the railroad crossing and a train was approaching.

Ashley didn’t think twice.  She ran onto the tracks.  She struggled with the wheelchair, and couldn’t move it.  She then lifted the 200-pound man and dragged him to safety.  Just as she pulled him off the tracks, the train hit his wheelchair and the wheelchair exploded.  Ashley didn’t think about herself, but only about Earl Moorman.  Moorman’s son-in-law, Dave Beck, arrived shortly thereafter and said, “I’ve hugged her I don’t know how many times.”  Ashley gets it.

Andre Almeida is a Canadian police officer.  He heard reports of a missing 65-year-old American senior woman who had dementia-like symptoms.  She had left her cruise ship when it docked in Victoria, B.C. and didn’t return.

Andre and the police found her at a downtown hotel, took her to a hospital, and then to the airport so she could fly back to her family in Buffalo.  When the woman’s credit card didn’t work, Andre Almeida just pulled out his credit card and paid the fare.  When asked why he would do that much to help an American senior citizen, he said, “My part was really small.  I just gave a credit card.”  Andre gets it.

The Pope, Anne, Ashley, Andre get it – do you and I get it?

The Changeless and the Changing

Some things change and some things should never change.  It is so important to be able to differentiate between the two, and act appropriately.  Three of the things that never change are the Man Jesus Christ, the Message that He preached, and the Mission that He gave us in today’s world.  Don’t try to change these things.  They are changeless.

The Man Jesus never changes.  The Bible says “He is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  I think His Message of hope and redemption (Luke 4:18, 19) is more relevant today than ever before in history.  He didn’t come to talk about the survival of the fit, but the revival of the unfit!  He offered life and hope to every person He met.  His Mission to make disciples (Matthew 28:19) has not changed.  Many Christian organizations have drifted away from the primary mission of making disciples. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!

So many things are changing.  The stock trading’s open market pits in Chicago and New York City, “where generations of sweating traders in colorful jackets once bellowed out orders for wheat, corn, and cattle contracts” closed this past July.  Modern computer advances have made “face-to-face trading largely obsolete.”  Someone raised the question “Will traders who trade on the computer even know what a tip is?”

JPMorgan has changed how it utilizes the telephone.  The bank is phasing out landline voicemail in its consumer and community banking units for employees who don’t deal directly with clients.  Coca-Cola, in its Atlanta headquarters, has eliminated voicemail because it impeded the best way to do work today.

Amy Ingram is an excellent personal assistant who is “professional, prompt, and receptive to critiques.”  As her initials suggest, she is an artificial intelligence program. When Amy receives an email request in a meeting, Amy can take over the task of coordinating schedules and setting dates.  She will be available for use by the public in 2016. The New York Times reports that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at high risk of being taken by software and smart machines over the next 20 years!

The Edge is an Amsterdam office building which is the “smartest” building ever built.  An app directs workers to available parking spaces when they arrive, and makes assignments for meeting rooms and different kinds of desks.  The Edge also “knows your preferences for light and temperature, and it tweaks the environment accordingly.”  It even remembers how you like your coffee.

With the opening of the Cyber College at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery is “negotiating contracts” to “plug in” and become not only a gig city but a cyber city – one of the few in the U.S.!  The Cyber College not only will indentify and find solutions to security threats and hacks, but will offer access to the cyber workforce on demand 24/7 anywhere in the world!

We must navigate change by keeping the Changeless and the Changing in the proper perspective for action.  I am completing a book which will be available in about a month which delineates in greater detail the Changeless and the Changing.  It will contain discussion questions for churches, businesses, organizations, families, sports teams, etc.

Change is a choice!  Change can be an obstacle or an opportunity – a help or a hindrance – a burden or a blessing.  Businesses can turn change into dollars.  Churches can turn change into converts.  Sports teams can turn change into scores!

Never try to change the changeless – always be open to change with what is changing.

Growth Requires Change (#6 in Series on Change)

Change is always difficult because most of us don’t want to change.  However, the amount of growth is oftentimes dependent on the amount of change we are willing to make.

My experience with Sunday School at Frazer is an excellent example.  Early in my ministry I put together a visionary group called the Joel Team to help discern God’s vision for the future.  One layperson suggested that Sunday School attendance had to grow in our church.  This bucked the trend because United Methodist Sunday School had been declining over the last 50 years.  Our Sunday School was small, but these creative laypeople began to discuss how we could change that trend.

We discovered that some of the larger Sunday School classes were meeting in smaller rooms, and some of our smaller classes were meeting in larger rooms.  This isn’t good stewardship in the use of the facility.  Let me remind you that Sunday School classes have a tendency to have ownership of their space.  They go to great efforts to upgrade the looks of their classroom.  The window treatments, the altar tables, etc. are oftentimes personally made by members of the class.  One layperson suggested, “Why don’t we look at Sunday School attendance every six months and rearrange the rooms to give the largest rooms to the largest classes.”

Caution!  This is a huge change.  People began to see that every Sunday School class might have to change rooms.  But the question is – do we want to grow a Sunday School or do we want to have business as usual and keep our own rooms?  Change would be necessary.

The Joel Team, consisting of people from all age groups, said that our core value is to grow our Sunday School. To do that it would be necessary to place the largest classes in the largest rooms.  It was voted on and passed unanimously, because the core value did not center around the inconvenience of change but the vision of growing the Sunday School.

Every six months the average attendance of each class is recorded and the rooms are assigned accordingly.  The Sunday School grew to three sessions each Sunday morning.  Each room is used three times.  If you go to Frazer today you will see no permanent Sunday School class names on a door.  There are actually three slots for 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 Sunday School.  Each class has a nameplate that they can slide into that slot.  The classrooms change accordingly to average attendance and the size of the room.

It has also created a bit of competition.  If you want to keep your Sunday School room, you need to be inviting people and growing!

Another layperson suggested that the best way to grow our Sunday School is to start new classes.  Because the tendency to give a new Sunday School class a room that is not being used (because nobody else wanted that room) you design defeat for the new class.  The Joel Team suggested that we give the best classrooms to the new classes.  That was a big mindset change for Sunday School classes.

All of these ideas passed our governing body almost unanimously.  Because the Joel Team had representatives from every age group in the church it was not a case of “they” making a decision for radical change, but it was a “we” are a part of that deciding body.  If these proposals had been my idea, I would not have been retained as pastor very long!  But this was the vision of the laypeople.  When laypeople have ownership, vision becomes reality.

What was the result – Frazer grew a Sunday School that became the largest Sunday School attendance of any United Methodist Church in America!!  The amount of change dictates the amount of growth.  Vision became reality when people were willing to change.


See Any Stirrups? (#5 Series on Change)

Someone has demonstrated how recently change has escalated. It was suggested that if you looked at the last 3,000 years and compared it to a clock of 60 minutes, you would find that over the last 3,000 years most of the change has come in the last 9 minutes.

Nine minutes ago the printing press was discovered, 3 minutes ago the telegraph, phonograph, and trains arrived. Two minutes ago the telephone, automobiles, radio, and airplanes arrived.  Television occurred in the last 10 seconds.  The computer came into existence in the last 5 seconds.  Satellites and laser beams came in the last couple of seconds.

If you use that same scale of one hour in reference to medicine, for 59 minutes very little developed in medical terms. One minute ago antibiotics occurred and 10 seconds ago open heart surgery.  In fact most of the advancements in medicine have come in the last 10 seconds as compared to the whole clock before.

History has been affected by people who were willing to navigate change and look for better ways to do things. We are the recipients of much of that today.

Max Lucado points out an important change that effected history in a decisive battle fought in 1066. William, the Duke of Normandy, dared to invade England.  The English were next to invincible in their own land.

But William was going to fight in a different way. He had something the English did not.  He had invented a device which gave his army a heavy advantage in battle.  He was willing to think outside the box.  He looked for a better way to allow his troops to use their horses.  He developed something that gave his army an edge – the stirrup.

Conventional wisdom of the day was that a horse was too unstable a platform from which to fight. As a result, soldiers would ride their horses to the battlefield and then dismount before engaging in combat.  But the Norman army, standing secure in their stirrups, were able to ride down the English.  They were faster and they were stronger.

The stirrups led to the conquest of England. Without the use of stirrups William might never have challenged such an enemy.  Because they had a way to stand in the battle they were victorious after the battle.

How better could we fight the battle against the evil one today? We are not fighting against “flesh and blood but against the world forces of the darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)  Satan is clever and always devising new ways to attack us.  We must have on each piece of the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and constantly asking if we are wearing and utilizing each piece productively.

In a day of rapid change, the God who never changes is always helping us find “stirrups” that can make us victorious. How willing are we to think outside the box and pursue God’s ways of doing things today?

See any stirrups?

The Challenge of Change (#4 in Series on Change)

When I was appointed as Pastor at Frazer in 1972, my daughter Vicki was going into the first grade and my son Si was 3-years-old.  We lived in Carol Villa.  The favorite eating place for our family was Howard Johnson’s, located on the Eastern Bypass next to Interstate 85.

At that time Howard Johnson’s did more business than McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken all put together.  As you might guess, times started to change.  Howard Johnson’s was unwilling to change with the times.  The fast food industry began to get traction.  Howard Johnson’s wanted to keep things the way they had always been.  When is the last time you ate at a Howard Johnson’s?  When is the last time you saw a Howard Johnson’s?

Change is a part of life.  The necessity to navigate change is much more necessary today than it was when I moved to Montgomery.  Businesses, churches, and organizations that did not navigate change did not stay around very long.

I read about a time in our history when there were proposals for new railroads to be constructed.  A lot of people were opposed to this change.  The Governor of New York, Martin Van Buren, insisted that these new railroads were evil and would interrupt business and weaken our nations’ defense.  It has been alleged that he wrote the following letter to President Jackson on January 31, 1829:

“The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads.’  The federal government must preserve the canals for the following reasons:

  1. If canal boats are supplanted by ‘railroads’ serious unemployment will result.  Captains, cooks, drivers, hostelers, repairmen, and lock tenders will be left without means of livelihood, not to mention the numerous farmers now employed in growing hay for horses.
  2. Boat builders would suffer, and tow line, whip and harness makers would be left destitute.
  3. Canal boats are absolutely essential to the defense of the United States.  In the event of unexpected trouble with England, the Erie Canal would be the only means by which we could move the supplies so vital to modern war.

As you may well know, Mr. President, railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of fifteen miles per hour by “engines” which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock, and frightening our women and children.  The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speeds.”

Martin Van Buren

I am glad that we don’t have to do all of our traveling today by canals, railroads, or highways.  We now have airlines, and I don’t how we will be traveling a few years from now!

Everyone seems to be for progress – unless it involves change.  It is hard to have progress without change.  There are some people who think nothing should ever be done for the first time. (Tweet this.)

Stay committed to the things that are changeless – and be open to the things that are changing!


Football Has Changed (#3 in Series on Change)

Football has really witnessed a lot of changes in the last 25 years.  Rich Rodriguez was the coach at Salem College in 1988.   He was looking at the two-minute drill.  He was one of the better recognized defensive coaches, but the two-minute drill gave him a lot of difficulty.  He decided he ought to look at using the two-minute drill on offense – all the time.

About the same time Mike Leach was looking at an offense that combined a passing game, with its emphasis on attacking space, and the wishbone, which was a run-first scheme, and its strength was spreading the football around to its skilled players.  He and Rodriguez, along with some other coaches, came up with what is known as the spread offense.

This change has drastically affected high school and college football.  This change in offensive strategy and schemes has led to the highest scoring in college football history!

Spread offense is not the same today as it was ten years ago.  It is constantly being tweaked.  Spread offense is basically one back with four receivers and the quarterback in the shotgun.  It is now sometimes using two running backs and making greater use of the tight end.

The passing game has a much greater emphasis today.  A few years ago a famous coach said he didn’t like to pass the ball much because, when you throw a pass, three things can happen, and two of them aren’t good!  The old philosophy was that the running game set up the passing game, but today many teams use the passing game to set up the running game!

Not all the coaches like the change to the hurry-up spread offense.  A big critic is Bret Bielema, the Arkansas coach.  He isn’t quiet about his dislike of the change.  In the summer of 2015 he was speaking at a high school coaches’ conference in Texas.  About 70% of Texas high schools run some form of the spread offense.  Coach Bielema told the coaches that his preferred style was better than the spread.  It will be interesting to see who is ultimately right!

Even the traditionally “run between the tackles” offenses are utilizing at least parts of the spread offense today.  Two examples are Alabama and Stanford.  Alabama is embracing some new changes, and sometimes runs 100+ plays in a game, and is setting new records for the offense.  In 2014 Stanford embraced an up-tempo version of the spread during its final month of the year.  They ended the 2014 season on a three-game winning streak!

Dana Holgorsen, from West Virginia, has been one of the early shapers of the spread offense.  He describes it with the word “evolving.”  That means it’s not one set way, but constantly being improved.  It is always changing.  What kind of offenses will we see 10 years from now?

The NFL has taken a huge step with change this 2015 season.  The NFL will equip every player of the league with a coin-size microchip that contains a radio frequency identification chip that will track speed, distance, and direction traveled on the field.  It is embedded in the shoulder pads.  Its intent is to get additional statistics so that coaches can better analyze what a player is doing and how that player might improve.  It will certainly offer a lot of advanced statistics.  It is a change.

Football is constantly changing in offense, defense, special teams, nutrition, conditioning, recruiting, faculties, etc. but these changes are for the purpose of what never changes – the team with the most points at the end of the game still wins!

Can the church and business learn something from football?  Read I Samuel 17:38-50.

Can You Hear Me Now? (#2 in Series on Change)

Bob Dylan’s classic song “The Times They Are A-Changing” was written years ago, but it is so appropriate for today.  He sang, “Come gather round people wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown – and accept it that soon you will be drenched to the bone.  If your time to you is worth saving, then you better start swimming or you will sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changing.”

The times are a-changing.  The water is growing.  The people that are not able to figure out how to swim are sinking like a stone.  Businesses, churches, and organizations that are successful know how to figure new ways to swim to navigate the change.

One example of change is the cell phone.  How many of you used a cell phone 15 years ago.  Some of us still have trouble with them today. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that there will be 7.1 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2015.  This is up from 2.2 billion in 2005.  Remember that the current global population is about 7.2 billion.

Six years ago one of the most popular cell phones was the Blackberry.  I remember debating as to whether I should get a Blackberry or an iPhone.  I picked the iPhone because I was told it was easier to use.  Seven years ago Blackberry accounted for roughly half of the smartphones in the North American market.  Blackberry didn’t change with the times – today it accounts for just 0.6%.

Using new tools like the cell phone to live in today’s market does present challenges.  The overwhelming use of the cell phone has prompted “cell phone loss anxiety” which is referred to as “nomophobia.”  According to a report, 73 percent of people said they panicked when their cell phone was misplaced; 14 percent responded that they become desperate; and 7 percent said they become physically sick.  Change can be helpful, but it can also be challenging.

Cell phones have changed the way I do things.  I travel most every week and stay in a lot of hotels.  The way I pack my suitcase has changed.  Because of noise in hotels, I always packed a noise maker, an alarm clock, a legal pad for making notes, a Dictaphone, a flashlight, and a camera.  Now I don’t have to pack any of those things because they are all on my iPhone.  It has changed the way I travel.

The cell phone has enhanced the use of social media.  It has changed the way we do a lot of things.  A few years ago people dressed up if they were going for a special picture at graduation, a wedding, an awards banquet, etc.  Today you better be ready to have your picture taken anytime, anywhere, by anybody.

Businesses and organizations are relying heavily on social media to get their message out.  So much of business today is done online.  How well are we willing to use social media in the church?  How willing is the church to change to current opportunities to expand the gospel?

The change in today’s culture among young people is very noticeable in the use of video games.  It was recently reported that this year video games will bring in more money ($92 billion) than films ($62 billion) and recorded music ($18 billion) together.  Is there some way that the church could utilize the immense popularity of video games to communicate the Good News?

Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” points to the situation today.  There is an answer! It is in another song we sing in church which says “Change and decay is all around I see, Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

A Culture of Change (#1 in Series on Change)

The reality of change in today’s culture is one of the unchangeable truths that we face.  Change is a part of life in business, church, everyday living, etc.  If you are not riding on the top of the wave of change, you will find yourself beneath it.

One of the great joys of living in Montgomery is the association with the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.  At Frazer we were always blessed with so many wonderful people, active, retired, and civilian, who were part of Maxwell.  We had several retired Maxwell people who served on the church staff.  It was one of the best moves I made as the Senior Pastor at Frazer.

The Air University, like everything else, must adapt to change.  Maxwell is quite different today than it was 20 years ago.  Military preparation and strategies are different.  The Air University has a great leader in Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast.  At a press conference recently he said, “Like any part of our nation, the ability to adapt and to grow and to stay relevant to the country is one of the most important things we can do.  We’re adapting to the fact that the world is changing.  We live in a world now where information is flowing faster than ever before.”

He went on to indicate that persons training leaders must take a fresh look at the process of how leaders are trained.  Success is determined by the ability to emphasis the things that are still relevant, and to make changes where change is necessary.

It is good for every business and church to listen to a military leader when he says that it is imperative to answer the question of purpose in today’s world, create a vision for accomplishing that purpose, and develop a strategic plan to bring to fruition that vision.

How well do we as a church do that?  Refusal to change in the church is one of the reasons that major denominations in our country are declining.  The United Methodist Church has lost members for the last several decades!  Even the Baptists lost over 200,000 members last year.

Is the church willing to listen?  Sometimes it is in the church that we are most reluctant to make changes.  Someone has said the only place you find change in most churches is in the offering plate!  One minister said his congregation is becoming more Christ-like…the same yesterday, today, and forever!  Another minister decided to start changing his oil in his car himself.  When questioned by his parishioners, he said he wanted every 3 months to change something without everybody complaining!

Let me be clear that the church should never try to change the message or the mission of the church.  We must be ready to change our mindsets and methodologies and ministries to accomplish the message and mission.  We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust the sails. (Tweet this)

Lt. Gen. Kwast emphasized that the Air University wants to make learning for its people something that is a lifetime experience, something they do every day so that it becomes a habit.  We all need to realize that 21st century learning is lifelong!  Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I am glad that our military is living in the 21st century in preparing for the future.  The Army (or Air Force) of the Lord must move into the 21st century and minister accordingly!