Monday, March 30, 2015


 Long ago, in my early preaching days, I came across this little story.  It's probably apocryphal but contain at least a kernel of reality.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching a group of four-year-olds. It was Easter Sunday and she asked, ''Does anyone know what today is?'' One little girl raised her hand and said, ''It's Easter.'' The teacher complimented her and then asked, ''Does anyone know what makes Easter so special?'' The same little girl raised her hand and said, ''Easter is special because Jesus rose from the dead...'' Before the teacher could compliment her, the little girl added, ''but if He sees His shadow, He has to go back in for seven weeks.''

Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian year, but it's prime value to most Americans is to create a convenient spring break.  Many could recount the first half of the little girl's answer,  but for them it has little personal significance.  There was a time when even our more secular population put on their finery to join Mom and Dad at the family church to attend a worship service before rushing off to fight for a spot at a local restaurant serving dinner on a Sunday when few people wanted to cook.  Now with less and less of the population having any Christian roots, it's a sunny day to be enjoyed in some other family activity that probably won't include even a prayer.

But Easter is the celebration of the day when God took the sting out of death.  It is the day God decisively declared that sin need not be our master and invited us once again into a life of hope that would not disappoint us.  It is the day of Resurrection--not some seasonal cycle of the planet, but the transformed destiny of a people who once again could become a people who loved and served God with their whole being. A destiny that was more than now-it was eternal.

The apostle Peter perhaps said it best: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. - I Peter 1.3-5

And more recently the late Johnny Hart described it this way:

© 2015 by Stephen L Dunn
Permission is given to reprint this post as long as it is not included in material that is for sale, that it is reproduced in its entirety including the copyright notice, and that a link is provided to this blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Periodically I come across a blog post.  I love the church and so does Carey Nieuwhof.  I just had to share his words that I wish I had written - STEVE.


There’s a lot of church bashing that happens these days. I get that. Some of it is deserved.
Like me, maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of people feel justified in dismissing the church as anything between a complete disappointment and otherwise useless.

Doubtless people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that I feel terrible.
But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.
So in the hopes of clarifying a few things and helping us all move through whatever hang ups might be lingering, here are 5 things people blame their church for…but shouldn’t.

1. The church didn’t stop you from growing spiritually

Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully I’ll grow!

I’ve heard this so many times at one point I believed the logic. Until I realized that we were this person’s fifth church in 6 years, and they didn’t grow at any of them. Which makes you ask the question…is it really the church, or could it be them?

I came to the realization years ago that I’m responsible for my spiritual growth. Nobody can make me grow. And honestly, no one can keep me from growing because no one can actually control my thoughts, my heart and my mind. I can offer them to God in free surrender whenever I want.
Understand, the church can help, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

2. The church didn’t burn you out

You meet a lot of people in ministry, both paid and volunteer, who will tell you the church burned them out. As someone who has burned out while leading a church, it would be tempting for me to say “For sure…my church burned me out. You should see the demands people made on me as a pastor and leader!”

But I would never say that.

You know who burned me out?

I did. 
I am responsible for my burnout. I pushed too hard for too long. I didn’t deal with underlying issues.

I burned myself out.

Now, granted, I think ministry can be confusing, and I think it’s easier to burn out in ministry than in other vocations (for the reasons why that is, read this post).

But I’m responsible. And so, honestly, are you. For more on burnout, start with this post.

3. The church didn’t make you cynical

I’ve heard many Christians say “I’m so cynical after working at/attending several churches.”
And for sure, any student of human nature can become cynical.

But the church didn’t make you cynical. You let your heart grow hard. You chose to believe certain things about people, about God, about life, and it built a crust around something that used to be alive and vibrant.

The biggest challenge in life is to see life for what it really is but keeping your heart fully engaged. God loves to help people do that.

I fight cynicism daily. And if anyone makes me cynical, it’s me…not you, not God, not culture, not the church. I want my heart to be alive and celebrating each day. That’s a choice I make with God’s help.

4. The church didn’t cause your unforgiveness

It’s easy to hold a grudge. Get hurt (and yes, I’ve been hurt by people in the church too) and hang onto it long enough, and grudges will form.

Soon you’ll not want to hear someone’s name, let alone run into them in the supermarket.
Too many people in the church or who walked away from the church carry unforgiveness and blame the church for it.

What are you hanging onto from a bad church experience that you need to let go of?

Forgiveness is the one of most Christian things people can do. Yet it’s what far too many Christians withhold from one another.

I love how Mark Twain phrased it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

5. The church didn’t make you lose your faith

I hesitate to write this one. I’m a church leader. I do everything I can to help people find faith in Jesus Christ.

I also realize I’m far from perfect, that our church is not perfect, and that there never will be perfection on this side of heaven.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say “I went to church but it was so bad/so hypocritical/so shallow I lost my faith.” I realize we don’t always do a good job. In fact, sometimes churches do a terrible job. Sometimes I do a terrible job.

But as you’ve seen throughout this piece, nobody else makes you lose your faith. That was or is a choice you made. It is.

And it’s a choice I make every day. To believe when there are more than a few reasons not to. To love when people don’t love me back. To forgive when it’s easier to hang on to the hurt. To trust when there’s probably a few reasons to stop trusting.

So if you want to believe again…believe again.

A Challenge

Now let me give you a challenge. I realize many of you have been hurt by the church. I realize many of you have grown cynical. And that’s true of people who have left the church and who are in the church.

Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk away or be endlessly critical.

The reason I lead a church is because I believe Jesus designed the church to be the hope of the world. Churches are imperfect organizations, but they’re also chosen organizations. We’re on a mission given by Christ. We’re his chosen instrument.

I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The world has enough cynics and critics.

We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.

Would you be one of them? Maybe get involved again? Or join a church and decide to work toward a better future? Or start a church of your own? That would be incredible. Really…it would! We need more optimists and more people ready to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear what you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and how you’ve decided to make a difference.

Monday, March 16, 2015



Today I reach a personal milestone.  It is my 64th birthday.  I am beginning the day with a prayer of thanksgiving for the life God has given me, a bowl of cereal and an English muffin,, and the NCAA Basketball brackets.  Later I will go to work and push some paper that has been accumulating.  What appears to be a bronchial infection will limit my contact with people.  Tonight my wife Dianne will serve me a great dinner of her world class spaghetti and meat balls. Simple plans for one who has seen a whole lot of birthdays.

The world I live in has grown much less simple, however.  It has grown more complicated, more hateful, more dangerous.  I grieve for my world and the state it is in.

Last week some "punks" (to quote Attorney General Eric Holder) ambushed two policemen in the city of Ferguson, throwing more gasoline on a smoldering fire in that racially troubled community. We receive one more disturbing report of American young people who are heading to the Middle East to join ISIS, easily one of the most barbaric terrorist groups we have seen in centuries.  Several more workers attempting to stem the tide of Ebola in Africa were infected themselves with the disease.

The list -- sadly -- goes on and will have grown by more troubles  by the time this post is published.

This is what happens to a world that makes violence  part of the fabric of every day living.  It is what happens in a world where those who know the right thing to do, delay and defer until a tidal wave of hateful insanity is upon them.  It is what happens in a world that thinks we can live comfortably and callously behind our national barriers while others literally die from their life conditions for no other reason than the accident of the location of their birth.

It is what happens in a world that thinks it does not need a God because we prefer the unrestrained license of our personal desires.

Long ago Jesus told us that we should love God with our whole being--and then reminded us that loving God requires obedience to his healing will for the world.

And in the same breath he reminded us that if we really love God WE MUST LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES.

So today, I am praying that we will take these two commands seriously--starting with me.

Monday, March 9, 2015



Many years ago I was part of a ministry team sent to Mississippi to explore connecting with churches that were seeking a denomination to become a part of.  I am not sure what criterion they were using in approaching us, but for us it was a chance to establish a presence in the South.  Over 120 years before that, our fledgling missionary efforts in the South had ended when our abolitionist beliefs ran straight into the wall of segregation and pro-slavery sentiment. In fact, our denominational magazine had been burned by postal authorities in Richmond as "dangerous and seditious."

This was in the early 80's and we were hoping that sentiments had changed.  But as we passed near the city of Philadelphia MS, one old preacher made what he meant to be a joke.  "You probably know what happened around here a while back to another group of boys from Ohio."  Our denominational office was in Ohio and he was referring to the killing of three civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan.  Fortunately, he was an exception to the people in his church; but it was deeply troubling that such an attitude in anyone could be considered humorous.  Murder and racism are not funny.

Only 15 years before my visit to Philadelphia MS, a major event occurred in civil rights history.  In Selma AL nonviolent protestors attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge.  It became known as Bloody Sunday (March 7, 1965), taking its name from the beating that roughly 600 peaceful civil rights activists sustained at the hands of white state troopers and police who attacked them with batons and sprayed them with tear gas.

These people were simply protesting so that they could have an equal right to vote--something that African-Americans had been promised 100 years before that.  They were opposed by the embedded racism that justified segregation, states rightists who believed the state should have sovereignty over the nation, and the virulent, violent hatred of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Sadly, racism is not yet ended in America--in fact, a racism exists that often goes both ways.  And the wounds of racism are not healed and there are too many people who gain their self-worth by perpetuating it.  

It is something we cannot stop battling against.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015



This is my youngest grandson, Caleb Jay Huther.  His mother is my youngest daughter, Katie; and her husband, Jason--a high school principal.  Today Katie recorded this conversation on her Facebook Page.

Caleb: Daddy, can I type letters on your computer?
Jason: Sorry buddy it's charging
Caleb: It's charging?
Jason: Yep and we can't touch it while it's charging
Caleb: but Daddy ... How can it be charging if there is no cord plugged in?
Jason: (moment of silence) ... Well buddy ... I didn't realize you were smart enough to figure that out

Katie added:  ... Hah! My educator husband with a million degrees was just outsmarted by our three year old!

I wonder how often I approached my children with the same attitude.

In the Bible, we read of a young pastor, Timothy.  A young pastor/apostle who was given authority far beyond his years.  Yet he had wisdom, passion, and a mature faith.  He received this counsel from an older Christian leader, Paul.  And this was Paul's guidance:

 "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:2 NLT

The church is often guilty of discounting its young.  Oh yes, they want their church to attract youth because "they are the church of the future.  But how much time and energy is spent on actually discipling them? Or bridging the gap between worship that is often very adult-focused and worship that draws children and youth into the presence of God?

And although they lack experience, God often gives children and youth discernment and wisdom beyond their years.  In what way do we try to answer their questions honestly?  In what way do we give them leadership opportunities that allow them to learn how to be leaders?

Just thinking today .....

© 2015 by Stephen L Dunn
Permission is given to reprint this post as long as it is not included in material that is for sale, that it is reproduced in its entirety including the copyright notice, and that a link is provided to this blog.