Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

MY CURRENT PROJECT

Currently I am on a new journey. A long one. A journey that I did not personally choose. The journey source was my middle son, Mike. He suggested that I should begin writing my life story. For some reason he thought that I had an important story to tell. For my family members primarily, but even for a host of friends.

Initially I was reluctant to embrace the challenge. In fact, I put the idea out of my mind. Divorced it from my thinking. And I was determined to get on with other things that I deemed more important. My reluctance was because I viewed such an effort as a rather vain adventure into self-importance. Furtheremore, why would anyone, my family included, be interested in my story along with the various people and events that have served to shape and form my life?

The idea suggested by Mike though would not let me go. Allow me freedom from pursuing the challenge. So, it’s in process. Coming together. Being orchestrated. I spend time daily thinking and reflecting about what to write. I jot down various items of insight. Frequently I will pull out my I-Phone or I-Pad and begin typing thoughts and remembrances. These remembrances include events, people, life changing moments. At times I will eventually catch myself day dreaming. Off somewhere in a mental island of my own.

In all honesty this has been fun. Rewarding. It has helped me to better understand myself. To see what makes me tick. What is really going on inside. At times I have laughed. Laughed out loud. In other moments I have wept. The weeping has also often been loud. Perhaps even louder than the laughing. Sometimes I will even return to relive many of those thrilling and agonizing moments that are now recorded in the archives of that huge ledger known as life.

In the book I am recalling my early years of shaping and development. What led me into leadership ministry. My marriage to Sue, and the years spent in educational pursuits. A big part of the journey will give place to my pastoral work, along with teaching as an adjunct college and seminary educator. And of course, I cannot forget to tell about my precious children and grandchildren. Last but certainly not least on the agenda I want to lay out various lessons I’ve learned along the way, and the legacy that I one day wish to leave behind.

Abraham Joshua Heschel caught my attention with these words: “The course of life is unpredictable … no one can write his autobiography in advance.” So true!! That’s why I have waited a long while before embarking upon this  project. I am hoping it will help persons see important things about life in advance. For others, I am praying that it will simply be a memorable adventure into one man’s simple quest for discovering purpose and fulfillment.

Louisa May Alcott puts the cap on everything that I would envision through this project: “Life is my college. May I graduate well …”

If you are interested in the finished life story product, let me know in advance.

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June 6, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Humor, Marriage, Prayer, Preaching, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

CONTAGIOUS CONGREGATIONS

Being contagious. What does it mean? What does the word convey? When viewed from an illness perspective, it refers to acquiring a sickness that can be spread from one person to another. It is not uncommon, for example, to experience catching a cold or the flu from someone that you have encountered.

But something contagious isn’t always something bad. Something detrimental. Something to be avoided. It can refer to something that is good. Desirable. Wanted. Several examples come to mind: Being around a positive person. An encouraging person. A talented person. A loving person. A caring person. A generous person. A humorous person. One who can make others laugh and enjoy themselves.

Think about the following: A church is either contagious or non-contagious. Desirable or undesirable. Attractive or unattractive. Accepting or non-accepting. Loving or hateful. Positive or negative. Appealing or non-appealing. A fellowship you wish to be part of; or a fellowship you wish to avoid.

What are some of the contagious and drawing factors of a winsome congregation?

  • Love for one another is both seen and felt. Antagonism and coldness are absent. There are smiling faces; excitement; enthusiasm; handshakes; embraces; a certain warmness exists without being suffocating.
  • The public worship times are inspiring. The minute you walk inside the congregations doors there is a sense of anticipation. Even expectation. Furthermore, there is a felt sense of joy that cannot be denied. The sermons and lessons are thoroughly biblical with present day applications.
  • There is an evident desire to reach out. Touch lives. Change lives. Meet needs within the community. Within the larger world. One senses that giving in this church far outweighs that of receiving.
  • Strangers that walk inside the church doors for the first time are not given the feeling that they are diseased. Unwanted. Not accepted. To be kept at a distance. To be avoided. Rather, they are noticed. Welcomed. Received. Appreciated.
  • A contagious church is also one in which there are different ages present. They recognize each other. Accept each other. Are open to each other. They mingle together. Talk together. Clearly enjoy the fellowship of each person present. There is not a sense of cliquishness.
  • Churches that give the sense that they are present to worship God are also contagious. Winsome. Magnetic. The services are not only about us. Our special fellowship. Our activities. Our programs. Persons have come here for the purpose of expressing their love and devotion to God.

These are only suggestive areas of a church being contagious. They are certainly not exhaustive. The only characteristics. But healthy congregations will be those that exhibit at least some of the characteristics that I have outlined here.

When I think of a contagious church I cannot help but think of the church described in Jerusalem. Luke indicated that they were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Humor, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

HUMOR:MEDICINE FOR THE CHURCH

Humor. Should humor be allowed in the church? Or, should humor be eliminated altogether? Responses to these questions would quickly line up persons on both sides of the issue. Some would be fer’ humor. Others would be agin’ it. 

There was a time in my life in which I would have aggressively denounced humor as having any place in church life. But my pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction. I am not in favor, mind you, of a church becoming a circus sideshow. But neither am I so hard-lined that I believe smiles and laughter are outlandish expressions that are out of place.

Congregations need to always stand strongly for what is believed: the cardinal teachings of the faith. They should be serious about them. But if they fail to take advantage of those natural times to laugh, they will endanger their life together. Elton Trueblood taught me the important lesson that Christ used humor in His teachings. Subtle humor. But humor was definitely evident in His words.

Proverbs offers the following: “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (17:22). The Easy-to-Read Version puts it this way: “Happiness is good medicine, but sorrow is a disease” (17:22). Or, how about The Message: “A cheerful disposition is good for your health, gloom and doom leave you bone-tired” (17:22).

Clearly, the Scriptures favor happiness. Being able to laugh. Experiencing merriment. Feeling joy. Expressing joy. Without some positive exilaration we become unhealthy. Bone-tired. Go without the  necessary medicine God prescribes. Believers are turned into practitioners of doom and gloom.

Allow me to share some important and practical common-sense reasons for humor being in the church.

  • Humor eases tension in congregational life.
  • Humor helps keep a church healthy and happy.
  • Humor contributes toward unity.
  • Humor discourages division.
  • Humor is a good diversion.
  • Humor helps us see things with improved attitudes.
  • Humor displays the lighter side of life.
  • And humor enables us to see serious things even more clearly.

 Is your church going through tense and tight times together right now? Are you unable to get along? Work together? To live among one another harmoniously and peacably?

If so, maybe you’ve lost the important quality of humor. Laughing together. Having fun together. Seeing things from the lighter side.

I like the following words of Charles Swindoll: “Show me a believer who laughs at life, who regularly takes life by the throat with a great sense of humor, and I’ll show you a Christian who has no trouble convincing the people around him or her that Christ can change a life.”

So, go ahead! Laugh a little! It’s good for you and your church!!

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Humor, Relationships, Scripture, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality | Leave a comment

HAS THIS HAPPENED TO YOU??

I enjoy having the opportunity to preach. On each occasion I approach it as an act of worship. Sharing my scriptural thoughts and insights becomes both a challenging and rewarding experience for me.

Recently I was encouraged with the manner in which I had handled the biblical text of my message for the day. I thought I had done an acceptable job. That I had interpreted the Word of God responsibly. Even the practical application I provided was right on target. But one response to the sermon troubled me for several days.

A man approached me and said, “preacher, this church needed that sermon!! It was just what they needed to hear!!” I smiled and thanked him. Felt extra good that someone had noted and even expressed appreciation for the okay job I had done that day.

But the more I thought about his response, the more it troubled me. For he was objectively wired in regard to what others needed. But subjectively the sermon didn’t apply to him. It didn’t touch on a weak area or a need in his life. It didn’t bring any help for undergoing any personal challenge to change.

For him the sermon was about and for “they” or “them.” It wasn’t about “me” or “myself.” My conclusion regarding this man began to form: He was an observer at church, and not a participant. What was said applied to everyone else, but not to him. Thus, he could talk about the sermon in light of “them” but could not talk about the sermon in light of himself.

As far as he was concerned, he was okay as a Christian and as a member of that church. But “they” were not okay. He didn’t need what was being said. But all the other members of that church needed it. And they needed it badly.

While reading along in Scripture for my devotional time I encountered a passage that would be good, I now believe, for this man to hear. Peter had been Divinely summoned in a vision to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea to preach God’s message. When he arrived there was a captive audience ready to hear together what he had to say that day.

Thus, Cornelius is led to remark to Peter upon his arrival: “Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33). Please note that Cornelius is not indicating that the message Peter has is not for himself. Instead, he is viewing the message Peter is about to preach as being for everyone there, including himself.

Is it possible that we can elevate ourselves into the lofty position of being okay? Being above the crowd? Being above mistakes? Failures? Sin? Come to the point of believing that what is being said is all about “them,” but not about “me”?

I think it can. It did. It happened that day for the man in the church service. And it has happened many times over in congregations. Actually, too many times. For after Christians listen to sermons over a period of time, they can some way come to view themselves as having graduated. As living above the need to being addressed in a sermon.

The lesson to be learned here is: DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!!!

May 11, 2011 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Humor, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

THE GREAT ESCAPE!!!

Guess what? Today’s the day. The day of deliverance. I’m leaving the house. The homefront. Finally. Going out into the world again. Seeking to restore my contact with other human beings. To see if the world is even still existing out there. Quite honestly, I’m a wimp. A coward. A weakling. Afraid to battle the threat of the snow. But if I stay inside the house one more day I may go insane. Mad. Be in serious need of psychiatric care.

For almost a week now my area of movement has been limited to the four walls of our home. I have stepped outside once or twice only to rush quickly back inside. The cold temps and the snow drifts won out over my courage. Besides, there was no mail delivery. I had little interest in shoveling snow. Building a snowman. Participating in a neighborhood snowball fight. Playing in the kids snowbowl game. Searching for lost dogs and cats. Comparing notes with my neighbors. Telling the neighbors my stories and listening to their snow stories.

All that I’ve experienced this week is time with my sweet Sue. The woman God gave me. And we’ve run out of games to play. Things to do. Items to talk about. Concerns to laugh and argue over. Our vocabulary has reached its end. We have exhausted the alphabet. All we do now, it seems, is stare at each other.

Television has also lost its interest. You know why? Because all the media persons want to talk about is the weather. You know, things like, the low hanging temps. The depth of the snow. The snow drifts. The thick ice beneath the snow. The promise of more snow to come. “Winter, folks isn’t over,” they’re saying. “More of that white stuff is on the way!!”  

This snow experience is even tough on a marriage. Being able to experience marital bliss. Matrimonial harmony. The two becoming one flesh. For now, Sue and I are engaged in trying to avoid each other. To stay apart. Draw boundary lines. Making sure that we know how much house turf we each can rightfully occupy.

So, it is time to escape the house. Don’t you think? I knew you would agree. By the way, if you don’t see another blog after today, always remember me with fond memories. Will you? Because my absence will mean that I have been victimized by the snow. I won the battle by getting out of the house. But the snow will have won the war by burying me and sweet Sue in one of its deep wayside drifts.

Am I boring you with all this? Okay. Okay. Okay. I will stop while I’m still of sound mind!!

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Humor | 2 Comments

FALLING ON MY KNEES

It has taken me a long time to understand intimately God’s nature. I always thought I knew what He was like. But I’ve learned that my view of God was way off base. Out in left field. Distant from His true character.

He isn’t a mean-spirited taskmaster. One who binds with numerous insensitive rules and regulations. Enforces a lot of dos and donts. Makes sure I’m walking the chalk line at all times. Keeps me under a heavy load that I cannot live up to.  

To view God in the foregoing ways is to miss His true character. What He is like. To view Him with blinders. Fail to see Him as He truly is. 

God is a loving Father. Full of compassion. Love and outreach. He cares deeply at all times. There’s not a moment that I’m off His radar screen. He never deserts me. Forgets about me. He laughs when I laugh. Hurts when I hurt. Wants to lift me out of the dark shadows that engulf me. 

This morning I was reading the 139th Psalm. It is a moving tribute by David of God’s perfect knowledge of myself, and yes, of you the reader. He knows everything about us. Nothing is hidden from His majestic scanning device.

Our God hasn’t created us and then exited the scene. Departed to a far away place of  isolation. Washed His hands of us. He loves us as much today as the day we were created. His love and concern remains unchanging and immovable.

Listen to David’s words: “You are all around me–in front of me and behind me. I feel Your hand on my shoulder. I am amazed at what You know; it is to much for me to understand. Your Spirit is everywhere I go. I cannot escape Your presence” (Psalm 139:5-7 – Easy-to-Read Version). 

Do you get it? We are cared for and embraced with the all consuming love and presence of God. How can we ever feel deserted? Alone? Without moorings? Forsaken? Uncared for? On a solo earth flight?

Today my knowledge of God continues. But my knowledge of Him is being  superceded. Superceded by something greater. Something more profound. It is the intimate relationship with Him that binds me as a grateful servant. It is the Divine romance of the ages. The greatest love story ever told. The greatest lover there has ever been in the annuls of history. 

Today once again I fall on my knees before His everlasting presence and gladly extol Him. I thank Him and praise Him for being what I need and can never do without.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Church Health, Church Leadership, Discipleship, God, Humor, Scripture, Spirituality | 2 Comments

ON FINDING YOUR WAY

Leaders have vision. They see ahead. Know where they are going. They are not blind. Uncertain of the road in front of them. Foggy about the direction.

Yesterday I could not have qualified as a leader. Not at all. I entered St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa at the South entrance. I found my way to where I needed to go. No problem. But once I was ready to leave I went a different way. Became lost. It was like being in a maze. In a confusing artery of hallways. Two times I had to stop and ask hospital personnel for the directions to the south exit.

I felt relieved that it was just me. That I had no one to experience lostness with. For together I would have taken them all over St. Francis Hospital. Trudged down numerous hallways. Stopped in puzzlement to ponder where we were. “Is it this way or is that the way?” Should others have been with me they would have impatiently said, “Hey Bill, I thought you knew how we are to get out of this place. To get us back to your car. You know, Bill, you couldn’t find your way out of a brown paper bag, could you?”

Unlike myself, leaders know the way and they remember the way. They are not puzzled. In wonderment. They are not thrown off the trail of their eventual destination. If individuals easily get off the trail it is doubtful they can qualify as a leader. Why? They lack clear vision. A clear sense of direction.

Congregations, I’ve often discovered, lose their way. Get off track. Move in a myriad of directions. Grope around to find their way. They are involved in a lot of religious and churchy activities. They do what we call, “church work.” But they are nonetheless as scattered as the buckshot that leaves a shotgun.

This confusion follows in many congregations because they lack leadership. There isn’t a visionary who is giving direction. Showing the way. There are many manager types that are keeping the church knuckled down to doing routine or traditional “church work.” And the church is consequently lost and straying in the hallways or arteries of busy and useless “church work.”

Congregations can only find their way again once they have a visionary. A leader. Someone who sees the road ahead. Who can takes the church with him or her on the right path.

My coaching and consulting experience has taught me that a lost church, if it is to get back on the highway, will need the services of an outside source to help them rediscover the way.

And get this: I will likely get lost in a large hospital complex. It happens to me often. But I am aware of the direction a church needs to be going. And I will keep a church on the right path.

Let me know if I can help your church with the direction it needs to go.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Church, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Coaching, Discipleship, Humor | Leave a comment

BEWARE OF THE ROPES!!

Are you ready for another humorous church incident? A funny happening to tickle your funny bone? Ready or not, here it comes.

This incident happened several years ago. I was serving with a small Illinois congregation. Frequently I made evening visits. This was one of those occasions. I drove my car slowly up the driveway noticing that there were lights on inside the house. Getting out of my car I walked up the steps to the front door. Knocked once. No answer. Twice. No answer. But on the third knock I heard the loud bark of a dog who was moving fast around the side of the house.

Naturally, my first instinct was to run. Run fast. Set a speed record. I leaped off the porch and made a mad dash for my vehicle. But somewhere in between the front porch and my car everything went suddenly blank. Why? I wasn’t aware that folks hung clothes lines in their front yard. The clothes line had caught me at the neck level and sent me flying in reflexive reverse on my back. Momentarily I was dazed. Loco. In la la land.

My unconscious period came to an end, however, with the big barking dog who was coming around the house. He was now standing above me. I awakened to his massive presence. What was he doing? Licking my face. “Do what?” Like I said, he was licking my face. My face was thoroughly wet from a good tongue licking. I really think the dog felt sorry for me. Wanted to comfort me. Become my friend. But I was still stunned from the reflex action received from the clothes line.

To my surprise the couple was also now standing above me. Right next to their dog. Looking down at me, like the dog, with pity. They had heard their dogs barks. But they had not heard my knocks on the door. Realizing something was going on, they had rushed outside. The woman was bending down and asking if I was okay. Still alive. And apologizing for the clothes line. 

I assured the couple I was okay. Still alive. But that I was a bit breathless. My neck was sore. My back hurting. And I smelled like a dog. For the dog had covered my face with his generous saliva application. This was a visit that I will never forget. I carried the clothes line marks on my neck for a couple of weeks. And my back was sore for a longer period of time.

But I was young. Resilient. Able to bounce back. Able to heal. To return to normality. Yet, it was one of my most unforgettable lessons in church visitation. For these are not experiences you are taught to anticipate in college and seminary. It’s true! So, you need to be sure that you learn all you can about the ROPES!! Oops!! The clothes lines.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Humor | Leave a comment

CAUGHT UP A LADDER!

Someone suggested that I should share some humorous things that I’ve experienced in church life and ministry. As I reflected on this suggestion, I realized the possibility of sharing story after story. 

One incident comes quickly to mind. I was grocery shopping one day at our neighborhood market. As I shopped I exchanged conversation with numerous persons. One family, however, surprised me with their words: “Bill,” they said, “we think your approach to church advertising is a great one!”

I was speechless. Didn’t know what to say next. Thus, I replied, “You’ve got me on this one. I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.” “Well, Bill, it’s that man on the roof. Your church roof. He’s up there waving at every car that passes by the church building.” I was really confused now. What man? Who was doing the waving? Tell me what he looked like. The familys responses were vague.

The next day, Sunday, I was at church for Bible School and worship. I began to ask questions of several members. Wanted to know if anyone could tell me about a man being on our high and lofty church roof waving at passing cars. No one could give me an answer. In fact, they had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually, Bud overheard me questioning various members. He jumped into the conversation immediately: “I was the man!”

“You were up on the roof waving at cars, Bud?” “Yes, Bill, I was.” “Well, we have become a church well-known and famous for its roof advertising technique,” one family has informed me. “Bill, let me explain what happened. I came over to the church building yesterday to repair an item on the roof. I set up a large aluminum extension ladder to get onto the roof. When I finished the repair I returned to the ladder to get back down again. But to my shock and surprise the ladder had blown over, as there was a heavy  wind. I had no idea how to get off the roof. So, I started waving at cars, hoping someone would come to my rescue.”

Bud spent two and one half hours on the roof that day before someone finally responded to him. Can you imagine that? What do you do for two and one half hours on a high church roof? He didn’t have a newspaper. Cell phone. Video game. I felt sorry for Bud. In fact, my heart went out to him. For he was not a young man. Bud was well along in years. Yet, I laughed and laughed. I spent several days laughing about this incident. 

An odd accident like this was not something totally bad though. A lost cause. It really wasn’t. For Bud had not only repaired the church roof, he had also extended a bit of church hospitality to the many persons that passed by our building. A host of individuals concluded that our church had discovered a rather unique and creative means of advertising.

The moral to this story: Be careful about going up a ladder! But if you get caught without a ladder, make sure you spend your time wisely: ADVERTISING!!

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Humor | Leave a comment