Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

OVERCOMING A GLARING IMBALANCE

Today’s blog may come across initially as being critical and negative. I do not mean to leave this impression. For I want my thoughts to be viewed as helping us see things more clearly, and motivate us to respond to those new insights that will help us advance and grow.

Here is my focused concern: I’m afraid that we live in a day when subjective worship experiences have become resting points on the Christian journey, when in fact, we should be moving onward to grasp the objective truths that give a strong foundation to our faith, as well as a strong foundation to our worship expressions.

Why would this be my concern? Require extended consideration in this blog? It’s because public worship expressions today have often replaced the sensed need to understand and articulate clearly what we believe. Persons will attend public worship gatherings, for example, but avoid Sunday School or educational opportunities to expand their growth in the Christian walk.

What I write next may come as an item of complete surprise to believers in our modern day. There was a time when the public worship experience was less important than participating in Sunday School. How do I know this? It’s because a couple of congregations with whom I’ve served have revealed this to me. As I looked back on their attendance participation, Sunday School was always, without exception, ahead of all worship time attedances.

It became obvious to me that congregations in earlier days were searching for a stable foundation on which to build their Christian lives. Worship may make you feel good. Enable you to leave a service lilted. Even inspired. But does worship alone enable a person to build a strong and ongoing relationship with the Lord?

Some may have a rebuttal at this point. Simply stated, was Sunday School the fad at the time? The practice that most believers were into? Following? In other words, were more going to Sunday School because that’s what everyone was doing at that time.

I am convinced the foregoing concluson is incorrect. It really is. For as I viewed past Sunday School experiences, there were many more opportunities for doctrinal and theological instruction that took place. Believers had a heart for wanting to know what they believed. Not only did they want to be able to understand their beliefs, they also wanted to be able to articulate their beliefs and live them out in their time as well. Today a class on marriage, parenting, or finances has greater interest and involvement than understanding and growing in our faith.

This reversal in our time has had critical results. Critical overtones. Because we have created a consumer oriented church. “Give me what I want,” in other words, “and I will attend and participate in your church. Insist that I must learn and grow and seek to understand my faith, will turn me off. Repel me. Make me dislike any church that wants to live in a world that I do not live in.”

I’m not advocating that we suddenly change and revert simply to being a learning church. I am advocating, however, that we strike an important balance between the subjective expression and experience of worship with the objective need to better understand and practice our faith.

This balanced step, I believe, will enable a currently imbalanced church to regain a healthy life inside and outside the body of Christ. What do you think?

Advertisements

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Relationships, Service, Spirituality, Sunday School | Leave a comment

ACQUIRING A NEW PAIR OF GLASSES!!

In my last blog I responded to the frequently heard lament, “WE WANT OUR CHURCH TO GROW.” This lament is voiced because congregations and their leaders do not have a clue as to how to reverse their declining numbers. Their downward spiral has them baffled. Confused. In a maze. Unsure of what direction they should take next to experience a turnaround.

Amidst this puzzling confusion in which they find themselves, declining congregations generally wish to solve their own problems. Solve them as quickly as possible. To aim for a speedy turnaround. And they will utilize their own tiring and tried programs and procedures over and over as solutions to their problems. Predictably, they will not work. They haven’t worked before, and they most likely won’t work now. For such approaches are nothing more than temporary actions of bandaid healing. Quick fixes. Momentary tranquilizers.

Seldom will congregations reach out for an external trained resource person to help them. To guide them. Enable them to think through their problems with more perceptive eyes. Why? Because congregations do not wish to acknowledge that they have a problem. They wish to appear okay even though they know they are far from being okay. Furthermore, they “hang on” with the hopes that, in time, they’ll get to the root of what is causing their decline.

One important step for declining congregations to make is being able to see things through the eyes of those they are wanting to reach. This is often overlooked, as declining congregations follow the path of seeing things only through their own eyes. In other words, what do we think is wrong? How can we fix it? Are there some steps and procedures we need to take? Will it cost more than we can pay at this time?

Declining congregations without a leadership minister will even advertise in the following way: “WE ARE A SMALL CONGREGATION NEEDING A MINISTER. PAY AT THE PRESENT TIME WILL ONLY BE A PART-TIME SALARY, AS THAT’S ALL WE CAN AFFORD. BUT WHEN WE GROW AGAIN, THE MINISTER WILL RECEIVE FULL-TIME PAY.”

They obviously believe that the right pastoral leader will be the answer to their growth problems. While that is a necessary step for a congregation to make, it does not guarantee the growth of a church. For a church needs to have, as well, a ministry in place that will draw the age group they are interested in attracting. Added to the foregoing need is for those inside to willingly let go of the reigns of control and allow the pastoral leader  permission to lead a church toward growth.

One example comes quickly to mind. A congregation was becoming fifty and above in membership. Thus, they wished to be able to reach more of those who were in their twenties, thirties and forties. How do we reach them? My response was as follows:

  • Cease envisioning the church as being the way you want it to be.
  • Begin envisioning the kind of church ministry that will reach those ages you are concerned with.
  • View things through the eyes of those age groups that interest you.
  • Here are some things this age grouping will want: They will expect a first-class nursery; a well structured children’s and teen’s program; classes and activities that will address marital and child rearing issues; help and instruction with financial matters; opportunities to interact with other young families and singles, like themselves.

Unfortunately, declining congregations, those in a rut, do not see things in the ways I have just outlined them. They continue to do things in their church the way they’ve always done them. The result: They are experiencing the same sad things over and over.

The prescription is this: Declining congregations need to be looking more outward than they are inward. Such eyesight is a Kingdom oriented step!!

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Outreach, Relationships, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

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.

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

A GRANDFATHER’S THANKSGIVING DAY THOUGHTS

As I write today it is the Thanksgiving Season. Most of life’s busy activities have ceased. They are on hold. In their place is some unstructured times to be with family and friends. Be able to converse some. Laugh a lot. Play fun games. Assemble jigsaw puzzles. Enjoy the kids, grandkids and perhaps even the great grandkids.

My children are with us: Linda and Jim; Thom and Leslie; Daniel and Nina; and Matt and Nicole. Six of our nine grandchildren are here also: Christopher; Erich; Elly; Chloe; Lily and Evie. Cade, Reagan and Clark couldn’t make it for Thanksgiving this year. But we hope to see them with their parents, Mike and Shara, during the Christmas Holidays.

Sue and I sense increasingly the privilege of having our family present with us. Why? Because most of them live in distant places. Far away localities. Areas that are removed from us.Thus, when we are able to get them assembled in one city, we want to enjoy some quality time while among them.

And these are quality times. They are moments in time. Experiences that are far to special for one to miss. Witnessing the family first-hand is a joy that is much to unique to adequately express. I enjoy hearing them communicate; laugh; share food; play games; and even hearing my competitive sons try to outdo one another with their sports enthusiasm. And I dare not forget my sweet daughter. Her maturity and charm radiates throughout our family gatherings.

I prayed this morning. At length. Freely. Conversationally with God. My praise was acknowledged to HIM most of all. Thanksgiving was also expressed for each child and each grandchild. I nonetheless prayed that God would ever have them wrapped in HIS loving arms of protective embrace.

As I reflect on the years ahead, there are some items that I hope and pray will always characterize my family. Here they are:

  • That my children and their spouses will always love, honor and respect one another.
  • That evident Christian values will always characterize their lives.
  • That the church and its ministry will be an important factor for them.
  • That my grandchildren will one day choose strong marriage partners with whom to share their lives.
  • That my family will be protected from all forms of evil, and more particularly from the Evil One.
  • That each one of my family will live responsible lives while on earth. Exemplary lives. That they will make a contribution as a person, and make society a better place because they’ve lived.

As a father and grandfather I want to finish well. Leave a legacy. Be an example. Live even more clearly than I have preached. For I cannot expect more of those who follow me than I do of myself.

I appreciate these words of Alex Haley: “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” I hope to do a lot of this in my final half of life. But as my sights are set on the foregoing goal, I must always remember these words in Proverbs: “The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).

November 24, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Relationships, Scripture, Spirituality | Leave a comment

ATTENTION PASTORS: LESSONS I’VE LEARNED

I was a pastor for several years. During this time I was engaged in numerous pastoral activities. I preached; taught; engaged in visitation; conducted funerals and weddings; led a staff; attended various meetings; participated in community events; prepared myself as a pastoral leader through the doctoral level; wrote numerous articles and books; and even taught as an adjunct professor in college and seminary.

Following these experiences I have occupied another role. I have transitioned into being a church consultant/coach and writer. I’ve continued to preach and teach in a variety of church settings. But I’ve also had the opportunity to view things from the non-pastor role as a churchmen. Having been a fulltime pastor I am still sensitive to the pastor’s position and function. But I have learned some important lessons.

In today’s blog I would like to suggest a number of items I would seriously consider if I were beginning to serve as a pastoral minister in a church. Allow me to share these items with you.

  • I would seek initially to keep in front of me what the purpose of the church has always been: MAKING DISCIPLES.
  • I would set in motion a working process for members to be trained and to assume the ministry of being DISCIPLE MAKERS.
  • My ministry would insure up front that a congregation’s leaders would be standing with me in the call of Jesus to MAKE DISCIPLES.
  • Being a pastor to everyone would be my major focus. I would never allow myself to be sucked into a self-interest group that endeavors to become a  congregation within the larger congregation.
  • Leading a balanced life would be established. My life would not be wrapped around only being a pastor. I would first and foremost become my own person made in God’s image; I would focus on being a Christian husband; a Christian father; a Christian leader; and a participant of integrity in the community.
  • My motives would be pure. Perfection is impossible, even for a pastor. I clearly understand that. But everything would be marked by genuineness and not hypocrisy. Ministry would not be only about me and for me. It would be about God and others in relationship with Him.  
  • In everything I would be professional. I would bring dignity and integrity to the pastoral calling.
  • Daily Bible reading and prayer would be etched in stone. These items would not be merely talked about. Bragged about. They would become a daily reality in my life.
  • I would engage in reading and continue being a student. Serious study would be evident in my lessons, sermons, conversations and presentations.
  • Responsibility would always characterize my life. I would be punctual with  appointments. Reliable. No one would ever question that I was irresponsible.
  • Being a team player would be uppermost in mind. Why? Because mavericks have no place in leadership ministry. In fact, they should be removed if they are.

I may follow this blog with a few other suggestions later. But these are good starters. Beginning points. Items for pastoral leaders and congregations to mull over and reflect upon together.

What do you think?? Contact me if you have other lessons you’ve learned in pastoral ministry.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Tongue | Leave a comment

BECAUSE HE DIED AND LIVED!!

The next two Sundays will be great reminders of what holds Christians together as the church. I am referring to Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Our crucifed Lord became the living Lord. Death could not stop Him. Hold Him. Nor could death end His ultimate march to victory.

Yet, the victory march of Jesus was not simply a solo march. It becomes our victory march as well. It is a Divine victory for humanity that permits the sunshine to break through and take charge of the shadows and darkness surrounding our lives.

We are no longer victims. Those without hope. Those who face death on our doorsteps. Jesus now promises His followers, “because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). New life has begun for us. And there will be the experience of everlasting life tomorrow. This is why Paul could pen the following words, ” … Christ died for our sins … and … was buried, and … rose again the third day” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

“Because He lives we can face tomorrow!” We can face tomorrow ourselves. And we can enable others to face tomorrow as well. For those who’ve been delivered into the new life of Jesus possess the life changing good news that is now available to everyone. It will bring joy where despair once reigned. 

This coming blessed hope for Christians provides ample cause for developing a healthy and wholesome church in these dark days of human history. You know why? Because the bride, God’s church, is in need of being ready and in anticipation of the soon coming Groom to meet His bride.

Are you ready? Is your church ready? There is no doubt about it. The Groom will appear. Suddenly. Without warning. In great power and glory. You can rest secure on this wonderful promise. For Jesus has never made a promise He has failed to keep.

How should we be living our lives in the interim?

  • By anticipating His promised coming.
  • By waiting patiently for His return.
  • By living faithful and fruitful lives. 
  • By increasing daily in our love for one another.
  • By discipling our family and friends.
  • By helping develop a lovely bride (the church) for Him.

The best is yet to be. The very best. I pray that Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday will be subtle reminders to you of the glorious days that await fulfillment!!

April 12, 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, Heaven, Marriage, Outreach, Preaching, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spirituality | Leave a comment

ON SEEKING GOD’S WILL

I hear a repeated concern among Christians everywhere: What is God’s will for my life? Biblically they understand the need to be “salt” and “light” in society. To love both God and neighbor. And are aware of the urgent call “to make disciples.” These items are always key expectations in one’s relationship to his or her Lord.  

But now comes the hard part. The more difficult aspect to understand. How about all those day to day issues in our lives. Where should I live? In what kind of work should I be involved? Who should I date and/or marry? What persons should I invest my life in? Are there specific functions that I should be assuming in my church and community? Should I accept a job offer and make a move elsewhere?

It is a major step to move from the more specific parts of God’s will in Scripture to that of the more general areas of daily life in the world, isn’t it? The objective truths of God are constantly in front of us in Scripture. But the personal side of life, the more subjective realm, is often a mysterious sort of darkness to us and places us in some rather serious decision making.

When there is confusion about God’s will in specific situations in life, I have learned, over time, some needed and helpful lessons. Initially, never rush into anything. Nothing. Do not make a hasty decision. Rapid decisions are never healthy. Give yourself considerable time before deciding anything.

But why should one allow time in making decisions? Exercise patience? It is because you need time in which to see all the variables in any decision you are attempting to make. Plus, when time is allowed God is able to insert His guidance and input into our thinking and planning.

It isn’t that God requires time to help with your decision making. You are the one who needs the time. And you will need the time to be able to make a rational decision, and to be able as well to hear and discern the voice of God in the matter.

Waiting has never been initially viewed as an asset by me. Nor have I generally heard others who enjoy the experience of waiting. But it is crucial for human beings who are wanting to responsibly discern God’s will in specific issues of life.

As we wait and the time passes we should be praying. Always praying. Remaining faithful to God and anticipating His timing. Always listening. Listening for God’s voice. Looking for those open windows through which we can see the light that will become more and more evident as time passes. 

Sometimes the answers come quickly. In a flash. But other times the waiting involves weeks, or maybe even months. Perhaps the answer will be one closed door after another. Meaning, of course, that this decision is not within the context of God’s will for you. 

Whatever you encounter in the process of waiting, always remember that: God ” … has made everything beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Prayer, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality | Leave a comment

MY HYMN OF ADORATION AND TRIBUTE

Yesterday my very special bride, Sue, had a birthday. We celebrated this event together. We laughed. Talked. Reminisced. Cried. Reflected. And yes, we rejoiced. It was her day. Hers alone. And I made sure of it. Made sure that she was honored and recognized. She was taken to The Olive Garden and treated to a very special meal. I then gave her time to spend at Hobby Lobby. In case you aren’t aware, this is Sue’s favorite place. She easily gets lost here. And she did. She had a ball. An unforgettable day. It thrilled me to see her smiles and the tears of joy that formed in her eyes.

I hid myself away and had my special devotional time alone with God to thank Him and extol Him for His greatness and goodness. This was an empowering experience. For He makes a weak individual stronger than a lion when he or she spends only a brief time in His presence.  

Sue’s special joy yesterday though was hearing from all five of our children. They contacted her and expressed their joy and love for their wonderful mother. Shared the special day with her. Thanked her for what she has meant in their lives. This was experienced along with numerous contacts from other much loved people we’ve known throughout the years.

When I proposed to Sue I loved her more than life itself or words could ever express. But that love has only grown stronger through the years. I expressed tears when I asked Sue to marry me. The tears resurfaced yesterday on her birthday. God has graciously given us additional joy with five wonderful children, and eight beautiful grandchildren. 

Our lives are one. A bond has been formed. Sue is my special sweetheart. My special confidante. We talk about everything. The good. The bad. Even those items that we privately treasure. How I was awarded such an adorable partner and friend for life I will never fully know. Only God alone knows the plan that He had in store for our lives.

Sue has stood by me. With me. When my pain was overwhelming. When immense joy rushed through my veins. When I’ve been up, and when I’ve been down. I believe she understands well the marriage vows that teach of the need to love the other person “for better or for worse.”

Right now Sue is greatly enjoying her online knitting business, Nellies Knitting Shoppe. She named it in honor of her dear mother. And she produces many beautiful hand-knitted items. In her spare time she is also my administrative technical assistant. She patiently assists with my writing, teaching, consulting and coaching ministry. Proverbs records these words: “There are many good women, but you are the best. Grace and beauty can fool you, but a woman who respects the Lord should be praised” (Proverbs 31:29-30 – Easy-to-Read Version). And I do praise her. 

Today I am praising God though in a much more intensified manner. Thanking Him for the blessing of Sue in my life. And recognizing the joys of continued ministry on His behalf. I am blessed. Encouraged. Overjoyed. Thank you DEAR GOD!! I know the best is yet to be!!!

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Marriage | 2 Comments

CELEBRATING GOD’S GIFT TO ME

Forty-six years ago something special happened to me. I met the girl I’d thought about. Dreamed of. Anticipated meeting. Prayed would enter my life.

I needed this person. One who would fill lifes empty crevices. And believe me, I had many empty places. It wasn’t within my arsenal and expertise to find her. Discover her. Recognize her. Pursue her. Meet her. Begin a relationship with her. Thus, I asked God to do for me what I could not do for myself: pinpoint the  girl. The one who He knew would be right for me as lifes companion.

God revealed her to me. It happened when I began my preparation for ministry at St. Louis Christian College. I regularly attended Jennings Church of Christ on Wednesday evenings. The girl God pinpointed was in that congregation. She was constantly in front of my eyes. For she was the church organist. I remember the first time she looked at me. Smiled at me. Made me feel special. She was shy. Quiet. Non aggressive. And she had beautiful eyes. God had planned this moment in time. I knew it. Felt it. Because I had sought His face about it.

In a short time we dated. Became familiar with each other. I quickly realized she was the one. The one for me. The one I needed. The one I must have. Forty-six years later, after the proposal and our marriage, I recognize she is still the one I need. The one I must have in life. The one who needs to finish life’s journey with me.

I am of course writing about Susan Lee Wood. She has been my faithful companion throughout life. When I’m happy. When I’m sad. Downtrodden. When I’ve felt I cannot take one more step forward in life and ministry. Sue has been by my side. Each and every day. Each and every step. I’m so thrilled and grateful that God gave Sue to me.

Into our lives have also come five beautiful children. Precious lives to love. Raise. Discipline. Teach. Prepare to assume adulthood. God gave me one chance. And with all the mistakes, my children have become very special Godsends, and have wonderful companions in marriage. Furthermore, my children have given Sue and I eight lovely grandchildren. They are raising them as the kind of persons Sue and I are thrilled to witness and see.

All this began, however, with my beautiful wife and mother. The person God placed in front of me. Should you read Proverbs you will gather a wonderful picture of Sue (see Proverbs 31:10-31).  She has helped me in the development of a Godly life, so that I am able to engage in church leadership.

Note the instruction in Proverbs: “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it” (Proverbs 31:10-11 – The Message). This is so true! Thank you, Sue! I love you! And I always will!

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Marriage | 2 Comments