Reflections on the 2016 Winters Pastors’ Meetings for KS-NE

Dreamstime xxl 39505151



Thank-you for your feedback on the 2016 Winter Pastors’ meetings.  The surveys showed, far and away, you appreciated the meetings this year.  Below we will take a look at some of the survey results and look at what could be improved for next year.  

The Survey Results

Screen Shot 2016 01 17 at 1 49 53 PM


Screen Shot 2016 01 17 at 1 52 28 PM


The elements most appreciated were Gary Thurber’s sermons, Rich Carlson’s devotional, and Ron Carlson’s closing remarks with appreciated (extremely helpful and very helpful) ranging in the 80% to 90% range.  

Most felt that Steven Mosley’s presentations could have been stronger.  His presentations saw a high of 44% appreciation (Stronger Stories) and a low of 28% (Showing our Basic Beliefs).

Concerning the Logos presentation, 62% found it extremely helpful or very helpful.  Nathan’s presentation missed those who did not own Logos and who were not planning to buy it.

The discussion times were appreciated but saw some room for improvement with 72% finding them extremely beneficial or very beneficial.  

Several commented that they really liked the departmental reports being spread throughout the meetings (as opposed to one solid block).  This was reflected in the overall high marks for the department reports.  Several also liked the frequency of breaks and the amount of scheduled free-time. 

Hotel food and facilities

The banquet food did better than I expected with almost 59% giving high marks and the rest rating it OK.  Only one rated it bad.

The hotel facilities and hotel rooms took a beating with only 35% reporting they were extremely satisfied or satisfied.  A few of the rooms were downright bad and the response to the problems by the hotel staff were sluggish at best.  

I received many comments of appreciation about the meetings being held in the hotel rather than in the church some miles away.  There was some disappointment about the waterslide and pool being nonoperational during our meetings.  

The Story Slam

I came away from the story slam deeply impressed with the ability our pastors have in tell a good story. Every story was well told. The story slam did very well with 88% rating it very enjoyable or enjoyable.

I want to commend Ryan Watson for a excellent story about God’s leading in outreach and Greg Bullion’s story about Gabriel.  Greg showed a notable vulnerability and humility as he reflected on what he learned during the encounter and his faith that God would use his best efforts.  

It does seem we should continue the Story Slam next year.  I think we can make some improvement next year by emphasizing that each story should be a true story and reminding us all to keep our stories on theme.  

Ministry to one another

One comment read, “I suggest more attention should be given to pastors who may be going through very difficult situations. My heart was broken all along, and nobody prayed for me or with me during these meetings, and if that doesn’t happen there with my colleagues, where can I expect it?”  

May this serve as a reminder to take time to ask each other how it is really going and to be attentive to opportunities to pray with one another and worship together in twos and threes in the morning and at night after the meetings.  

This also serves as a reminder to be vulnerable with each other and to ask for prayer from a fellow pastor if our heart is aching.  At every meeting one or more of us will be hurting and discouraged.  Sometimes it is only the personal touch that can be a source of help, healing and encouragment.

Planning for the Summer and 2017

Opportunity for improvements seems to center around our presenters and the facilities.  We are looking at the suggestions you have given regarding future speakers and have begun planning for the summer pastors’/teachers’ meeting and our 2017 winter pastors’ meetings.  

I have scheduled a meeting with the hotel management to address our concerns about the facility and to assess their determination to improve service and room quality.  I will also emphasize the importance of the pool, hot tub and waterslide.  I will also discuss how to improve the banquet meal from good to very good.  My ideas center around a tastier pasta dish, more bread, and a better desert.  You may have more ides to add in the comments below.

Questions for you

How could the discussion times be made more productive and engaging.  What would be your advise to me as facilitator?

For those who rated the overall meeting experience as OK, what one or two things might be done to raise that to very good?

The goals for this year’s pastors’ meetings centered around building community, provide quality programing, giving opportunity to engage with the presented material while communicating Conference objectives and goals, and doing it all in the context of a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Over all it seems we did very well.  But in what ways might you improve the experience? 





A Challenging Tee-shirt

Servant of jesus christ greek tshirt r4834a82160a0452783bea32b31c71d2a 804gs 512

“A Servant of Jesus Christ” was printed on the plain white tee-shirt in New Testament greek.  The thought struck me with some force, “what would it be like to wear that phrase on my shirt every day.”  I had found the shirt during a web search on the life of Christ.  The purpose of the search has long left me but that question still lingers.  I thought about the times I have been impatient with my family.  I thought about the time last week when I heard someone yell at me because I was backing out of my parking place at a shopping center and did not see him walking behind me.  How my heart had risen up inside me at his harsh tones and how I had not acknowledged my error except of course by stopping the car, which is something, but falls short of true humility.  I thought of the times I had done right but my heart chafed at the very doing of it.  Then there were the times I simply did not do right.  In the midst of these meditations a scripture rose up in my mind,

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ Lu 17:10

I was convicted that all my good, all my accomplishment, all my work is as nothing and less than nothing without the forgiving grace of Jesus.  He is my Star, my Hope, my Strength as I have none.  

I was reminded of a quote I had read the day before from the book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (you may have seen the quote on my Facebook page),

If you aren’t daily admitting to yourself that you are a mess and in daily and rather desperate need for forgiving and transforming grace, and if the evidence around has not caused you to abandon your confidence in your own righteousness, then you are going to give yourself to the work of convincing yourself that you are okay. How do you do that? Well, you point to the ample evidence that the fallen world gives you that the people and situations around you are flawed and broken and are, therefore, the reason you respond to life the way you do. You tell yourself again and again that you are not the problem—that it is or they are, but not you. And you tell yourself that you don’t really need to change; it’s the people and circumstances around you that need to change. What you are doing, although you probably aren’t aware of it, is building elaborate, seemingly logical arguments for your own righteousness.


A link to the book is here:


As we pastor, I hope we can let this paragraph and the truth in contains burn into our hearts; “The people around me do not determine my actions and I desperately need Jesus to forgive and change me day by day.”

Jesus, during his earthly ministry, was on a relentless quest to destroy, pillar by pillar, our self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, “Though your righteousness exceed the Scribes and Pharisees . . . be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect . . . You have heard it said, do not commit adultery . . . do not murder . . . but I say to you . . .”  

For long centuries the pride of the human heart had, in the traditions and teaching of the rabbis, attempted to bury the living, humble faith of Abraham.  The resurrected spirituality of Jesus, brings us face to face with a truly “unprofitable servant” and he looks like us, one who does not acknowledge his failure.  In the parable of the talents the “unprofitable servant” is defined not only by his lack of earnings but by his self-righteous reasoning, 

Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ Matt 25:24, 25.

It was his self-righteous stance that compelled him to accuse the Father, and that prevented him from producing an increase. In fact it was his self-righteousness that cut him off from the Power that could have  brought good out of his chaos.

As we see ourselves as we truly are before God we often struggle with great anguish of soul.  To admit this helplessness, this dependency is what we fear, and seek to avoid, wanting to find refuge in our work, our righteousness, our success, or in false doctrine.  However embracing this helpless dependency brings life, joy, peace, and every precious fruit of the Spirit.  The pathologies of the christian world find their root in our desire to escape this uncomfortable holy ground.  The excuses are found on the left and the right and Satan comes in as a willing accomplice to throw at us contradicting statements back to back, “I am glad I am not like this man” – complacency in self-righteousness and comparison.  And then a moment later,  “I am slow of speech, send another” – despair, hopelessness and inaction.  

Yet another pathology is represented by the man at the wedding feast who did not wear the wedding garments (Matt 22:11-14), feeling no need to avail himself of the righteousness of Jesus.  This was not a man who felt sufficient in himself for salvation.  Those self-sufficient ones did not bother to attend the feast,

But they made light of it and went their ways . . . seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. Mt 22:5,6

This man came from the low parts of society along with the rest of the guests gathered from the highways.  He realized his condition but had not done his necessary part for the precious wedding garments to be bestowed.  

This man represents those who distort and misapply the message, “Jesus did it all at the cross,” and thus avoid doing the one thing that must be done by each of us, individually, to put on the garments and avail ourselves of so great a salvation.  We must each feel the great pain and discomfort of our great need and the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit and then humbly and heartily, ask Jesus to pardon, forgive and change.  Then we can and should thank Him for what we cannot see (and many times cannot feel), His forgiveness, and righteousness.  

I have seen well meaning men and women of God confronted with a soul under the deep conviction of sin, weighed down with guilt, glibly pronounce, “don’t worry, Jesus has forgiven you.”  The more prudent and courageous worker will wade into the dark waters in which the unworthy sinner is sinking under the terrible load of sin and show them a Savior who is altogether worthy.  That worker will say, “Can we take that to Jesus just now?  He has forgiven me and I know He will forgive you.”

I will not attempt to unravel the apparent contradictions in embracing the crushing pain of our brokenness and in such finding the peace of Jesus.  It cannot be explained.  Like the holy joy and pleasure of the young man and woman on their wedding night, it can not be explained or even fully anticipated. It can only be experienced.  

As pastors we, like perhaps no other, wear the tee-shirt EVERY day, like it or not, on good days and bad, in front of our families, our church boards, our building committees, our members, and our communities. This gives us unparalleled opportunities.  On more days than not the purpose of the tee-shirt is to remind us that we just don’t measure up and as such we are flung deeper into the arms of Jesus, and what was once just printed on our teeshirts is, by His forgiveness and great power, burned into the very fibers of our hearts.

Jacob’s Well -Learning That I Cannot See – part 1

(This blog post is a long overdue follow-up of my last post Using Your Mind to Make the Blind See.”)

Just a Fact


At Jacob’s well the disciples were blinded by their prejudice against the Samaritans.  However they did not see it as prejudice but rather an established fact of life.  The Samaritans were slow, vile, and beyond help.  When I was a pastor in Alberta Jesus took me to Jacob’s well.


The Set Up


I lived just outside Medicine Hat Alberta and pastored the churches in Medicine Hat and Brooks Alberta..  It was late September 2012.  I was in Lacombe Alberta about 5 hours from Medicine Hat for conference meetings.  On the morning I was to return, I received a text from Wade, one of my elders in the Medicine Hat church.   “Dale is in the Calgary hospital.  Lung cancer.  Six months to live.”  


He didn’t say so, but Wade wanted me to visit Dale.  Calgary was ALMOST on my way home.  The shortest route home skirted the eastern side of Calgary.  Just to drive to the hospital in Calgary on my way home would consume and extra hour or more.  




Dale lived in Medicine Hat and had never been to church in all his life.  He had no semblance of a religious upbringing.  I had visited Dale once during the christmas season of 2008.  The church had given him a gift of money and commissioned me to take it to him.  He met me in a parking lot in down town Medicine hat to receive the money.  I had tried to visit him several times since but he always evaded me, “I am really busy right now, pastor.  Another time.” 


Dale had worked for Wade and his family for decades.  He lived a rough, secular, godless life.  He’s only connection with the church was Wade and his family, who urged him to attend church.  As Dale worked for Wade he stole from Wade, and borrowed money on numerous occasions never paying it back.  He was not an “A” interest.  I was not inclined to take the extra time.


A Saving Grace


I had developed a habit of asking God each morning and in unusual circumstances what he would have me do.  When I received the text, a quiet prayer ascended from my heart, “do You want me to visit Dale on my way home?”  The answer came back strong and clear. “Yes.”  As if to confirm the impression, just minutes later, George, my ministerial secretary, urged me to get a hotel that night instead of driving all the way back to Medicine Hat.  I arranged for a hotel in Calgary.  


In Dale’s Room


Having dropped my family off at a hotel near the hospital, I arrived in dale’s room after 9:00 PM.  I knew not how to reach his heart.  As I had searched for him in the labyrinth called Calgary Hospital I prayed,  “Jesus, guide me.  Help me. I don’t know what to do.”  Soon I was seated across from Dale as he lay in bed.  How would I minister to him?



The Dark Side of Grace

The Failure of the Judgment

The judgment day is often viewed as a day that will right all wrongs, but this is not true.


Because forgiveness is inseparable from the judgment.

Think about these next two statements:

Paul the apostle will be in heaven.

David will be in heaven.

No big deal?

These two statements take on full significance when we see through the eyes of Uriah the Hittite or Stephen.

David was a Jerk

Will they be shocked and appalled when they see the person who brought them so much personal tragedy and pain in heaven? Or as in the case of Uriah, when he learns of the treachery and deceit for the first time in heaven?  “So you were pregnant with this child when I died, but he is not my son?  He is David’s son?  King David?  The guy who I laid down my life for?  . . . So that’s why he got me drunk and wanted me to go home and see you!  Tell you what, Bathsheba, nice kid you got there but I don’t want to see you or David or him ever again!”

The Dark Side of Grace

This is what I call the dark side of grace.  It is almost never talked about.  There will be former rapists, child abusers and murderers in heaven, forgiven, redeemed and changed. That’s good news.  Or is it?  What is it in us that would see the absolute forgiveness of another as a failure or lack in God’s final judgement?

Forgiveness, it turns out, is a necessary quality of those who will enjoy the blessedness of the new earth.

This, I think, puts the words of Jesus in a new light, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37.

Questions for the Heart


Why is it hard to let go of your desire to hurt the one who has hurt you?  Or, to cut more closely to the heart, why is it hard to let go of your desire that God hurt the one who has hurt you?

To answer these questions in the quietness of your own heart is to take a great step forward with Jesus.

Forgiveness is a gift Jesus wants to give us, but it is a gift we don’t ask for and perhaps, much of the time, don’t even want. In the words of one country song, “I’m not ready to make nice!”

Here is the rub for leaders.  Forgiveness is not only a vital quality of those who will inhabit heaven, it is essential in the heart of a leader.  Without it we are like a malfunctioning heat-seeking missile looking for a place to explode.  We are simply dangerous. We might think of David and Nabal (1Sam 25).  David failed in his inmost being and almost acted on that failure.

How is it with you?  Who in the church has hurt you?  Who do you need to forgive?

We are all wounded and broken.  None can say, “I have forgiven all those who have ever wronged me! I am glad I am not like other men (Luke 18:11) — unforgiving, vengeful and mean!” But what we can do is recognize the pain others have brought to us and come to Jesus each time the hurt bubbles to the surface, asking Him to heal and give us grace to forgive.

An Unforgiving Leader is a Short Leader


There are many who never grow, but rather are trapped professionally, personally and spiritually because “Jimmy has not/is not treating me right.”

Questions for Your Prayer Time

So you have been hurt.  What was Jesus doing in that situation for you?  How was He growing you, helping you and supporting you?  What was His purpose in allowing the wrong to come? What would He have you do now?  Ask Him.  He will answer.


This message from Rob Bell was suggested by one of our pastors.  A thoughtful message about dealing with the pain of leadership.

Death by Paper Cuts

A Successful One-Eyed Cat

My aunt used to say, “I am busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes.”  

Multiple project management is an important skill in pastoral leadership.  Success in ministry is linked closely with the ability to be aware of and evenly move forward multiple projects over the course of a day, week, or month.  Being a wonderful preacher means very little if you cannot look forward to and prepare for a successful nominating committee, while at the same time carry forward the chairing of the church board, plan for the upcoming evangelism meetings, and perhaps a wedding, and prayer meetings, and elders’ meetings, while keeping up with visiting and a host of other small projects.  

Simple habits and an easily accessible organizational system are absolutely necessary.  Sadly almost no one is intentionally taught how to successfuly manage multiple projects.  Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen is the best solution I have found.  It is a simple, intuitive system with a sound philosophy that can free you up to be your best as a pastor and leader.  I have used this system for many years now and find it an indispensable tool in pastoral leadership.  Please see the link below to the Kindle book and the Audible book.  The Audible book is abridged to just 2 hours 49 minutes (the unabridged audio book is also available at Audible).   

BONUS FOR KS-NE PASTORS also has a excellent video seminar on the GTD system by David Allen himself.  If you are a pastor of the KS-NE Conference and would like to take the video seminar.  I can make it available to you for a very limited time (the next two weeks).  Let me know of your desire to take the course be emailing me at at and I will get you hooked up.  You can view the first video at and see the course outline at the link below.  The video seminar takes less than an hour to complete.


512x2eKB8fL BO2 204 203 200 PIsitb sticker v3 big TopRight 0 55 SX278 SY278 PIkin4 BottomRight 1 22 AA300 SH20 OU01








Plan Like a Dead Man



“As good as dead.” What if God, through one of his prophets, had said this of you? Would you be offended? There was a man in the Bible who was declared to be as good as dead. Who was this old man which earned such a pathetic description? It was Abraham.


“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead . . .” (Hebrews 11:12 NKJV) 


Another question: what happened to him in this state?


“. . . were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:12 NKJV)




In the life of Abraham God teaches us an important lesson about dependence. Abraham did his best work when he was as good as dead, because Jesus was and is strong.


However, before Issac was born, Abraham had made his own plans. He had executed those plans and Abraham had asked God to bless his plans.

And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18 NKJV) And this was the greatest and most prominent mistake of his life with grave consequences that reach down to our day.




Now think of this. Is this not the pattern most of us use in our daily lives and in our churches? We make our own plans. We execute those plans. We ask God to bless them. Jesus did things very differently.




They (priests and rabbis) felt sufficient in themselves for all things, and realized no need of a higher wisdom to direct their acts. But the Son of God was surrendered to the Father’s will, and dependent upon His power. So utterly was Christ emptied of self that He made no plans for Himself. He accepted God’s plans for Him, and day by day the Father unfolded His plans. So should we depend upon God, that our lives may be the simple outworking of His will. {DA 208.2}


It is our strength that seduces us. That last statement was entirely wrong, yet I wrote it with great confidence and I am guessing most read it without the slightest qualm. It is not our strength, but our illusion of strength that entraps us. We believe ourselves to be capable, confident and strong, and we do not seek to know God’s plans, because we feel no need of them, unless of course we are in trouble.




Notice that the description of Israel during the height of their apostasy.


“. . . the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so.” (Jeremiah 5:31 NKJV)


This is a very uncomfortable marker of unfaithfulness.


Here’s the thing, we ARE as good as dead. It is our natural state. “The heart is deceitful and who can truly know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Self is always asserting itself even in our best moments. We need Jesus every moment, even when all seems smooth and good.




I will end today not with an admonition but with a few questions. What would it look like for a pastor to seek God’s plans before he or she acts? What would our board meetings or business meetings look like if we were to seek God’s plans before we act? How could that happen?


It is worth the effort to think about these things, because our greatest mistakes can be made when all seems good and sure and stable. But there I go again! Let me restate that. It is worth the effort to think and PRAY about these things, asking God to give us wisdom to know how we might lead our people to seek God’s heart as we plan for the advancement of His work.

To Suffer is to Win

Not long ago I picked up a hardboiled egg and started peeling.  Each time I peeled off a piece of shell a significant part of the egg pealed away also. The final product, partly do to my impatient peeling, was just sad.  The eternal weight of glory is a gift often encrusted with the sacred wrapping of hardship and pain.  To separate suffering from glory is to shatter the glory.  

Certainly scenes of the crucifixion were blended into Jesus’ statement, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. (John 12:23).  Think then what James and John were asking of Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” (Mark 10:37).  Like James and John we cannot anticipate the suffering that must attend the eternal weight of glory, and mercifully so.  But whether we anticipate it or not any faithful worker for God will bear this holy weight and highest honor.  

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13* but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1Peter 4:12, 13).

Our duty during times of suffering is simple and hard.  Stay close to Jesus.  Stay in HIs will.  Wait upon the Lord.

The songs below may help you stay the course, Blessings by Laura Story and Your Hands by JJ Heller, and Who You Are, by JJ Heller.

Kansas-Nebraska Conference Intern and Mentor Retreat 2014

“Very practical.” “I wish I had been able to have these [intern training meetings] my first two years as an intern.” The first comment came from an intern. The last comment regarding our Mentor and Intern Retreat, which took place at Broken Arrow Ranch this past Sunday through Tuesday, came from a very capable, experienced and successful pastor.  As I look at the survey results today, I find these comments are representative of the group’s experience.  The overall learning experience was rated at 4.5 out of 5.

As I reflect on the experience I believe several key elements contributed to the success.  (Those who attended may have additional insights to share.  Please do so in the comment section.)


I was deeply impressed with the energy and engagement of the pastors. I feel blessed that I have such a professional, earnest group of pastors who are committed to grow and enhance their leadership and pastoral skills.    


I am also grateful for answered prayers.  Very little of significant spiritual value happens without humbly and intentionally seeking after God’s blessing. As we approached this time together my hopes were not modest.  I wanted to see a deep engagement with the learning process, which would lead to personal growth and transformation. So Jesus HAD to be there.  


I am deeply grateful to our mentors who took time from their families and churches to be a part of the teaching team.  This week would not have been as engaging and powerful without your prayers, your wisdom, and your vulnerability.  A very special thanks goes out to Michael Halfhill, Mike Fenton, and Jerry Connell, who shared the reality and struggle of being a pastor.  


We also had superb presentations from John Sweigart, speaking on the church board and business meeting, and Ron Carlson, speaking on ordination, who truly gave an example of excellence.  


Yet another thank you goes to John Clark, who presented us with beautifully kept grounds and a clean environment; and Charlene Binder, who not only provided good meals, but also displayed a lovely character.


I came away from our time together with a deeper understanding of the power of a connection with Jesus and a connection with one another in the learning process.  Each morning after breakfast, we took an hour of individual prayer, as we scattered throughout the grounds and perched our chairs to overlook the lake.  This was followed by a time of group reflection on our prayer time.  This prayer time is the core and foundation not only of our time together this week, but is the only safe bedrock upon which our ministry can rest.  


I was impressed with the community that was created and how it allowed us to move past simple informational learning into the realm of deep emotional connection and paradigm shifting.  


To create places and times for our people to connect with Jesus and with one another is one of the vital tasks we have as pastors.  I know the challenges of pastoring; they are fresh on my heart even now.  I pray God will give wisdom and grace to each of us to know how to go about fostering and encouraging our people in a deeper relationship with Jesus and our fellow man.  I think this is the essence of what Ellen White tells us:  

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” {GW 363.2}