Thursday, February 26, 2009


The church I attend is sixteen months old. We continue to meet in a school gym, so set-up and tear down is a part of our current reality. A few weeks ago I was helping disassemble the church facility. I reached down to pick up a plastic container. This was a container I had often lifted, carried and moved. It is not all too heavy. Reaching down I mentally told myself, `lift with your legs.’ Evidently my body chose to ignore the mental prompting. Straightening up my back pulled! I knew it immediately. This was a bad one.

I managed to walk across the room and place the container on a speaker box. I attempted to “work out” the tightness. It was a slow walk to my car. I painfully and gingerly got myself behind the wheel. I decided the next best stop for me would be the local CVS Drug store. I would get myself some physical aid: Doan’s pills and one of those little heat packs.

Getting out of the car was extraordinarily painful. Any twist, slight turn, any hint of bending, movement of my legs resulted in a vivid reminder my back hurt. I literally shuffled into the store. Locating the correct aisle I slowly moved down the row scanning the shelves for the desired product.

I found the location for the back medication and I could hardly believe it. It was housed on the second shelf from the floor! I stood there both amused and amazed. What idiot would put those products there? Did it not occur to somebody, anybody, this might be a bit difficult for those in need?

I know there is a whole science of product placement. Evidently those “people” felt these did not warrant a higher shelf. Instead of thinking of the end users and their needs to dictate location they placed them either unthinkingly or with incorrect thinking. I guess they assumed if someone REALLY wanted it, they would figure a way to get it. IF it was easy, might not be worth it.

Sadly, this is how many churches approach those interested in spiritual things. They place stuff in places where those who need it might have difficulty reaching it. What shelf is your spiritual helped placed? Can those in pain get at it? Here are some considerations.

Do you translate, or do you expect them to interrupt? Is the gospel contextualized in such a way that today’s spiritually curious are given handles to grasp? Or do we expect them to figure it out? It is true the gospel carries a sense of mystery and not all things can be explained adequately, but most churches can do better.

Do you clarify, or do you cloud? This has to do with the activities of the church. It is an epidemic in churches that when you read their worship folder and/or bulletin you have no idea what they are communicating. Initials of programs are used, locations of events are given with no directions and people to be contacted are expected to be known. Over clarify, don’t overly cloud.

What are your expectations? Do you expect new people to show up? Too many churches approach all they do as if no one new will be present. Our expectations will dictate our approach. Expecting people in need will help us address those needs.

Whose eyes do you view the church? Walk your property, watch your worship service, and view your facility as a first time guest. Ask yourself what you see if you were new? This is difficult, but not impossible. What might have happened if someone had walked the aisle of CVS and noted that it might be a challenge for people in back pain to reach the lower shelf?

What are the voices you hear? Do you listen to long time attendees alone? Or do you factor in those newer? We all listen to others? The question is who are the others? How much weight do we lend to whose comments?

People are interested in spiritual stuff. People enter our churches in search of help. When they come to find what we have, will they be able to get to it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I am currently sitting in the coffee shop, "It's a Grind." Many who know me are right now picking themselves up off the ground (or a coffee pun...grounds) mumbling, "Phil is not at Starbucks? Duck and cover the world as we know it is coming to an end!" Relax...I am still a Starbucks person, but I am also practical. This is close to where I live and it offers free Internet, not to mention a better working environment than the Starbucks (and I have tried them all) in this area. The world is NOT ending (as far as I know), but if you think it is and you would like to gift me any of your worldly items...I am thinking my friend Bob's MGM Sports car...please do not hesitate to contact me.

Prior to coming to "The Grind" I completed teaching a two and one-half day class on Evangelism and Church Health. It was a wonderful class. Great interaction. And I got a great one liner. A new friend, Jaime Perez (if I misplaced his first name and he reads this I know I will hear from him) said, "I don't want to reinvent the wheel I just want you to tell me how to roll it." I loved the line. He said he is looking forward to seeing it in print and getting credit. Well here it is, but after this it is mine. Unless when I use it it does not go over well, then it is all his!

I also brought my yearly Girl Scout cookies. The young ladies have a table outside, so I stopped and purchased one box of Thin Mints and one of Caramel Delights (aka Samoa's). Don't know the whys of the name change, they appear to be the same. Could be part of something Obama promised in his campaign to bring clarity and openess to stuff. I am only going to share the cookies with my Grandson Brody. And since he has no teeth and, at a bit over two weeks old, does not eat solid food, I will have them all to myself. But I did want to share.

Will be leaving in a bit to pick up Joni from work than off to Brody's house. I need to get as much Brody time as possible as leave tomorrow and won't see him for ten days. By that time he probably will have teeth, which means I will have to take my Girl Scout cookies with me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Do you remember the rubber stamp? Those wooden-handled utensils with a rubber pad affixed to its underside. Etched on the rubber, backwards, were words or symbols. This stamp was then thumped onto an ink pad and the inked stamp was then pressed onto a document or package. I remember using these. I also remember when they introduced the pre-inked stamp. This was big time. No ink pad…the ink was magically pre-fixed on the stamp. No back and forth from item to be stamped and ink was self-contained. Talk about modern marvels!

When the PC was introduced many thought the rubber stamp, pre-inked or not, would be doomed. If the production of such archaic items was your livelihood you would need to find something else to do. It was over. Or was it?

It seems the concern over the death of the rubber stamp was pre-mature. The manufacturing and use of the rubber stamp continues strong. There are “…about 1700 stamp shops nationwide” (USA Today, 1.26.09, 8A). Who would have thought it? In an age of hyper-technology how in the world can the simplistic, basic rubber stamp continue to find a place? I think the church can gain some interesting insights from this dynamic. The church that many believe is archaic, church that many believe no longer has a place and church that many believe will not survive the shift in culture…could it be its demise might be pre-mature.

A USA Today article, Rubber Stamps Continue to Leave Mark in Computer Age
(1.26.09, by Barry M. Horstman), provides potential insights to how the church can continue to thrive. I refer to this as the “Rubber Stamp Effect.” It is the ability to keep the core of tradition while embracing the continuation of transition.

Connect old tradition with new technology. Rubber stamps are still produced, but not in the same way. “Virtually all of our members (International Marking and Identification Association) operate with lasers and computer software.” They actual enhance what they do with the use of new techniques. The church often views new technology as SATAN! This is why we are late adopters. The problem is not in the technology, but for what and how it is used. Any technology that can enhance the mission should be used. “Where the old things are good, we should keep them going. And, alongside the old, let’s develop something new. In this way, tradition can lead us into the future” (Jonny Baker, Leadership Journal, Something Old, Something New, winter 2009).

Clarify how what we have meets needs. The paperless society may be nearer, but it is here not yet. “People and businesses need confirmation of things and hard copies on file.” The rubber stamp helps with this confirmation. Clarifying this keeps the rubber stamp as a needed resource. What we have does indeed meet the needs of people. It is our job to clarify this, not expect others to figure it out.

Core needs. People are drawn to stability. “Some people just like the feel of that old-time stamp.” It is not, necessarily, they want to return to what once was, but there is a sense to live out what once was in a new way. Spirituality is desired. It is critical that the church help folks apply the foundations of the scripture to their deep-seeded sense of spirituality.

Change will happen. What works today, may not work tomorrow. This is reality. The idea is to change intelligently. “Long-term, there may be a high-tech solution…, but for the foreseeable future, the stamps do exactly what we need.” Current ministry and programs may be what is needed, but this will change. Change with it. Adjust to keep the gospel as the essential.

The rubber stamp is an old reliable tool for present effectiveness. The church does not have to be outdated. We have a message that transcends cultures, philosophies and change. Let’s boldly adjust it to the needs of today to better communicate it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Reggie McNeal in his book The Present Future contrasts the questions we tend to ask with the questions we should be asking.

1. Wrong question: How do we do church better?
Right question: How do we deconvert from churchianity to Christianity?

2. Wrong question: How do we grow this church?
Right question: How do we transform this community?

3. Wrong question: How do we turn members into ministers?
Right question: How do we turn members into missionaries?

4. Wrong question: How do we develop church members?
Right question: How do we develop followers of Jesus?

5. Wrong question: How do we plan for the future?
Right question: How do we prepare for the future?

6. Wrong question: How do we develop leaders for church work?
Right question: How do we develop leaders for the Christian movement?

What questions are you asking?

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I lived in Rocklin, CA for several years. This is a bedroom community of 70,000 northeast of Sacramento. Roughly half-way between my community and an adjacent city an Indian Casino was built. During the construction phase I commented to a friend, “I didn’t know that was Native American Land.” In response to my rhetorical inquiry, my friend said, “It wasn’t…until the tribe purchased it.”

Non-Native land became Native land because the tribe made the decision to purchase it. The tribe made it theirs by establishing a presence on the property. What a great analogy for church planting!

We may see a community, or an ethnic group and think, “God does not possess that place or those people. It is not His.” But it could be! If we were willing to establish His presence; if we were willing to possess a community, or people, in His name…through the starting of new missional outposts such soil could be claimed for God. This being the case, why don’t more existing churches consider the starting of new congregations? Often it has to do with existing churches and leader’s perception of the impact church planting might have on them.

Tom Rainer in his book, Effective Evangelistic Churches, identified “Ten “Missions Myths.’” Of the ten, five have to do with the starting of new churches. Let’s take a look at these “five myths.” A willingness to address them may contribute to our willingness to take new ground.

Starting New Churches Hurts the Mother Church: It does take sacrifice for an existing church to mother or parent a new church. It demands an investment of people, finances, time and energy. Viewing this from a purely human perspective, it might be seen as only an outflow of resources. However, seeing it from God’s viewpoint it is an expression of generosity. And generosity is rewarded.

Now is Not a Good Time: Is it ever a good time to do anything in ministry? It is true there are better times than others, but no time is the optimum time. Plan the best you can, but make your decision to parent on the Spirit’s prompting, not human timing.

We Are Not Large Enough to Start a New Church: One attitude I have noted in working with church leaders is that regardless of the size of their attendance they are one size too small to help start a new church. A church of 100 feels it needs to be, at least, a 150; a church of 200 believes it ought to be 225 or larger and so the argument goes. Truth be told, churches of any size can parent, if they so choose. Rainer discovered that more churches were started by those averaging less than 500 than any other sized church (Effective Evangelistic Churches, p162, Exhibit 9-5).

A New Church Will Hurt Other Churches in the Area: This rarely happens. “Usually the new church will reach people whom the existing church has not and will not be able to reach” (Rainer, p165). Church planting is about taking new ground geographically or demographically. It is not about attracting existing members of established churches. If the latter happens it is church pretending, not planting.

The Community is Fully Churched: This may be a dilemma somewhere, but not in North America. Instead we are a relatively un-churched society. “We need tens of thousands of new churches to reach people who have not responded to existing churches” (Rainer, p66).

What ground needs to be taken for Christ? Where does a new missional community need to be established? Be a myth-buster and pursue the birthing of a new congregation out of your church.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Brody, my new grandson, is 8 days old today. He has matured a great deal these first 8 days. He is doing all the things a young man of his years should: He sleeps, eats, wets, poops and fusses a bit...wait this is what young men of any years do...I digress. He gets cuter everyday. He has my looks. Why? Because as the joke goes, Joni still has hers. Now you may ask, " Does he not look like his parents?" NO! Why? Because I am writing this blog. If they write a blog he can look like them.

One thing I have noticed about grandkids...they become homeowners very quickly. Until last week we would visit Drew and Megan at their house. Now we go to Brody's house. It is all things Brody. It is now Brody's dad, Brody's mom, and Brody's dogs. It is Brody's world....and we are welcome to it.

I am currently at his home using his Internet to type his blog (see it all becomes his). He is asleep. I am wanting him to wake up. I have already gone to look at him sleeping. He is bundled up like, as Megan would say, a glow worm. I tried to look loudly, but he still sleeps.

There are many more years to enjoy this little guy. In a few months (MAY) he will be joined by his cousin Eli. Just think all the things he will be able to teach his cousin with his three months of worldly experience.

Friday, February 6, 2009


In a recent class I attend at Talbot Seminary one of the lecturers, Dennis Baker, shared this parable. I share it with you.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the fisherman.
“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go to the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have a MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?” asked the fisherman.

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long will that take?” asked the fisherman.
“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the Harvard MBA.
“And after that?”
“Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,” answered Harvard grad laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”


This is a great little parable. I would add: Minister where you are, as you are. The people God may want you to reach are in your community.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Tuesday, February 3 @ 11:50PM
I arrived in Sacramento. I arrived a day early as I received a text from Megan telling me she was beginning to progress. Cindy, my administrative assistant made the change. It was her prompting. It was an excellent idea.

Wednesday, February 4 @ 12:30-6:30AM
Joni picked me at the airport. She tells me Drew, our son-in-law, has called and Megan is hitting her labor strides. We drive to their house. We are with Megan and Drew the rest of the night. I am running on fumes…close to twenty-four hours with no sleep. Joni is a wonderful coach for Megan. I am in charge of tracking segments between contractions and length of contractions. Joni has to speak me awake several times for me to do my job. We put on a pot of strong coffee. It taste good, but does little to curb sleep…for me!

February 4, 6:30AM-Noon
We make the decision to head to the hospital. The first stop is an entry room. A heart monitor is attached for her and Brody. She goes through several contractions. She is only dilated to a two. Typically they would have sent her home, but there was a very small irregularity in the heart beat when she lays on her back.

They move all of us to the labor and recovery room. And I mean ALL. Megan is open to all comers. There is me, Joni, Drew (dad), Janet (mother-in-law), Scott (brother-in-law), Brad (family friend) and Ryan (brother) will be stopping in sometime soon.

It is a wonderful room. Spacious, fake wooden floor, TV, nice restroom and all the medical stuff you could need. There is a white board where they list the husband’s name, baby’s name and so I add Pappy’s name…this is me J

Drew and I make a bagel and Starbucks run. We get stuff for us and the others. It is excellent, but Megan throws her three bites of bagel up later. I was not here to see it…PTL! I don’t do vomit.

Megan dilates from a 2 to a 6 in a short time. The contractions are excruciating. She wants the nirvana of an epidural. She gets it. She is a whole different person. It was easier watching Joni go through this in the day, then my little girl. She moves from a 6 to a 7 in thirty minutes.

February 4, Noon-4PM
We are ordering lunch and Joni is ordering Megan to sleep. A mom is always a mom. We are awaiting Megan achieving the BIG 10…then it is time to push!

The last check had Meg at 8-9. She is experiencing pain in right hip. It could be a result of Brody’s head pushing down on her pelvis. She is feeling very warm (also another potential sign of the impending birth). Drew and his mom take turns fanning her like the queen she is!

We are hoping for another check on the dilation. There has been a shift change so should happen soon.

There is a bit of lull in the action. It is like being on a studio set. There is a couch and two chairs all facing the bed Megan resides. We simply sit, chat and watch. It is much like viewing a medical show, but we get to interact. Really weird! But fun and the building of social networks.
We have put Sports Center on. It is the thought of the guys if Brody could not be born on Super Bowl, or during a big time basketball game, or UFC then he ought to be drawn out during Sports
Center. This, we are convinced, will draw him out.

The nurse asked a great question just a moment ago. She asked Megan, “Do you wonder why woman do this more than once?” Meg, of course, answered in the affirmative. The nurse followed up with, “You’ll know in a few hours.”

It is true when that new life enters this world it will have all have been worth it. Brody will be the game changer. He will overcome all the pain, agony and price paid. He will be the grand prize.

The nurse is teaching Megan breathing techniques. “He, He, who; he, he, who; he, he, who.” Okay, I think its breathing techniques, it might be a question. The answer of course is “he, he, who?” It is Brody.

Nine has been achieved! One more centimeter to go and then the PUSH.

February 4, 4:00-5:42PM
Two nurses entered the room, but then pulled the curtain around them. They may think they are hiding, but we know they are there. Optimistically we think they are getting ready for Megan to Push, or, as is my theory, they are preparing a puppet show for us all to enjoy and help
Meg forget the pain. It had better be a great puppet show!

She has butt pressure…this is a good thing! It is the baby’s head.

5:42 pm PST Brody Scott Simpson arrived Feb 4 (this was the exact due date…never heard of this before). 21 inches 6lbs (exactly). He looked right at his mom as if to say, I knew we could pull this thing off! He was right!