top3 for February 24, 2023

Instead of a Lenten devotional thought on Fridays, I will continue to post my top3 things that I’ve been reading and thinking about for the week. Hopefully they are a little bit of help before you head off into your weekend. Have a great Friday and weekend!


If you say three things, you don’t say anything.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

As much as I dislike the above statement it is correct. That is why Ted Talks have exploded in popularity. One idea communicated in 15-18 minutes that is both applicable and challenging. Wait…sounds like a strategy for preaching. Except for the fact that the most downloaded sermons typically run in the 40-50 minute range. Always interesting to me how that works. Being good enough to hold people’s attention for 40-50 minutes takes a special gifting. For many of us, it is better to stick to one point in a reasonable amount of time!

Regardless of the length or the number of points of a sermon, the Spirit’s moving is all that matters. That is why spending time in prayer each week is the most important part of any sermon.

Let me encourage you too…you can help your preacher more than you’ll know. Pray for them during the week that God will speak to and through them. Come on Sunday expecting the Spirit to do just that and I assure you that will happen.


The third characteristic of gridlocked relationship systems is either/or, black-or-white, all-or-nothing ways of thinking that eventually restrict the options of the mind.

A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman

Warning…if you are not United Methodist, you may consider moving on to number 3. Even if you are…that is an option!

I do not hide my love for this book. It has shaped my leadership more than anything else I have read. The above quote is the best definition, in my opinion, of the United Methodist Church today.


It didn’t get here overnight. Decades of either/or, black-or-white, all-or-nothing has gotten us to the point that splitting is the only option most people can envision. I don’t buy it.

“But you don’t know the other side, Todd.”

“You are just naive to think we all can co-exist.”

I do know both sides well.

I am not naive.

Find a few willing persons who refuse to give in to fear or difficulty and are willing to fail. Yes, willing to fail. You’ve got a start right there. That is my focus nowadays as the congregation I serve discerns our denominational future.

Where are the reasonable people in the denomination, the congregation, and even in your life who refuse to walk away, refuse to give in to the notion that all options have been exhausted? They are everywhere…and they just need to know that their backsides will be covered if they speak out and speak up for unity as a gift from God and not a goal.


We in old-line churches are experiencing an institutional free fall in numbers, dollars, and missional energy. Of course the “blame game” goes on apace, that the loss is because of being “too liberal” or some such. But in fact the loss is complex and not readily explained.

Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann

One of the recurring conversations I have as a pastor in 2023 is what to make of the decline in church attendance and more urgently what to do about it. The blame game is strong: preaching stinks nowadays, pastors need to visit more, the congregation needs to be more missional, facilities need to be updated, programs need to be renewed, children’s ministry needs to be…, Christian education needs to be…, and the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is that no one really has any idea.

Two things we really don’t readily acknowledge about church growth are: 1) Growth has been an issue except for the times around major revivals when the church grows dramatically and then we hang on trying not to lose folks until the next move of God. 2) Most church growth is not growth but rather transfer of membership or babies being born into the existing congregation. We live in a closed system where the pie does not grow but rather simply gets redistributed.

While I don’t know all the reasons for attendance patterns, I do know the cure. Personal invitation. It really is as simple as that. It really is as difficult as that too.

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