top3 for March 3, 2023

Welcome to March!

Before you head off for this first weekend of meteorological spring, here are three things that I have been reading and thinking about this week. I hope they are as helpful and challenging for you as they have been for me.

Have a great weekend!


Holiness, in God, is much more than freedom from sin. There is something fundamentally erroneous about such a concept. It implies a standard to which God must conform in order to qualify as holy. Rather, holiness is a positive quality. It is radiant moral health—perfect integrity. It is the very life of God expressing itself in all its relationships #top3 #holiness

Theology of Love by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop

Holiness is one of the most misunderstood words in the church dictionary. Rather than a list of things to do and not to do, holiness is the description of a relationship of perfect integrity with God and neighbor. It is as if God is living through you, because he is via his Spirit working in and through your actions, words, thoughts, and motives. And this love (holy) relationship transforms our desires so that we do the right things not out of fear of judgment but from a deep love of God.

How do we know we are growing in holiness? One way you might look at it is this. A holy life moves from “shoulds with guilt” to “opportunities with gratitude.” In other words, are our actions motivated by thinking we “should” and that there will be guilt if we don’t? Or are our actions motivated out of a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to do something with God for others? As we move along that continuum we are growing in our relationship with God and thus holiness.

Only God can move us along that path. And only you can allow him to do the work through faith. Please know that God means it when he promises forgiveness through his son Jesus. Also, God delights in you. Believing and living into those two promises can do more for our holiness than a whole host of do’s and don’ts.


Leaders who succeed are those who are humble enough to be able to see beyond themselves and perceive the true capacities and capabilities of their people. They don’t pretend to have all the answers. Rather, they create an environment that encourages their people to take on the primary responsibility for finding answers to the challenges they and their facilities face.”

The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute

If you ever want to know how I see my role as Senior Pastor, I encourage you to read this post from a few years ago. I need to update it, but it is still communicates the core of my leadership philosophy. One of the things I say in the article is that I do not have a vision for the church. That’s not my job. My role, however, is an excavator and archeologist of vision. I believe that God brings together people with passions and gifts and it is up to the leadership of the church to listen closely and equip the church to do the work they are called to do.

Saying “I don’t know” can be a scary place to be as a leader (or a human being for that matter!), but it is the exact place where space is created for God to work in and through others. “I don’t know” is an act of faith that places trust in God and those he has put around you.


Merrill Lynch Bans Cold Calling

(Wall Street Journal – the article may be behind paywall but I pasted a free link)

Oh wow!!!! I started at Mother Merrill in the days when cold calling was not expected but rather demanded. We would stay late into the evening making calls to people asking if we could have a few minutes of their time to tell them about the latest investment opportunities. I was great at it…and by great I mean one client gained in 5 years of cold calling. Give me a root canal any day of the week instead of picking up the phone and calling a stranger!

But enough about my cold calling trauma. The story highlights many of the ways the world has changed. And we, the church, need to be aware and ready to embrace that change. And wouldn’t you know it, the answer, in my opinion, is getting back to an “old” answer in this new day.

Last Friday I wrote that the way to move the needle of church attendance upward is through personal invitation This article makes that exact case. Putting an ad in the paper use to be the go-to strategy for churches. But few people read the paper anymore. Maybe send an email or FaceBook ad worked back in the day? But every last one of us is inundated by email and texts and LinkedIn queries asking for a moment of our time and attention. The noise is tough to break through.

But there is a tried and true method. It is one way that works in all aspects of our lives…including church. And it has a two-fold implication: increased disciples and increased personal discipleship.

Let me ask. How do you find out about the newest restaurants in town? The surest way is by hearing a good report from someone you know and trust has good taste. How do you know about a Netflix series to binge? Yep. From the people who have watched and know you well enough to know what you like. Church invitation is the same way. Studies consistently show that people who are invited by a friend are likely to say “yes”.

So, how do we invite people to church? Look for three things that are typically signs of openness: 1) new to the area, 2) major life changes (death, divorce, empty nester, new baby, etc), 3) people asking questions about God or the meaning of life or “why do bad things happen to good people?”

And then simply say, “If you’d ever like to come with me to church I’d be happy to meet you there. I’ve found it has made a difference in my life.”

The very act of you taking a chance to invite grows your discipleship regardless of the answer. And the very fact that it may bring another person, or group of persons, into a saving relationship with Christ grows disciples. A great both/and at work!

As I said last week. It’s as simple as that. And it is as difficult as that too.

One thought on “top3 for March 3, 2023

  1. Oh WOW!! I thought I had all of Henri Nouwen’s books but I see from your reading list I do not! #OrderedAmazon

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