We have an obligation as leaders to have a plan in place to resolve conflicts in the healthiest way possible. Conflict is inevitable. Even in a healthy marriage, family and church. Like healthy marriages and families, healthy churches don’t avoid conflict, but they deal with it well. I’ve been in pastoral ministry for more than 35 years. In the early days, I dealt with more conflict than in recent years. Not because the early churches were bad, but because I didn’t know how to deal with conflict as well as I do today. Unfortunately, I learned how to deal with…

If you’re a small church pastor who’s been frustrated with your inability to gain control of the church, stop trying. There’s a better way. If you’re a control freak, I have one word of advice. Don’t become the pastor of a small church. (Actually, I’d advise you not to pastor any church. We have enough control freaks in the pulpit already.) It’s a common misperception that the smaller a church is, the easier it will be for the pastor to control. The only people who think this have never pastored a small church. Small ≠ Controllable Small churches can be…

But as I poured out my anger on the world, Jesus was waiting to pour out his perfect love. I was born and raised in a Christian home. My great-great-grandfather was Louis Talbot, a famous author, one of the founders of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, and a preacher who worked closely alongside Billy Graham. Yet despite this lineage of faith, I grew up as a “moralistic therapeutic deist,” in the language of sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. I believed loosely in a divine mind that created the world, and I believed that this being would want…

Both officially and unofficially, leaders of America’s largest Protestant denomination turn their attention to better responses to sexism and abuse. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a lot to talk about at its two-day annual meeting kicking off today in Dallas. This year, amid the standard business of elections, entity updates, worship sets, and messages, leaders of America’s largest Protestant body have brought unprecedented attention to the women in its churches and its pastoral response to abuse. 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women attending the SBC annual meeting as messengers. At least two proposed resolutions up for consideration…

How predatory behavior goes undetected in congregations. A man who had long sexually abused children sat in front of his pastor, wanting to confess his crimes. He began cautiously, mentioning that there had been accusations against him. He got no further, as his minister broke in, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” the minister said quickly. “You’re the last person I’d believe that of. End of conversation.” This true account was shared in Anna C. Salter’s 1991 book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders. As a psychologist who has spent over 20 years working with and…

People are not on the bus to get you to your destination; they are the destination. People worshipping Jesus and sharing His love with others. One of the biggest frustrations faced by small church pastors is a lack of resources, including so-called human resources. “If only I had more money, a better building, more people or the right people” we complain, “then we could really get something done at our church.” There are so many problems with that mindset, starting with the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” people. In God’s eyes there are no “right” people or “wrong”…

Therapist Hermeisha Hopson offers a clinically informed, scripturally sound approach to treating #MeToo victims and other survivors. At times, the magnitude of suffering in the world can seem too much. In the past year alone, we’ve been confronted by headlines of gunmen massacring concert-goers, church members, and children; entertainment executives preying upon women; a sexual predator molesting upwards of 300 girls; and police officers violently responding to unarmed civilians—and these are just the stories that have made national news. In our personal lives, too, we sometimes see firsthand accounts of domestic violence, child abuse, and other traumas. As the church,…

“You are the green berets in the Kingdom. You’re on the frontline. You’re doing the job that is often thankless but is perhaps most important.” William Vanderbloemen is the CEO and Founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group. a recruitment and consulting firm for churches. Previously, he served as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Houston. Recently, William interviewed me for his podcast and I interviewed him for this blog post. In this interview, William expresses his appreciation for small churches and their leaders, talks about the importance of a church’s underlying culture (from his new book, Culture Wins), and…

New details of mishandled sexual abuse allegation lead to Southern Baptist seminary president emeritus losing honorary title and on-campus residence. A week after trustees voted to immediately shift Paige Patterson to “president emeritus” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), the board’s executive committee has stripped the Southern Baptist stalwart of all “benefits, rights and privileges.” In a statement announcing Patterson’s termination, the committee stated today that it had confirmed information regarding reports that he mishandled a sexual abuse allegation while president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Last Tuesday, a former SEBTS graduate student told The Washington Post that after…

Evangelicals, we can no longer say sexual misconduct is just a Roman Catholic problem. The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land. America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment. At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a…

Hard times require honest conversations. Three weeks ago, I published an article that called on Paige Patterson to do the right thing for the Southern Baptist Convention and retire. Between that article, and last night’s events, much has happened. Beth Moore wrote in response about how she has been treated. Then, a group of SBC women spoke up. A group of men followed. And, yesterday, another woman spoke up with more disturbing allegations. My Agenda I’ve not written much more on this, because my focus is not on Paige Patterson; my focus was on the message that was being sent…

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re maximizing growth, you’re also maximizing success.” (Bo Burlingham, in Small Giants) Better churches become bigger churches. Right? Maybe not. That’s been the rule of thumb for businesses, too. And it’s no more true there than it is for us. As it turns out, constant growth doesn’t work for the majority of churches or businesses. Yet they can still be successful at what they do. Small Giants This week, I finally got around to reading Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead Of Big (how…

Christian men helped me end a violent marriage. Their voices matter now more than ever. A few weeks ago, Paige Patterson’s comments on domestic violence went public, setting off a Twitterstorm of condemnation and support. Thousands of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) women have since called for his resignation. For the many women who were willing to sign their names to the statement, there are dozens of others suffering in silence who will never come forward. I know, because I was one of them. I was raised as a Baptist pastor’s daughter in a small town in Indiana. I spent most…

What makes a college “evangelical” or “fundamentalist?” The dividing lines weren’t always so clear. Let’s say you attended Wheaton College, Gordon College, or Biola University. Or perhaps you’re an outsider who just thinks highly of those schools. If so, you might be turned off by a book that groups them together under the label “Fundamentalist U.” Don’t be. Adam Laats, professor of education and history at Binghamton University and author of Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education, knows the difference between an evangelical and a fundamentalist. He knows, too, that it can be very hard to tell…

A congregation’s financial reality should never be ignored, but it should never be in charge. Money is in charge of too many of our churches. So many good congregations want to do great ministry, but their limited finances cause them to make too many decisions based on what they can or can’t afford, instead of what God is calling them to do. It’s a trap that may seem impossible to get out of. But there is hope. In today’s post I want to tell you about a decision our church made over two decades ago that has been a great…

Together we can reach the world. One-on-One with Lon Allison on Billy Graham and Cancer Ed: Not too long ago you were diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer and have been receiving treatment. How has this impacted your faith and the way you view God? Lon: I really didn’t know how my faith would be impacted by the news of a terminal cancer. My wife Marie, our children, and I had never faced something like this. I can now say five months into the journey that my faith is stronger than before my diagnosis about 90% of the time. I…

A church building doesn’t have to be big, fancy or cutting-edge. But it needs to facilitate the mission. Uh… Wow. Every 30 years? Yes, those are the stats, according to a church renovation expert I heard at a recent conference. By the time his company is called in to help a church renovate their sanctuary, lobby, exterior or anything significant, it’s been three full decades since any part of their facility has been updated in any meaningful way. That’s. Too. Long. Updating On A Budget (Or NO Budget) I’m aware of how costly it is to update church facilities –…

Controversy over past remarks leads Southwestern Seminary to announce special board meeting. A growing group of Southern Baptist women called for Paige Patterson to be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) on Sunday, due to what they claimed was his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.” Patterson, one of the most influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has faced widespread criticism in recent weeks for old remarks, including a discussion of divorce in cases of abuse and multiple comments on women’s appearances. “We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks,” stated an open…

God hates the oppressor, and suffering for the sake of suffering isn’t spiritual. Note: Malachi 2, ‘I hate divorce.’ Said by guest as 5:2, says “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect.” In 2000, Paige Patterson was asked about women who are abused by their husbands. Here’s what the now-president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said: It depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always…

After audio of old comments circulates on social media, Southern Baptist leader clarifies his pastoral approach to domestic violence. On Sunday, Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson spoke out to address his position on domestic violence after old comments he made regarding counseling women in abusive marriages circulated on social media over the weekend. Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and a key player in the Conservative Resurgence of America’s largest denomination, said that his past statements—discouraging women from divorcing in cases of abuse and celebrating the faith of a woman whose prayers led her to be hit…

15 ways my husband and I guard our marriage while still loving our friends of the opposite sex. With recent allegations of indiscretion against a prominent megachurch pastor, some Christian leaders have doubled down on the so-called Billy Graham Rule, which dictates that men and women should never meet alone. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin tweeted, “A valuable lesson we all can learn from this tragic situation: follow the @BillyGraham rule. If you are married, never be alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Never!” This rule, in its most pristine form, renders…