“O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.”

1 Chronicles 16:8

 

 

IS CHRISTIAN EVANGELISM BAD FOR BUSINESS?

Many times while giving interviews I am asked, “Why can’t we practice our Christian values at work?” I reply, “Because of poor evangelism.” Christianity has been given a bad name in the work place, despite the fact that seventy-five percent of those who work profess to be Christians. Employers fear that openly discussing our faith, lawsuits and that alienating behavior will arise. Surely most Christian’s don’t want their behavior to create a lawsuit or to offend. But the workplace is suspicious. Too often the words they hear are those of poor evangelism.

There are businesses that openly support Christianity and are thriving, Chick-fil-a, Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods or even Forever 21. But for many businesses there is a strong reluctance to hear or embrace the values of Jesus.

“Living a life through appropriate Christian behavior is the best form of evangelism.”

It is okay to have a Bible on your desk and to love your neighbor. Neither of which is forbidden in any employee handbook. But too often well intended Christians take evangelism too far and miss the most important ingredient in evangelism, actions speak louder than words. Living a life through appropriate Christian behavior is the best form of evangelism. Words don’t convert, it is how we live our faith that does.

“Over-zealous commands of evangelism, don’t create acceptance, they create distance.”

Too often, we meet that person who believes so strongly that they forget that their gift of faith isn’t one that can be bullied upon someone else. Too often, we hear views so strongly worded that they become commands and not ones of sharing. While most agree that dialogue is a two way street, there are those who miss the importance of mutual dialogue. Over-zealous commands of evangelism, don’t create acceptance, they create distance.

God does ask and desires for us to spread the word and to make known God’s deeds among the people. This is true and the heart of evangelism. It is with the delivery of the good news that some evangelists miss the point.

When Mahatma Gandhi was asked, “Why if he exhibited many Christian values, didn’t he convert? His reply was, “The message of Jesus wasn’t to humiliate and imperialistically rule over other people considering them inferior or second class or slaves, but that “when the hungry are fed and peace comes to our individual and collective life, then Christ is born” He wasn’t opposed to the message of Christ, but the way the message was delivered.

“Evangelism produces the best results when we walk the narrow path of servitude of our beliefs.”

So it is with us today, it’s not what we say or who we try to subdue with our beliefs, but how we live that produces real Christian evangelism. Evangelism produces the best results when we walk the narrow path of servitude of our beliefs. Words can change lives, especially when that are delivered with love and respect. Not all are gifted with the art of oratory, but all have the gift of love that should be shared.

“People are not changed by the turning of a word, but by the very actions they see.”

The hardest part of evangelism is not what we say, but what we do. When we profess to others our Christian faith, we are watched not heard. People see better than they hear. Our actions are evaluated and discussed silently. People are not changed by the turning of a word, but by the very actions they see.

The hardest part of being Christian is the requirement to not give into to our anger. To not fear scarcity, which restricts generosity. To not want at any cost. To not push for whatever we desire. When we rise above our human frailties’, we evangelize.

We will all fail by delivering actions that are opposed to those Jesus desires. We will fall short of our duties as evangelist. But real failure will rest with giving up when we fail and not trying to be better. Each dawn which delivers a new day, giving us a new day to try harder than the previous day. Real evangelism comes from our desire to live a perfect life that contains the values of Jesus.

Maybe someday, we can talk about Jesus at work.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians [5:21]

 

AGEISM: CREATING A LOST GENERATION

One of my clients, John, has been looking to change jobs for five months. John has grown dissatisfied with his current industry and would like to work in an industry that has higher standards of excellence. John typically meets his sales objectives and is always in the top ranking of his company’s sales performance. In fact, throughout his career he has achieved close to two times the results of the standard.

It doesn’t take long when you talk to John to discover he is a man of high integrity and extraordinarily personable. He is a gifted communicator and executes his tasks at a high level. He is old school, customer needs first and whatever he does he does well!

Recently he had applied to jobs that he was more than qualified to perform and was denied. Not through a written form letter or verbal communication, but through silence. His follow up calls go unanswered and likewise his emails seeking status, receive no further communication.

When I first took John on, I told him, despite his outstanding resume and ability to work at a high level this rejection would happen. The reason, he is over sixty. Employers don’t hire people in their sixties.

More about John, he runs five miles five days a week. He is vibrant and many days works to eight or nine. His mind is fertile and flexible. He listens to learn and energizes those he works with. The perfect candidate. He is older and part of the greater societal movement when people want to continue their career well past sixty.

“Many people stay energetic and curious throughout their lives, never giving in to slothfulness or passivity.”

Too often I hear, we want someone young and energetic. But I always wonder, why is being young associated with being energetic. Many people stay energetic and curious throughout their lives, never giving in to slothfulness or passivity. Being energetic has little correlation to age. We either are or aren’t energetic, not because of age, because of our desire to perform.

When you look at the age make up of those who walk the two thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail. The age categories are those of either under twenty-eight or those over fifty-five. The percentage of those who start and complete this mighty trek, is the same for both age groups.

Looking further at the average stay at an employer by a new hire, younger hires stay a significantly shorter time than that of those who have more experience.

Those with experience have just that, experience. They know the right trails to take. They know that arrogance is a bad communication tool. They know this because they have experience.

In the American business place, which has made progress with many societal issues such as racism and gender, the older employee is still held back. The reality is that those over sixty will stay longer, have proven track records and be great team players. Perception of the aged is very different than reality.

“He himself had bought into the perception, because you are older, your skills are diminished.”

Another of my recent clients, Richard, was bemoaning the fact that his skills were so much poorer than his youthful counter-parts, making it hard for him to compete for promotions. When I probed his skill levels, I found his Excel levels equal or better than most. He knew R, the new database tool for Excel spreadsheets, when many younger employees still are learning R. He himself had bought into the perception, because you are older, your skills are diminished.

Buried in the book of Ephesians, we find today’s verse about how to treat each other. Treat each person we meet fairly and honestly, out of reverence to our Lord and Savior. Not to judge because of color, gender or beliefs. This also includes those who are aging. Fair dealing with all, regardless of biology.

What would Jesus say to those who ignore those who have aged? Would Jesus approve or disapprove? The answer to these questions gives us Christian’s insights as to our requirements when evaluating candidates.

Why not hire someone who will be an employee for many years past the average? Why not hire an employee with a “proven track record?” Why not get the value of someone who knows the trails? Why not hire someone who has learned the lessons of life?

Sure older employees aren’t the shiny new penny, but perhaps more valuable because of the wrinkles of their life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Matthew [12:25]

 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND RECOVERING AMERICA

During the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said; “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” We live in a similar time, of angry voices of those who seek to sway the court of public opinion, not through kind and civil debate, but through anger and acrimony. Lost is the art of creating allies, instead American leaders create fear amongst its populace.

Lincoln saw this in his time as well, angry self-interested people that propelled a nation to fight itself. Lincoln knew that no nation can stand when it fights itself. For any entity, whether it is a small family or a great nation, internal anger will always cause a fall. It is true in business, our churches, families and certainly our country.

What is remarkable about President Lincoln was he lived his own words. Many that he picked to serve with him on his cabinet had been political rivals. Salmon Chase, his opponent in his race to be president, was named by Lincoln to be Secretary of the Treasury. Chase had been a vocal opponent against Lincoln’s run to presidency, but Lincoln saw extraordinary gifts in Chase and appointed him. Lincoln said; “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Lincoln was less interested in a person’s personal loyalty, he was more interested in their competency and loyalty to uniting America. Lincoln’s overall attitude was loyalty to our common cause, to our republic and to those who could help.

Lincoln was also a great example of the bounty America offers for the common person. He grew up in Kentucky and Indiana, the son of farmer. Lincoln never received a formal education and was self-taught. Lincoln didn’t like the traditional farm life and educated himself to become a lawyer. In his early adult years, Lincoln moved to Illinois and quickly became a highly regarded citizen, selected by a captain in his local militia at the age of twenty-two. Where he developed the nickname “Honest Abe.” Locally he was well respected.

Lincoln learned the pitfalls of angry division, as a member of the now defunct Whig party. He watch his compatriots fight over slavery and its involvement in the fight to make slave states out of  Kansas and Nebraska. The debate became so acrimonious that the party became defunct in the 1850’s.

Later, Lincoln became one of the early leaders of the new Republican party. But Lincoln had seen how unproductive and selfish debate could destroy an institution, not externally but internally.

We stand today looking at our national debate, not through the lens of what is right, but what’s in it for me. We only see the dirty laundry of our debate in the headlines, while the common person, not in power, wants civil debate. We are being held captive by those in power who have caused this division.

We have a congress where new incoming members, elected by their citizenry have asked for a change in leadership.  Both the leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch O’Connell, have approval ratings in the mid twenty percent. However, the voices of those who are new has gone unheard. We will still have those in power who see discord as a way of life. Discord that threatens our country. Discord built on distrust for the other side and  whom is no longer able to listen.

Jesus, himself spoke twenty-one centuries ago about the dangers of this discord, when he said; “and no city or house divided against itself will stand. We are in the midst of a slow and painful decline caused by those who speak without concern for others. Those who speak without hearing. Those who don’t know, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

The greatest thing about life is that we get to practice being who we want to be every day. Every day, we are presented with new opportunities to change lives and practice being the person God intends us to be. Every moment and every encounter we get this chance. Not be stuck in yesterday, but to create a brighter future for ourselves and others. Every day a chance to do something positive. I fully believe America wants this chance, not mired in the acrimony of the past, but a hopeful eye for our future.

Recovering America is both complex and at the same time simple. Simple in that we all need is to that of being captivated by being patriots. To put away our personal fights and become  enamored with creating friendships during debate. No point is worth winning if it creates acrimony. Victories won with disrespect are fleeting.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“All things should be done decently and in order.”

1 Corinthians [14:40]

 

GEORGE BUSH; A LEGACY OF DECENCY

In 2004 I was fortunate enough to be invited to have dinner with George Bush and a dozen or so other corporate senior executives. We all met in a back-office meeting room of a large bank, whom hosted the event. I remember thinking to myself, amazing that I would actually be meeting with a former president. It was both intimidating and exhilarating. Nervous would be an exact description of how I felt.

I remember sitting and listening to Bush talk and being too anxious to ask any questions. I silently listened to the conversation. At one point, a bolder executive asked president Bush why he continued on into Iraq after the Kuwait war and wouldn’t that have saved a lot of misery for the people of Iraq and the world. Bush simply replied, “It was not what the United Nations asked our country to do. Our mandate was to free Kuwait. Both Colin Powell and I agreed to follow our orders and stop at the border.”

While some could criticize this obedience to the United Nations mandate, for me it reflected on who he was as a person. I was impressed that he took a tact of obedience that was respectful of his task and not to over step the wishes of other world leaders.

Later in the same conversation, another bolder person asked him if he supported his son’s attack on Iraq, knowing that Iraq had tried to assassinate him during a later visit to Kuwait after the first Gulf War. His reply to us was; “Both his mother and I voiced our disapproval to him.” While publicly he is attributed to supporting the invasion of Iraq, this is what we heard that night as a group. His point was that personal retaliation wasn’t a reason for creating war. There had to be a higher cause and support from the United Nation. He didn’t see America as a stand-alone nation, but part of a global community.

But there are interesting things that many don’t know George Bush. During World War 2, right after his high school graduation, where he was president of senior class, he enlisted and went into flight training. Ten months later he became the youngest aviator in the Navy and flew many missions. On one particular mission, his plane was hit by flack and his engines caught fire. He still completed the objective of his mission, turned the plane around, flew out to sea and safely parachuted into the Pacific. Later to be rescued by a submarine.

Bush went to Yale after completing his military service. Instead of graduating in the normal four years, Bush graduated in two and a half years. He was also the captain of the Yale baseball team that participated in the first two college World Series.

During the infamous Watergate scandal, he was the chairperson of the Republican party. He personally visited President Nixon and asked him to resign for the good of our country and the Republican party.

Serving our country, after building a successful oil business became his life goal starting in 1964. He was a member of the House of Representatives during the sixties and later was the Ambassador to the United Nations.

In 1980 he ran as a Republican candidate for the presidency but lost to Ronald Reagan. Regan later, picked him as his Vice-President. Despite Bush’s famous remark, calling Reagan’s economic ideas as “Voodoo Economics.” Reagan knew Bush was a strong leader and a decent man, someone he could trust.

This was played out during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Bush was in Texas at the time. Upon hearing about the attempt and Reagan’s condition hurriedly flew back to Washington. Upon landing he was met by Helicopter One, the President’s military helicopter, and was told they would take him to the White House and land in the South Garden. He was next in line to be president if President Reagan died and the Secret Service wanted him protected at the highest level.

Bush refused and said, “Only the president lands in the South Garden.” There was no show of trying to grab power or any way of being disrespectful to President Reagan. After Reagan heard Bush’s remark it strengthened the relationship between these two leaders.

Bush did go on to be president for one term. During which the Iron Curtain fell and the country had fallen into a deep recession. Critics will say he lost the second election because of his famous statement, “Read my lips; no new taxes.” A misguided comment that proved to be untrue, as taxes were raised. Coupled with the state of the economy, President Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton.

For nearly thirty years Bush served our country. But perhaps his greatest life legacy will be the organization he started in the early nineties, called “The Points of Light Foundation.” Bush believed in volunteerism and our responsibility to help our neighbor. Through the years the organization grew and in 2012, Points of Light mobilized 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service worth $635 million.

Bush was also a devout Christian and his faith dictated his life and he would later say helped him through many tough times; including the death of his first daughter at the age of three, his time in the waters of the Pacific after be shot down and finally the death of his wife of seventy two years. During his last moments old friend, James Baker, told him he was going to heaven. He replied, “Good that’s where I want to go.”

President Bush was a leader all his life, from high school to the military to college to his business life and on in service for his country. He didn’t grab or take power, he earned it with leadership through decency and obedience to his task.

Like all of us Bush had his regrettable moments; like the Iran Contra scandal. But these moments don’t define any of us, only to show we are all less than perfect.

For those in that room that evening we only saw a decent person. There was graciousness and vulnerability in how he spoke and listened. He wasn’t pompous or arrogant, in those moments he was just a humble person sharing his life with us.

When I went to have my picture taken with him, he grabbed my hand and thanked me for coming. We smiled together, thankful for the time.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew [18:10]

 

AN EVERY DAY PERSON CAN CHANGE LIVES

Jeanette called me recently to see if I could help a new acquaintance find a job. Jeanette had met Chris at a finance conference and was struck by his earnestness and sincerity. So she called, because she thought I could help. Typical of Jeanette to want to help, a woman with firm goals and an earnestness to live life helping others.

“Jeanette had the three traits all employers like; positive, trustworthy and competent.”

I had met Jeanette two decades earlier, when her career was just starting out. We hired her because she had qualities that we valued. She listened to learn, got things done and analyzed effectively. Jeanette had the three traits all employers like; positive, trustworthy and competent.

We were proven right, in meetings she took notes and answered questions simply, but to the point. You knew when she said she would have something done, you didn’t need to follow-up. It got done, without fanfare or expectation of a pat on the back. She just did her job.

“Jeanette represents the vast majority of the hardworking people in our work force that are the sled dogs of our country’s marketplace.”

Jeanette is one of those everyday people in business who go to work to do a good job every day. They don’t receive headlines nor are they interested. Jeanette represents the vast majority of the hardworking people in our work force that are the sled dogs of our country’s marketplace.

During my call with Jeanette I discovered another facet to her life. Beyond just seeking help for her new friend, I found out she had started a non-profit called The Children at Risk Advocacy Association. An organization that provides support for foster children and their families. Her non-profit helps with legal aid and representation in the courts for both the children and foster child families.

“ Social Workers would love to be better advocates, but are resource constrained.”

Many of the state agencies that care for foster children throughout our country have significant gaps in care and advocacy for foster children and their sponsor families. Most state agencies are over worked and under-represented. Social workers work long hours with little resources to help these children, while saddled with the paperwork churned out by a nebulous set of rules. Social Workers would love to be better advocates, but are resource constrained.

“Jeanette’s organization helps find a voice for these children.”

Today in our country, over four hundred thousand children are in foster care. Almost half are being raised by relatives. Many will never be rejoined with their families and spend a lifetime shuttling from one foster home to another. Spending their childhood with a lack of protection and a voice about their future. Jeanette’s organization helps find a voice for these children.

For Jesus, children were special. Jesus used children’s innocent and trusting ways as an example for us to follow with our faith lives. He borrowed the fish and loaves of bread to feed five thousand children. Jesus was stern in commands to not harm these innocent members of God’s people. Jesus had a soft spot for children.

“As a society our children deserve a childhood of bounty, loving parents and a stable home. Not all will get these opportunities.”

As a society our children deserve a childhood of bounty, loving parents and a stable home. Not all will get these opportunities. There are gaps to fill and societal nets to establish to work towards providing all our children with the basic needs of childhood. Jeanette’s organization is a wonderful start in childhood advocacy. Jeanette’s organization can be contacted by emailing  childrenatriskadvocacy@gmail.com ​.

It was nice to hear from Jeanette and to discover that her dreams of being a senior finance leader had been fulfilled. She gave me far more credit for her success than was deserved. Her success came from a morally pointed compass of someone who is always upbeat, positive and wonderfully competent.

It was better to hear that she sees her life as having a responsibility of helping others, whether it is helping an earnest executive looking for career guidance or defenseless children needing an advocate.

We need people like Jeanette, who live a different life than we see in the dirty laundry of our headlines. She is an example of the many wonderful people who work every day to pursue a career and desires to help those needing a voice. Jeanette would be the first to point out she is one of many.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Matthew [18:20]

IS THE CHURCH A NECESSITY OR A LUXURY?

A good friend of mine, Lou, called to discuss whether church is a necessity or a luxury. During our discussion we reached the conclusion that it is both. For our individual faith lives church serves as a propelling force to expand our faith. Through our association and camaraderie of being with fellow Christians we are strengthened. But it is also a luxury, a valuable part of our existence and life.

Lou is a pastor for the United Methodist church and serves three individual churches every Sunday. Each congregation Lou serves has a different makeup. In one, youth ministry is very important. In another, serving the community is an important ministry. But all share the same value of being faithful Christians.

It is hard for Lou to get to each church every Sunday, it means driving long distances and reflecting on how his weekly message will need to be modified for each church.

“Over the years God has chiseled away Lou’s edges and left intact a faith filled person, with a commitment to do the best.”

Lou is a local licensed pastor, a grass roots pastor that did not go to theological school and receive his training. He learned from others and watching other wonderful pastors. Prior to becoming a pastor, Lou worked in construction and was tough and hard-nosed. Another friend of ours says Lou’s heart is his greatest strength. But he had the leftover residue of a construction person. Over the years God has chiseled away Lou’s edges and left intact a faith filled person, with a commitment to do the best.

In fact, Lou was the head of construction for a non-profit called A Future With Hope during the Super Storm Sandy efforts. For a while Lou gave up being a pastor to help those in need. As you would guess, Lou’s homes were rebuilt at a very high level and the cost of rebuilding was a fraction of what other agencies and the state of New Jersey spent. Lou loved this work but loved helping people more.

After this assignment Lou returned to ministry and took on the assignment of pastoring these three churches. All are growing and responding.

“At its core, faith is one of the three most important states of the Christian mind, along with hope and love.”

Lou’s point about the church being a luxury was not that it was an optional item for Christians, but that it is a necessity that should be treated like a luxury. At its core, faith is one of the three most important states of the Christian mind, along with hope and love. Making it both a human necessity and a luxury. Luxury in that it should be treated well, nurtured and respected.

Lou asked me why Yankee Candle, where I worked as the CFO in my previous life, was so much more expensive than the candles bought in supermarkets. I explained, because of their quality. Hours were spent making sure every candle was perfect. Meetings were held to discuss any flaw. The employees knew that their brand was a luxury that had to be the best and it was. Yankee Candle has the highest customer approval of any brand in America.

“In every Sunday visit to church, individual faiths can be enhanced.”

Lou’s point was that our churches have to have this same dedication. In every Sunday visit to church, individual faiths can be enhanced. Each Sunday, not only the pastor, but also the members have to be committed to developing faith in themselves and others.

For the pastor, this task is an every day event. Each person they meet and talk with, expects this level of interaction. Most pastor’s rise to this occasion. For those who attend church, it is both a give and receive effort. We go because it helps round out our faith. We go because there is usually a “God moment” that reinforces our faith.

“Jesus is a sacred and valuable inclusion to every church service.”

Jesus tells us that wherever two or more are gathered, Jesus is present. Jesus is a sacred and valuable inclusion to every church service. Lifting up the importance of why we attend, to be with Jesus. Through Jesus’ presence we are given moments of illumination and insight. Perhaps in the sermon, but also perhaps through those who we meet. Perhaps when we help someone else. This is no ordinary necessity, but a refining of our Christian lives.

“As Christians we are always giving to make our world better, both inside and outside the church.”

But we also give when we are at church; we help when we say hello earnestly or lend a hand. Sometimes we give unknowingly, by saying something to a fellow attender that strengthens their faith. Perhaps someone in attendance needs our kind words that morning. Perhaps we give when we sing out loud and lift the congregation. Perhaps we give by reciting a verse that contains insight that helps someone else. As Christians we are always giving to make our world better, both inside and outside the church.

We go to church because we have learned it is a necessity. But it is also a luxury, faith is not earned cheaply, but with a riveted desire to grow. Like luxury items that are valuable, because of the care put in to produce them.

Faith is a necessity, but also a luxury.

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“ And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John [8:32]

IS THE NATIONAL PRESS POLARIZING AMERICA?

In a recent radio interview, I was asked, “Is the press polarizing America?” A quick and simple answer could be yes! It would be fashionable answer to state and easily supported by antidotal evidence. But the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes. The question gets to why do we have press and news outlets and how unbiased should they be. As well as, is our national press motivated by headlines that support their ratings?

I know some people who only listen to Fox news and others who only listen to CNN. What is remarkable is that they arrive at different conclusions on events of the day. Some will say that immigration is bad and others will say immigration is good. The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

“Freedom of the press, no matter where they stand is a cornerstone of any society that wants to be free.”

While both sides will make the claim that the media and national press is the root of our problems, it is a dangerous observation. Freedom of the press, no matter where they stand is a cornerstone of any society that wants to be free. In America, our forefathers felt so strongly about having  freedom of the press, they included it in the 1st amendment of the constitution.

“Societal movements on the paths to freedom would become stifled.”

Washington, Adams and Jefferson knew the downfall of any society that doesn’t have a free press. Without it, the powers to be could and would control what we hear. Societal movements on the paths to freedom would become stifled. Wrongs would be ignored, leaving those oppressed or victimized without a voice.

Any society that wants to be free needs the press. In the vast majority of my own radio interviews I never feel pressured to give a differing view than what I believe. Generally, those that conduct these interviews are similar to many of my neighbors, fair and even handed. However, I do hear a voice of frustration within the media and my neighbors that their country has become so polarized, civility in our discourse is now impossible.

“Part of the freedom of the press lies within each of us as to how we take in information.”

We as a society have to become better in interpreting what we hear and what we see. I had a wonderful theological professor, early in my studies at theological school, that cautioned each of us to know the agenda of what we were reading. To know the author’s point of view and then shape our understanding around this knowledge. In other words, give respect to what we were reading, but be careful with how we act and think about what we have read or heard. This process, all of us heard over and over, was to read and understand with a thoughtful perspective. Part of the freedom of the press lies within each of us as to how we take in information.

Critical thinking is a hallmark of the freedom of the press. Being able to decipher what we hear and what we read is part of freedom of the press. Assuming that those we follow or read or hear have a monopoly of the truth is dangerous. No one person or article can ever reveal the whole truth, because no one person has all the facts. We all approach each issue of the day different than our neighbors. Like snowflakes, we are all different. Each article we read is bent to our perspective and the author’s. But other perspectives have different influences.

“Without freedom of the press we will quickly fall into despotism.”

As a society that needs to have freedom of the press, we also need to respect what the function of the press is, to give us news about our lifestyles, major events and significant political trends. Without freedom of the press we will quickly fall into despotism.

“Journalism in itself is a mighty weapon that can do both harm and good.”

The press as well should honor their position created by the 1st amendment. A journalistic requirement of reducing their own agenda in what they report and to focus on obtaining the whole truth. This is often met with the temptation of producing the salacious, which in turn produces revenue and wealth. Journalism in itself is a mighty weapon that can do both harm and good. For the many I meet in the media, I see and feel this desire to get at the truth. Many truly believe what they write or say, but a few do not hold this central aspect of our freedoms with the same regard. Unfortunately we hear the latter views too often.

“Our press needs to constantly prowl through the corridors of their mind and publish that which is truthful and sanitized of agenda.”

I understand why so many are saddened by the polarization that has occurred. But it’s not the 1st amendment that is at fault. It lies within our own personal respect to how we hear and how we write. We need freedom of the press to protect all of our other freedoms. But we as listeners, need to be more critical with our thinking in what we hear and see. Not just accept, but go deeper in our evaluation. Our press needs to constantly prowl through the corridors of their mind and publish that which is truthful and sanitized of agenda.

The Gospel of John is correct in saying, “and the truth will make you free.” But ours is to decide what the truth is in an unbiased way and to write what the truth is in an unbiased way. Without this we threaten all our freedoms.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

2 Corinthians 3:6

THE RISE OF THE NEW AGE CHURCH

In a classroom, while getting my doctorate degree, my fellow students began to grouse about the drop in attendance in their churches. All fine and wonderful ministers that represented most of the various institutional churches; Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Lutherans. In particular, one student complained, “Parents would rather take their children to a soccer practice than attend church.” She was right, there are many other activities on Sunday morning that compete with church. A trend that started in the late sixties and has directly contributed to a chronic decline in church attendance for nearly five decades.

“ In fact, it is doubtful that institutional churches will stay intact past 2030 without making significant changes.”

But the belief in God has not abated over this time, today ninety percent still believe in God and Christian’s who pray, stands at sixty six percent. However, according to the Hartford research institute, regular church attendance has fallen to twenty percent and continues to drop every year. In fact, it is doubtful that institutional churches will stay intact past 2030 without making significant changes.

As a former business person, I learned it is never good to grouse about your customer’s unwillingness to buy your product. It is far easier to get better and sell products your customer is interested in buying. The young pastor who was complaining about parents taking their children to soccer games instead of church, was right about recognizing the decline in the church, but wrong about her point of view. Simply, the institutional church has to get better or it will continue to lose more attenders.

Despite these difficult statistics one form of church is growing, the new age church. It is a church that isn’t affiliated with any denominations. It is independent of human doctrine and non-affiliated. The new age church meets in unusual places, garages, old warehouses and even in schools. They don’t have bloated bureaucracy telling them what to do next. Their ministers are not encumbered with rules on what to say. Their overheads are low and they can spend more of their donations helping others. The music is more contemporary and draws out the Spirit of God in a different way.

“The institutional church is stuck in the fifties and has only made minor changes to its formats.”

The institutional church is stuck in the fifties and has only made minor changes to its formats. It is not the wonderful ministers that need to change, the structure is no longer relevant. Most institutional churches have massive overheads to support decades old buildings. Usually, by far the largest piece of their budget. In turn this debilitates their ability to serve their community and the needs of the attenders.

The institutional church has become embroiled in scandal and not fully addressed the solutions. Catholic priests for decades have abused children and leadership has not always been aggressive in solving the problem. It is not just the Catholic church that has been embroiled in scandal, recently in Houston a Methodist minister was arrested who took millions of dollars from his parishioners.

The church has also become a political church, opining on issues that can be polarizing to its members. Instead of focusing on the message of Christ to “Love thy God and love thy neighbor,” the institutional church has become caught up in politics. While the new age church has stayed focused on its purpose to minister to and adhere to the two basic tenets of the Gospel, Love thy God and love thy neighbor.

A close friend of mine, Rich, recently set up a church, with the help of loyal donors. In a few years the church has grown from a few sitting in a rented space to over a hundred that can now support community ministry and pay for its pastor. Not burdened by history, politics or the suffocating costs of over-sized buildings, the church is growing remarkably. Why? Because of its adherence to the foundations of the new covenant. One that serves and is not served.

It is not that the mainline ministers don’t know how to do this, they can’t. Hemmed in by rules and regulations that don’t allow them to seek other ways to compete with Sunday soccer. These wonderful contributors to our Christian faith must ask first before they act. Only in the new age church do they have the freedom to select the right songs, pray the right prayers and help the members serve.

There are seven things the institutional church can do to fix this trend. They are:

  1. Limit the budget for building costs to twenty percent of total giving.
  2. Select music that is more contemporary and inspiring. Lead the service off with music that is designed to raise the Spirit of God in those attending.
  3. Set up Small groups that fit the make-up of the members. Let and help lay people lead these groups, even from their homes.
  4. Set up ways for the members to help their community. Serving helps members satisfy their desire to give and serve.
  5. Limit leadership of committees to two years, and allow for fresh voices to be heard.
  6. Set up interactive prayer chains.
  7. Preach the Gospel in a way that is tailored to the demographics of the membership.

While these seven things may seem very hard to accomplish, they are being accomplished in the new age church!

The institutional church needs to loosen its grip on what they own, which ironically owns them.

Paul in 2 Corinthians warned the church to not get caught up in the letter of the law, or institutional bureaucracy and politics. Instead to spread the Gospel with a heart led by the Spirit. Not to stay encumbered by rules and the will of the past, but to reach out to its constituency with a heart for God and serving others. Only in this place can the old church survive. The institutional church needs to loosen its grip on what they own, which ironically owns them.  Which will allow for a greater focus on mercy within its community. The new age church is a responding church that adheres to the heart of the Gospel. A model for the institutional church.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ben White

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

year with jesus

 

“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Exodus 34:6

WELCOME TO A YEAR WITH GOD

In Exodus, God passes by Moses and makes this powerful proclamation that He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. For the next fifty two Sunday’s we will be posting images, verses and reflections following the church calendar that reflects this steadfast love and faithfulness. The posting will lead us on an immersive faith journey for fifty two weeks that tells the story of God and Jesus through the annual rhythm of the Christian’s church calendar.

This year long series will start on December 2nd, with the first week of advent. So get ready, have your Bible at hand and a notebook to start journaling. Find a space in your house or outdoors that is quiet and will help you be by yourself with our Lord. A place where  a simple few minutes alone will change your life.

We will move from the Advent period to Christmas and on into Lent and the Passion week. And we will follow along the seven weeks or fifty days of the Pentecost. Throughout this journey we will encounter and explore the verses that explain and help us reflect on the majesty of God and God’s gift to humankind, Jesus the Christ.

Each week we will post an image, verse and a reflection that will follow the church calendar. Each week is designed to lead us through a complete exploration of the Christian faith and a deeper understanding of our faith.

As a guide each week readers will be given an opportunity to answer three questions about their faith. Not designed to test our knowledge, but to encourage us to think about our faith. Over the year, we will present a way to fully see the Gospel and its meanings in our lives.

In our reflections we are not proposing how people should think, but merely asking to reflect on our life’s journey with our faith. No one person’s faith life is similar and every person has a different starting point. If in some small way we can add value to faith lives, we will consider ourselves successful.

For the reader we ask that prior to starting this journey, that a journal is created. The first entry should be a reflection on the following:

  • What is your understanding of faith and how it has become a part of your life?
  • How connected do you feel to God and Jesus?
  • What areas of your faith lives would you want to increase?

Over the course of the year, periodically refer back to this first writing and see what has changed.

Each week, at the start of the week, answer the three questions on Sunday. Try bringing the Holy Spirit into this time of reading and contemplation. Consider what the Spirit is telling you. Then throughout the week, reflect on the verse, the image or the reflection. Each day, take five minutes to review how it is affecting your daily life. On Saturday, write what has changed or what has been improved.

A simple journaling that is private to you and your life. Each week the journal will grow and so will your faith.

If you would like to help others, leave a comment on the blog for the week. A simple note of a special moment or new understanding. Through this sharing we help and inspire each other.

Don’t forget each day, say a prayer that includes an aspect of the verse for the week.

We hope, pray and trust that this journey with God will help your life and bring you closer to a God that is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ben White

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

 

 

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Matthew [6:24]

CRY BABY MILLIONAIRES

In the age of big money professional sports, we see professional athletes making millions of dollars a year, holding out for more money. We watch owners creating billion dollar enterprises. At the same time, we hear of players in their twenties complaining that they aren’t being treated properly and sometimes even refusing to play. All this while families of four can longer support the average price of close to five hundred dollars to go to a professional sporting event.

In the meantime, the TV ratings of the major sports have declined. In fact, at the last World Series viewership dropped by twenty-five percent. The NFL’s ratings have declined by double digits over the last two years. While there are many reasons for the declines, the two major reasons that stand out the most are the young millionaires complaining about their pay, when most American families struggle to pay their health care costs and wonder why these young millionaires complain about how much money they are making and social injustice.

The public relationship efforts by all the professional sports leagues has been abysmal and appears to be self-serving. These efforts miss that many of the millionaires and even the professional leagues do give back to the society that supports them. Not all the cry baby millionaires miss the point that they have been blessed. J.J. Watt, the all-star football player, doesn’t make headlines for misbehavior. Instead he raised tens of millions of dollars to help out hurricane victims. The NFL maintains a giving organization that contributes tens of millions to causes that help social justice and communities in need. Many players have their own foundations that pour money back to those in need.

These wonderful acts of service don’t make the news, good news stories don’t sell ads and as such don’t get told. People that give money prefer not to be in the spotlight. They would rather give quietly. Instead we see NFL running backs complaining they aren’t being treated properly or basketball players earning millions protesting they don’t get enough playing time. Or we see players, like Odell Beckham taking mini vacations while his team is in the middle of a playoff run.

Like all things in our society there are always two sides of the story. For professional sports, we will see the athlete’s and owners being selfish and petty with their complaints. That news we will hear about! But there are also many who give back a fair amount of their millions to society because they know they have a higher and moral need to give back.

Jesus explains this by saying we all have to decide, whom do we serve? Do we serve ourselves? Or do we serve humankind? The real answer to this question is on an individual by individual basis. Some live to be served and others live to serve. Perhaps more of our millionaires created by the their support, should consider this question harder.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Noah Silliman

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.