Friday, August 28, 2009

On Wednesday, I posted my retirement from competitive softball on Facebook. Since then, I have heard many cries of “no, don’t do it” and repeated pleas for me to continue to play—virtually of these occurring in my own mind. So far, I am holding steady to my decision.

I must admit that I felt quite emotional during last Tuesday night’s game—our last game of the season. I think it is every player’s dream to appear at his last at-bat and having the crowd, aware of the moment, rising to give him a standing ovation. You can imagine the lump in my throat as I approached my last at-bat and I saw a lady in the bleachers stand up to give me an ovation. Then she headed toward the bathroom and I realized I had misread her body language.

I batted three times. The first time, I lined out to right field. The second at bat, I popped up to center. My final at bat, I hit a long fly ball to the left fielder and flied out. I knew then it was time to retire. I always wanted to go out on top.

Not that I have any grandiose delusions, but I have already thought about my speech, if I should be honored with a special “day” at the ballpark. (You always need a plan for any contingency.) First, I will demand a microphone that has a recurring echo. Then, with a posture of humble spirit—hands in back pocket and head bowed---I will say to the crowd a speech short and sweet:
“You have probably read in the past few weeks about some bad breaks that have come my way. But today (ay, ay, ay), I consider myself (self, self, self), to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth (earth, earth, earth).”

Thirty Elders by 2013

Disclaimer: this treatment of leadership may be boring to anyone outside of the Shiloh road family.

Judging from congregational response, if someone were to write a headline after last Sunday morning’s sermon, it would probably read like this:

Edge Sees 30 Elders for Shiloh by 2013

That was not the main focus of my sermon, but that is what provided the most feedback. I was very concerned about making that statement. My concern stemmed in the fact, I am a preaching minister and not an elder of our church. I did not want to step outside of my place. On the other hand, I want to be faithful to God and my calling. And so, if this was an application of what I was learning in scripture, I felt that I had to say something.

I spent the week pondering whether or not to express my dream for Shiloh’s future. I did not seek the input of the elders or staff because I really wanted to keep my mouth shut. However, I could not get the thought off my mind. I told Judy on Saturday night what I was struggling with. We laughed about how to evaluate whether or not I should say it: 1) Is God calling me to express this thought? 2) How much money do I have saved up? As always, Judy said, “Trust God, the rest will work itself out.”

Shiloh has approximately 600 members and six elders; this adds up to one Elder for every 100 members. Our elders do a marvelous job, but I am concern that it is wearing them out.

At the two previous churches where I was serving, I and my fellow members were blessed to have a much lower elder to member ratio. For example, at my previous congregation, we had six elders for approximately 120 members. That was one elder for every 20 members. (Incidentally, that church is about to have nine elders and an even lower elder -- member ratio.)

What I tried to convey to Shiloh last Sunday morning was this, I have experienced this ratio of one elder for every 20 members. I want Shiloh to experience the same. I realize that we're in a new elder selection process now, the first in 10 years, and so there will be natural adjustments. However, my dream is that in 2013, when we have our next elder selection process, we will have 30 Elders.

According to our current membership, that would be one elder for every 20 members. Of course, it would be nice to have a new problem. It would be nice if Shiloh has borne such fruit by 2013 that 30 Elders would no longer be a 1 to 20 ratio. If that is the case, we will face a nice challenge.
Ever since I served as a de facto elder in Argentina along with my other male teammates, I have been sensitive to the need for churches to have elders providing strong leadership. I knew with that mission situation, what was happening was not healthy for our church. I also knew the struggles, as I have written here in this blog before, of the high calling that elders have. Hence, the amount of qualities that Scripture seems to expect elders to have.

A Quiz

Let me offer you a quiz I presented to my church a few weeks ago. Place an “x” beside the “qualification” if it appears in Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul’s letter toTitus, or in both.


                              I Tim. 3.2-7      Tit. 1.6-9
(Ephesus) (Crete)

Not violent
Husband of but one wife
Not given to much wine
Sees that his children obey him
Does not pursue dishonest gain
Not overbearing
Not quick-tempered
Loves what is good
Holds firmly to the trustworthy message
A man whose children believe
Not quarrelsome
Not a lover of money
Not a recent convert
Has a good reputation with outsiders
Manages his own family well
Able to teach
Above reproach

I will supply the answers next week. Of course, if you want to look them up for yourself, you may.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. From my earliest memories, Ted Kennedy always represented the sum of all fears when it came to American politics because of his liberalism. Then of course there was his personal life. He had a host of problems including alcohol and the infamous Chappaquiddick (so well known that the word appears in my spell checker.)
I imagine that if I were a member of the Mary Jo Kopechne family, I would have been struggling with bitterness over the past forty years. However, I am not a family member. I believe that Ted Kennedy lost the presidency at Chappaquiddick. For Ted Kennedy, there may not have been a more severe penalty.

It is easy to judge Kennedy for his foils. Yet I can’t get out of my mind something that Cal Thomas asked. Knowing two different individuals gunned down two of my brothers, knowing that odds are someone is gunning for me, and living my entire adult life in the public eye with no hope of ever escaping that eye, how would I behave? I have enough challenge dealing with the stress of having someone cut me off at a red light. I don’t know how well I would have done in Kennedy’s shoes.

Apparently, the man had a gift that few have. Rather than demonize his foes, Kennedy not only worked with them when they held common goals, he even became good friends with many. I wish I could convince more people in my church to do this.
I’m certainly not a New England liberal, but through the years Edward Kennedy earned my respect. My prayers go out on behalf of his family.

2. Finished Ken Burns’ opus BASEBALL this week. The public library has a copy. Every summer I watch all 20 hours or so of Burns’ marvelous work, which depicts the history of baseball, up through the year 1994. I always watch it while I'm working out, because it always seems to inspire me, and I never get tired of the subject matter.
3. Tragic to observe two Christian converts, arrested in March by Iranian security forces, remain in the infamous Evin Prison in Iran. The women are Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, and Maryam Rustampoor, 27. Tehran's Revolutionary Court has threatened charges of apostasy unless the two women renounce their faith. They responded to the prosecutor, "We will not deny our faith." They certainly merit our prayers.

4. Nice to see the ACU Wildcats win on TV last night.

5. Looking forward to Labor Day Weekend, even though my oldest has a volleyball tournament. That will mean some travel.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday of this week, East Texas Christian Academy opened its doors to its students for the fall. I’m teaching a class for senior Bible students on the 21st century and the writings of Paul. My goals as always are: 1) help my students grow closer to Jesus, 2) help my students mature as adults, and, most importantly, 3) coerce my students to watch my sermons on YouTube as many times as possible in order to drive up the number of viewings.

The first day of school, my own four kids were ready to go by 7 AM. I, on the other hand, was simply trying to prove that I was not comatose.

The Class of 2013
Tim Henderson shared with me something I found interesting. Every year, Beloit College publishes a list marking milestones and events that occurred BEFORE members of its freshman class were born. I found this fascinating. You can look up more at their website
Meanwhile, allow me to share with you some of the more interesting items from the list.
The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013
 Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1991. For these students:

1. Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
2. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
3. The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
4. They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
5. Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
6. Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
7. Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive. (And, I might add, he has always been retired.)
8. They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
9. Rap music has always been main stream.
13. The KGB has never officially existed.
23. The European Union has always existed.
25. Condoms have always been advertised on television.
26. Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
28. The American health care system has always been in critical condition.
29. Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
31. There has always been a Cartoon Network.
33. Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
34. They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
35. Women have always outnumbered men in college.
36. We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
38. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
41. Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
50. Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
53. Someone has always been asking: "Was Iraq worth a war?"
56. The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.
59. For one reason or another, California’s future has always been in doubt.
60. Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.
63. There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
70. Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power.
Make you feel old?
How versus Why
I read a convicting thought this week from Charles Prince in his book THE EIGHTH DAY. He says, Christians often "fully enjoy the fruits of modern scientific endeavor, but in theory reject the methodology that produces such benefits as ungodly."

I think Prince is right. I have been saying this for years; the Bible is not a textbook of science. The Bible primarily concerns itself with answering the question of why, not how.

The fact is, throughout history, whenever scientific advancements have come outside the community of the people of God, it has been because the faith community has repressed the pursuit of scientific truth. Leaders have feared pursuing the answers to questions of how, because, by definition, these pursuits delve in realms outside of Scripture since Scripture is not essentially concerned with the question of how.

I hope we in the Christian community can eliminate the feelings of threat that we are tempted to experience. It is inconsistent to be as dialed-in to the scientific advancements as we are, and then express negativity or even hostility to the scientific community. To do so would not be unlike the Jewish leaders of the first century who used the Romans to accomplish their aims and claiming innocence, since their hands were not literally involved in the process.
I also hope we can offer scientists respect. The more I study these issues, the more I realize the strident voices of the atheists are rare in the scientific community. Many scientists believe in God, and most have respect for faith.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. Rest in peace Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Perhaps no one in the world has ever done more for the mentally disabled than her. She was the driving force behind Special Olympics, which she founded in response to having a sister (Rosemary) who was mentally disabled. What I did not know until her death was this. She was strongly pro-life and through the years consistently challenged the pro-choice plank in the Democratic Party’s platform. I hope her political party receives many more members like her who are pro-life in the ensuing years.
2. Some of my academic buddies may choke when they hear me say this, but I have been reading THE LIFE YOU ALWAYS WANTED –. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE (by John Ortberg), and I really like it. The reason some buddies would not like it is because it is primarily practical rather than theological. Still, we need books that tell us, in practical ways, how to live life like God. Ortberg does this well.
Chapter 5, "An Unhurried Life", is worth the price of the book, alone. Listen how Ortberg captures our contemporary culture of hurry:

At a grocery store, if we have a choice between two checkout lines, we find ourselves counting how many people are in each line, multiplying this number by the number of items per cart. If we have a really bad case of hurry sickness, then even after we get in line we keep track of the person who would have been in the other line. If we get through and the person who would've been me is still waiting, we are elated. We've won. But if the alter-me is walking out of the store and we’re still in line, we feel depressed. We have hurry sickness.

I've mentioned before books like THE HOLY LONGING for the theological. Reading Ortberg is like reading Martha Stewart—he will give you 100 ideas that will prompt your imagination and get your creative juices flowing for putting into practice your spiritual goals.
3. A special thanks to "Grumpy" Smith for coming to speak to Shiloh Wednesday night of this week. He was very down-to-earth, authentic, and did a marvelous job.

4. Watched the 1961 scary movie THE INNOCENTS last night. What was that all about?
5. Okay, while I still don't care about watching the Cowboys play in preseason, I must admit that I am curious to see the new stadium tonight.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh Those Muslim Teenagers! CNN had a story this week about the increase in the number of Muslim punk bands in the U.S. I don’t know about you, but nothing to me says “Muslim” more than punk music. Am I right?

A typical voice of the Muslim-Punk Rock movement is Michael Muhammad Knight. His mother was Catholic, his father, a white supremacist.

This may explain why Knight converted to Islam at 16. Knight says, "Muslims haven't been fully accepted as Americans but the American experience hasn't been accepted as something that can contribute to the Muslim world."

If more teenagers growing up in traditional Muslim homes begin to listen to punk rockers like Knight, the next twenty years promise to be culturally interesting.

A Good Potter is Hard to Find

Do you know how hard it is to find a good potter? On Sunday morning, July 26, I had the privilege of preaching a sermon from Jeremiah 18, with a real-life potter actually practicing his craft--right there in front of our church--while I preached. This was a sermon I preached on Sunday morning, July 26, 2009 about Jeremiah and the potter. I am posting it to honor John Hill our potter that day.

I had anticipated using a potter several months ago as I was planning my series on Jeremiah. I spent several months looking for one, all to no avail. Finally, Charles Smith ran across John at an art expo in Longview and he gave Charles his card.

When I called John and invited him to practice his craft during my sermon, I had to confess to him that “silver and I gold have I none.” But I could promise him I would let people know about him, his business, and about the way he ministered to us. John came all the way from Greenville, Texas, with his equipment, to serve us.

His mailing address is 9425 CR 4214, Greenville, Texas 75401, or you can contact him by e-mail at or His phone number is (903) 355-0341. I pray that God blesses John as richly as he blessed us.

Incidentally, I’ve got to say that evidently, my part of the sermon made little impact. After church, I was leading John and his family to our Fellowship Hall for lunch, and people continued to by-pass me and approach John telling him how much they enjoyed the sermon.
One of our media guys, Mark Hutchins, helped edit the sermon so we could put it on YouTube. Mark confessed to me that he does not remember a thing I said, but that John’s work made a deep impact on him and made Jeremiah 18 come alive.

I am ambivalent as to whether or not this is good news. It reminds me of a visit I had a couple of weeks ago with a member in the hospital. He told me that when we had someone speak to us on a Wednesday night, he told the speaker, “Don’t worry if I fall asleep. I’m getting a pacemaker soon, and, until then, my heart will pump blood so slowly that whenever I get still, I will fall asleep.”
I immediately responded, “So that explains what I have been seeing during my sermons! We have a bunch of people who are about to receive pacemakers.”

You can find “The Potter and the Clay” at the following link:

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. OUTLIERS—THE STORY OF SUCCESS, by Malcolm Gladwell, has been a best seller all year. I’ve been reading in it that successful people have consistently been found to have practiced their craft at least 10,000 hours before achieving triumph. I have now preached approximately 1500 hours in my lifetime. This explains a lot. I anticipate becoming an accomplished preacher in 85 years.

2. I saw where the new Chevy Volt promises to get 230 Miles Per Gallon. The car runs on electricity and contains a small, combustible engine that generates the power.

In other automotive news, I can certifiably deny that the U. S. government has been considering canceling the “Cash for Clunkers” program after seeing my 1991 Suburban.

3. Finished listening to THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES by Lawrence Ritter this week. Our Tyler library has a copy, but I first listened to it from an audio book that I checked out from the Abilene Public Library a few years ago.

As I mentioned last week, I own and have read the book. The book is based upon interviews in the 1960s that Ritter conducted with various surviving baseball players of the early twentieth century.

The audio book contains portions of the actual interviews themselves. The quality is pristine. Really, this is a marvelous achievement—taking us back forty years to hear these men, many born in the 1870s and 80s, reflect upon their careers and their lives. My favorite was Smokey Joe Wood, the Boston Red Sox pitcher and the greatest pitcher of 1912.

The best story was told by Rube Marquard describing how, as a young teenager, he ran away from home in 1906 hopping on trains and sleeping in fields for five days and nights—until he arrived at Waterloo, Iowa for tryout. He didn’t make the team.

Returning home, he hopped off the train in Chicago and fell into an exhausted sleep in a Chicago Fire Station. Fireman found the young man, took pity on him, and took up a collection to buy him a ticket home. He promised them he would come back one day when he made it.
Marquard did make it—he became a star pitcher for John McGraw’s New York Giants. For years on Chicago road trips he would return to the fire station to visit with the men, their children, and their friends.

4. I spent a delightful Wednesday night with the Westhill church in Cleburne this week. Thanks to Jerry Nelson and to all of the good folks at Westhill for their marvelous reception.

5. Did the Cowboys play this week? I could care less about preseason. Wake me up when the regular season starts. Even then, don’t get my hopes up. Let’s see how long they play into January.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 7, 2009

One of my fellow staff members, Charles Smith, asked me the other day to send him a list of my favorite 15 books. This proved to be a challenge. However, after some thought, the following represent my 15 favorites with comments as to why:

My 15 Favorite Books in no certain order (except for # 1)

1. THE BIBLE (nuff said)

2. SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT--Donald Miller (Opened my mind to a new generation of writers)

3. HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE--Dale Carnegie (Kept me in ministry)

4. THE RISE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT--Edmund Morris (Inspired me to action)

5. THEY CALL ME COACH--John Wooden (Inspired me to organize my life)

6. NOW I REMEMBER--Thorton W. Burgess's Autobiography (Representative of all of his children's books that I read in childhood and have read to my kids.)

7. BEAR--Bear Bryant (Have read 12 times)

8. HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE--Francis Schaeffer (My intro to what would come to be called post-modernism)

9. THE HOLY LONGING--Ronald Rolheiser (Changed my life spiritually)

10. MY TURN AT BAT--Ted Williams (Read several times in my teen-age years-gave me a love for hunting and fishing)

11. TRUMAN--David McCullough (Character above all)

12. UNVEILING GLORY -- Jeff Childers and Fred Aquino (Best work on Christology written for the person in the pew)

13. BRAVE NEW WORLD--Aldous Huxley (They thought 1984 was the prophecy. The prophecy turned out to be this book, written in 1931.)

14. RUMORS OF AN UNKNOWN WORLD--Philip Yancey (Best treatment of reductionism I have ever seen.)

15. THE LANGUAGE OF GOD: A SCIENTIST PRESENTS EVIDENCE FOR BELIEF--Francis S. Collins (Opened my mind to the fact that a person can love Jesus and see evolution as a beautiful work of God.)

Other Favorites

THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES--Lawrence Ritter (Fantastic interviews conducted in the 1960s with turn of the 20th century baseball players)

SEX GOD--Rob Bell (a marvelous theology of sex replete with lots of stories and humor)

EISENHOWER: 1890-1952--Stephen Ambrose (Volume one of the life of one of the 20th centuries great world figures.)

LINCOLN David Herbert Donald (I think it the best of the Lincoln biographies)

GRANT AND LEE--Gene Smith (have read several times, very poignant)

A FAREWELL TO ARMS--Ernest Hemingway (depressing story, but anticipated the late 20th century's abandonment of moral values)

THE ABOLITION OF MAN -- C. S. Lewis (another book that anticipated postmodernism)

JOHNNY UNITAS: MY OWN STORY--Johnny Unitas (read several times as a teenager and young adult, took me inside the mind of one of the all-time great quarterbacks)

WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED --David Maraniss (the best biography on Vince Lombardi. A close second is VINCE, which I also enjoyed)

TO AMERICA, PERSONAL REFLECTIONS OF A HISTORIAN--Stephen Ambrose (probably the most popular historian of the late 20th century, this book, his last, was the closest we would get to his autobiography)

DOUGLAS SOUTHALL FREEMAN--David E. Johnson (fascinating biography of the greatest biographer of the first half of the 20th century.)

ROONE--Roone Arledge (a celebration of creativity and risk taking)

THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE--Peter Senge (the best business book I have ever read. Addresses aspects useful for all organizations.)

INSTANT REPLAY--Jerry Kramer (describes in detail a players perspective of one of the most storied seasons in NFL history)

THE OLD BALL GAME: HOW JOHN MCGRAW, CHRISTY MATHEWSON, AND THE NEW YORK GIANTS CREATED MODERN BASEBALL--Frank Deford (Christy Mathewson was nicknamed "the Christian gentleman"; he was America's first sports hero and the Roger Staubach of his day.)

WALTER BENJAMIN AT THE DAIRY QUEEN--Larry McMurtry (the autobiography of one of the great American writers of the second half of the 20th century)
LIFE ON THE VINE—Phillip D. Kenneson (a marvelous treatment of the fruit of the Spirit)
Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. I’m a big Pat Summitt fan, so I thoroughly enjoyed her book REACH FOR THE SUMMIT. She wrote it about ten years ago, but it is still relevant. The TENNESEE coach, college basketball’s winningest, has much to say when it comes to discipline and hard work. Most importantly my daughter Abby was all ears when it came to listening to this book on a recent trip. Favorite story: after a listless performance on the road, Pat Summitt said not a word. When the team returned to Knoxville about midnight, Summitt, had the team watch film for e hours, then she had them dress out for a two hour practice at 4:00 A. M.—followed by classes of course.

2. My daughter, Abby, and I watched the scariest movie that I remember from my childhood—DIE MONSTER DIE. The movie starred Boris Karloff. I remember seeing it at the Winnsboro movie theater one summer afternoon. I had trouble sleeping for days after I saw it. After seeing the movie this week, I don’t want to say that it was cheesy, but I almost fell asleep.

3. A much better movie, which my entire family enjoyed, was THE STRATTON story with Jimmy Stewart. Based on a true story, it tells the story of Chicago White Sox All-Star pitcher Monty Stratton who lost his leg due to a hunting accident, and returns to pitch.

4. I have heard for the past few years about so many friends editing family videos on their computer. They make it sound easier than brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush. Let me tell you, it is complicated! I tried this week to do some editing, and found out that my computer did not have the software to do so. So I installed Pinnacle 10, and still am having trouble. Just to be safe, I have checked out from the library books like VIDEO FOR DUMMIES, VIDEO FOR MORONS, and VIDEO FOR REAL DUMMIES AND MORONS. Stay tuned.

5. For all of you desiring to see our fearless softball team play a doubleheader Monday night, I have some bad news. Because I love my wife, and more importantly, because I fear her, I am going to accompany her to a banquet, given by her school. I will miss both games. I had been scheduled to hit 8 home runs, knock in 20 RBIs, and participate in 10 double plays. I am sorry to let the team down. Hopefully, they will manage to compete without me—and remember who I am come Tuesday morning. I think Wally Pipp once missed a start due to his wife’s schedule. A guy named Lou Gehrig filled in that day.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Organization—The New Dirty Word

Why is organization a dirty word in the church? Think about this. How many times do we demand organization to be practiced? If you are a baseball fan, you don’t want to see 7 guys playing in your team’s outfield.

What about the human body? We label someone whose mouth and brain are so chronically disorganized that he constantly utters profanity and/or obnoxious, random statements, against his conscience will, as suffering from Tourette syndrome.

So why is it that when it comes to the church, organization is a bad word? I remember when I was a kid hearing this refrain over and over again on television, on the radio, and in the print media, "Jesus yes – church, no." The idea was that Jesus is wonderful, but the church is not. This concept is making a comeback. I believe the problem is not too much organization in the church, the problem is too little organization done well.

Organization is important to God. All you have to do is go back to Genesis to see that. God fashioned the world and organized it. He organized the disbursement of light and darkness, calling the light, day, and the darkness, night. God continued to administrate the organization of his creation, finally offering to Man the privilege of being a co-administrator in this world. You see over and over, in Scripture, the exalted state God places the administrator of his purposes in the Kingdom of God.

One example is Moses who was the chief organizer and administrator for God in the household of faith that was the fledgling nation of Hebrew slaves. That's what the Hebrews' writer is referring to in chapter three:

…just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future (Heb. 3:2b-5.)
Scripture records various stories about the challenges that Moses faced organizationally. I am sure you remember Exodus chapter 18 when Moses decides, at his father-in-law's encouragement, to designate various men to help him organize, and administrate, and lead Israel. However, it was not until I was working on my doctoral thesis that I noticed how the writer of Hebrews uses Moses as an example that foreshadows Jesus. As great as Moses was as an administrator, Jesus was even better. This passage was the first to begin to change my mindset concerning the role of overseer in the church.
Back in the New Testament days, stewards, particularly chief stewards, were men who possessed great organizational skill. They were great administrators; they managed the household for their master.
In Hebrews, Jesus is portrayed as the great steward in the household of his heavenly father. Heard of Jesus, the chief Shepherd? Probably so. How about Jesus the great administrator?
Many times in Scripture, we see Jesus practicing the art of godly, spiritual organization and administration. For example, in Matthew chapter ten, Matthew writes that Jesus sent out his 12 apostles with instructions and participating in a process that he has orchestrated.
Another example, just to give you a feel for the work of the great administrator, the great overseer, Jesus Christ, can be found in Matthew chapter 15. Jesus coordinates the feeding of 4000 men, and who knows how many more women and children. He selects the eating menu, he administrates how the food is passed out, and you'll see these disciples transporting baskets full of leftovers—all thanks to the managerial work of Jesus, the great overseer.

Now, as you know Jesus died and rose again and he left behind a body of people who are to reflect him. This body is called the church. The church has leaders who particularly demonstrate the qualities of Jesus. What we have been thinking of over the past 20 years is this picture of Jesus as the great Shepherd. And he is. However, I believe we have become extremist in our pastoral views.
20 years ago, or so, a problem that many churches were battling was this -- elders were micromanaging the supervision of the church, and the pastoral care was being done by someone else, usually the preacher. It was during this era, there was an old joke that went around like this -- the preacher is the elder, the elders are deacons, and the deacons have nothing to do. Often times elders were nothing more than board members, who met together, made decisions, but did not participate in the pastoral care of the church.

Fortunately, many began to address this need. Unfortunately, the pendulum has now swung in many churches. Now, the predominant image you hear is of elder as pastor. In many churches, that is primarily what they do. However, in many churches, you do not have elders leading as overseers.

Now, nature abhors a vacuum. We have talked about how we want organization and administration. So, when there is a void of this leadership from the elders, who fills the void? In a lot of churches, it is the preacher. He is the chief executive officer. He exclusively cast the vision; he holds everyone accountable; he signs off on all the decisions. He's like the CEO of a major corporation.

I have often joked about this being a fantasy of every preacher. And to a certain degree, I guess in the fleshly sense, this is true. Nevertheless, not only do I feel, from a human perspective, this is a perilous move, from a biblical perspective, I view this practice as being totally out of line.

Do you know who else fills the void -- the church staff. Elders provide pastoral care, so the staff supplies the administrative leadership to stand in the gap. (Of course, in truly dysfunctional churches, the elders provide neither the pastoral care nor the overseeing care.) I believe the staff should certainly serve as servants in the administration of the church, but they follow the leadership of the elders. Meanwhile, the elders follow the example of the chief administrator -- Jesus.

May I share with you three scriptures that hold up this image of Jesus as the chief Shepherd and administrator, and this ideal for the eldership?

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (I Peter. 2: 25).

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

1To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (I Pet. 5:1-2a).

God sees the eldership as a collection of men who serve, not only as shepherds, but as overseers. I guess what I'm saying is this, nothing can be more spiritual than the oversight of the church when it is done to serve Jesus Christ and imitate him.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. My “young-buck” buddy, Keith Hayes, loaned me his book on Josh Hamilton, which I have just finished. The book is called BEYOND BELIEF and it is a terrific read if you are a baseball fan, or if you are a fan of redemption.
From the book, I told the story Sunday of when Hamilton was in a bad way. You may remember that he had been Major League Baseball's number one draft choice back in 1999. He gave in to a life of drug and alcohol addiction, and was so torn up by his addictions that he had no place to turn but to his grandmother. She took him in, but he was still hurting. The lowest point was one night when he went into her bedroom and begged her to let him sleep in her bed -- just like a little child.
Shortly thereafter, he writes, he finally went to God in surrender. He gave God his broken life. Like the master potter, God has brought beautiful pottery from re-formed clay. Last year, Hamilton became a folk hero in the MLB Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Hamilton speaks often to drug addicts, young people, and church groups, including at the ballpark, after baseball games. Quite a story.

2. This week, I saw one of the great movie rip-offs of all time. The movie was called MARLEY AND ME. It should have been called JACK AND ME, because it was the story of my relationship with our yellow lab, Jack. I plan on suing the makers of this movie. If I win, I plan to change the name of my future autobiography. Instead of calling it MARK EDGE: THE STORY A POOR AND HUMBLE MAN, I will call it MONEY AND ME.

3. Last week I started to write about the racial incident involving Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley. I held off because it seemed so difficult to sort through. I am pleased that Pres. Obama has invited the two to the White House.

Warning: I am one of those who believe in giving an elected official respect, regardless of whether or not one voted for him or her. I have tried to live my life that way. President Obama, Lord willing, will be our president for the next four years. Then we will have the opportunity to reevaluate. Until then, as with all of our other elected officials, we need to work together as best we can to see what we can accomplish for the good.

With that in mind, I see President Obama as a tremendous instrument to help to defuse racial tension in the United States, and to bring about more racial reconciliation. I hope this week's meeting between the three will make progress toward that objective.

One humorous item about this week's meeting. Larry Gilmore, of THE COMEDY CHANNEL’S THE DAILY SHOW had a great line about Gates, Crowley, and the president sharing a beer together—"Booze isn't how you resolve a racial incident, it's how you start one!"

4. Thank you, John Hill, for bringing your potter’s wheel all the way from Greenville, TX. People are still talking about the way you illustrated Jeremiah 18 during the A.M. sermon, I have even had a couple of folks who want to know if they can buy the works that they saw you make! You and your wife are true servants.

5. Congratulations and thanks to all of those who made the Shiloh Road VBS a remarkable success. May I indulge in a little parental pride? Well done, Abby Edge. By all accounts, you responded to an emergency call and portrayed well the woman who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.
Have a great weekend!