Archives For Mark Pierce

Easter SermonToday I sit down to write my Easter sermon. My parishioners may be surprised to know that this sermon is one of the hardest to write. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? How do I keep it fresh and engaging? When I finally get over these concerns and start writing, I’m immediately slammed with another issue – how can I say everything that needs to be said and still keep my sermon down to the time I have to talk?

Here is what I remind myself each time I write the Easter message for my congregation.

Each year is different. The idea that I cannot write anything new or different is a fallacy of my limited imagination. The truth is each year is different. My audience is different. There will be people sitting in our pews that have never heard an Easter message in my church before. Even those lifetime members with perfect attendance haven’t heard the Easter sermon for at least 52 weeks. Most importantly I am different.

I am in a unique place in my Christian journey. This year I will reflect on the resurrection story differently than…

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My baby daughter, a beautiful and fashionable 23-year-old, introduced me to a new (to me) verb this year: “thrifting.” She loves to “go thrifting.” By this she means going to thrift stores and second-hand clothing stores to find treasures. Now I too love to go thrifting. The other day I found a beautiful sport coat that fit me as if it were made just for me. Not only did it fit perfectly, but it was made of the finest wool and was a beautiful blue pattern that I had not seen in any other store. In short, it was a treasure. The price? $4.99.

This got me to think about my church, Church Requel, and the job that we pastors, I believe, are called to do. One of our most important jobs as leaders of local churches is to go thrifting for people: to find value in people that they and others don’t see. After all, this is what God Himself does.  He sees the value in us that even we don’t see or that we…

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Almost 30 years ago Mary Kay and I heard Zig Ziglar tell the story of the woman who hated her job. She came to Zig to complain about all her troubles with her employer. Zig asked if there was anything she liked about her job. She said, “I don’t like anything about it.” He asked if they paid her or if she did it for free. She admitted they not only paid her, but paid her a little better than average. Over the course of 10 minutes – with Zig’s help – she found 22 different things she liked about her job. Newly aware of her reasons for liking her job, she discovered that some of the people around her seemed to change for the better!

That story has always stuck with me. My attitude about my work is so critically important. And if I may say so, this is even more critically important for the job of pastor!  Almost a year ago Lifeway Research

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I make my bed in the morning. I eat breakfast. I color coordinate my clothes closet. And yes, I write my sermons three to four weeks in advance. I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I was raised to believe that if I would be tough on myself, then the world wouldn’t be so tough on me. I’m most grateful for parents who taught me to value discipline.

Lately though, I’ve come to realize certain downsides to what I affectionately name as disciplines and what others might better describe as my perfectionistic tendencies. I have particularly noticed these downsides when I think about some of my personal pastor friends. I meet regularly with some guys who are off the charts in the opposite direction. To suggest that they are not organized is to do serious damage to the term “organized.” (I don’t even want to think about what their beds look like!)

Here’s the thing. They have fantastic ministries! They are reaching men, women and children for Christ. Despite their disorganized, scatter-brained outward appearances, they are incredibly effective. They have solid relationships. When I’m out to breakfast or lunch…

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I met with our leadership team last evening.  For several weeks I’ve struggled with a potential shift in direction.  In my prayer life I have experienced God’s leading, His gentle nudging of my soul as I’ve watched Him work in our small church.  How should I respond?  What direction should I go?

Normally my leadership style is that once I believe I know where God is leading me, I take the goals and plans to our leadership team for their confirmation.  I try to do as much of the work in advance as I can, thinking through problems and coming up with solutions.  However this time I not only felt God’s urging to consider the opportunity, I also experienced His check to trust my leadership team to help me through the planning stage.

So I wrote down as much of my thinking as I could along with different alternatives and emailed the whole package out ahead of time to my leadership team.  I asked them to read and pray about what I wrote.  I asked them to come to the meeting with input and suggestions.  They…

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I’m in the middle of delivering my sermon from my shiny new iPad. I’m focused on making the point and communicating God’s truth from His Word to His people. Then my preaching device sings a loud “ding!” Up pops a notification badge: “Want to get away from it all? Cruises for as low as $399!” It took every ounce of self-control not to break out laughing. The funniest part was watching some of my older parishioners looking around to see which kid in the congregation was playing a game. I never told them the kid was me.

For the past 15 months I’ve been preaching from my first-generation iPad. It truly has been a gift from God, a tool that helps me be even more effective as a communicator. I use my iPad rather than paper notes for 3 reasons. First, it saves me time and money. Connecting the word processor from my laptop to my iPad through iCloud means no more printing and cutting. Second, it provides me the opportunity to make last minute edits right on my iPad.

Third, and this is the most important reason, it gives my parishioners permission…

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Recently I worshipped with my friends, Roc and Kim. Attending another church with friends is a rare and welcomed opportunity for this pastor. I tried to leave my pastor’s hat behind. I really did. I wanted to worship, not analyze.

The first thing I saw, however, when entering this large, 3,000-member church, was a young woman running down the hallway. She wore the name tag of officialness and was focused on the urgent problem of elsewhere as she rushed by. I don’t know exactly what was going on, but I completely understood her general situation. She was working where I was worshipping.

The problem. I have been where that woman was so many times. People forget that their church happens to also be where I work. I’m sure they might also be hurried and hassled sometimes at their place of employment. What would their face look like when I walked into their workplace? What would their pace be like as I casually strolled by? The problem of church goers and workers mixing is not a problem of the worshiper forgetting that this is where I work. It IS…

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Like many of you I have been watching and enjoying this quadrennial sporting event.  We’re glued to the tube, not only because there are few other good TV options, but also because there is something about the Olympic spirit that also touches our spirits.  Watching the world’s top athletes at the top of their form encourages each one of us to be “the best me I can be.”  This year, instead of just dreaming about your physical potential, consider these 4 spiritual questions as well.

How is my team participation?  My favorite Olympic events are the ones that are played together. No matter how great the individual effort, the team depends on the ability of the individuals to play well together. God did not intend for us to live individual spiritual lives either.  He gave us the church not only so that we might worship together, but also that we might do life together!  The Bible describes the church as a body: “Together you form the body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part of it.”  Ask yourself: “Am I living my spiritual…

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CalendarIt’s Tuesday morning early in July. I sit down at my laptop computer and begin planning for the next worship experience at Church Requel. I’m not working on next weekend, five days away. I’m working on August 5th – almost a month away!

Such working ahead does not come naturally to me. In college I was the guy who could type (yes, we used a typewriter back then) his paper the night before. As the pastor of a small church I used to get my week’s work done “just in time”. From many conversations with lots of my pastor friends, I know many of you are also working frantically at the last minute to finish everything for the coming Sunday.

Now that I’m working a month out, I never intend to go back to those pressure-filled days. Here’s 6 reasons why working well in advance of deadlines works so well for me.

#1 – My work is better. Instead of one crack at the sermon, I now have approximately a dozen opportunities to rewrite, rethink, and polish my work. When I do the artwork for the slides, I’m thinking about the sermon….

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My health is largely a factor for which I’m responsible. In this post I’d like to consider my personal health care reform: the difference between realization and actualization.

Realizing my health is my responsibility. It’s no secret that health issues are different after age 50 than before. It is remarkable, however, just how easy it is for me to keep my head in the sand. For half a century I lived a health care-free life, where the consequences of my habits were not serious. I could eat and easily work off the excess calories. Exercise was more or less a take it or leave it, do-it-when-I-feel-like-it ocassion. I could gain weight and then lose it quickly.

Now at age 55, the free ride is over. Everything I do has consequences for my health. That’s the first half of realization. But there’s more. I am not without choices and opportunities. I can take daily steps to hold on to or get back to good health and to make the most of the rest of my life.

Regardless of how , my future health – or lack…

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Hatfield McCoyThe History Channel attracted almost 14 million people  to “Hatfields & McCoys” on Memorial Day.  This realistic retelling of the greatest family feud in history set an all-time record for basic cable.

What is about this story that attracted so many viewers?  The historic accuracy of the story? The exceptional writing? Kevin Costner?

Nancy Dubac, president of The History Channel as well as executive producer of Hatfields & McCoys believes the attraction goes even deeper.  “One of the things that was overwhelming when I first read the script was that there wasn’t a good guy and a bad guy,” she says. “The nuances are fascinating.”

I agree with Ms. Dubac.  The show is not about black and white, good guys or bad guys.  At the end of the 6-hour miniseries I was left with the haunting conclusion that they’re all bad guys… and maybe there’s something in the DNA of Hatfields and McCoys that’s in my own DNA as well.

Here are 5 ways to know…

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Mad MenThe opening title sequence to the wildly popular Mad Men television drama shows a silhouetted businessman falling from the heights of the 1960s New York City skyscrapers.  The man free falls for twenty seconds while the iconic, half-century old advertisements and slogans display behind him. The viewer never sees the man crash onto the sidewalk. Rather one senses a fall that never ends.  In the midst of success and wealth all around him, the man has nothing to keep him from sinking lower and still lower.

The Mad Men fan would know the silhouetted businessman as the show’s protagonist, Donald Draper. He is the creative director responsible for many of the ad campaigns that define 1960s America.  The newcomer to this drama would be excused for believing this television show to be about the highs and lows of Madison Avenue.  The advertising world of New York’s past, however, is only the canvas upon which Producer Matthew Weiner tells his stories of the ever-falling Draper.

The opening sequence of the falling man, according to TV Guide, is ranked 9th ALL TIME for television show openers. What is it about this Vertigo-like…

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