Well before I wrote The Kingdom Focused Church book, and became senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, and even until this day, I have yet to meet a pastor, parent, or a leader who does not have dreams.  Dreams for churches, families, organizations are common.  In fact dreams reflect the optimism of our lives, callings, and tasks.  We are eager to see things improve, change, and strengthen so we dream about the day our church is… or our children… or our company reaches its goals of….

Dreams are fueled by a combination of imagination, desire, optimism, and a sense of what is fulfilling.  They are the stuff that motivates our hard work and often when realized are compensation enough to satisfy our souls.  Dreams have been the key ingredient for men and women to attempt impossible things bringing those imagined thoughts into a living reality.  Dreams keep people going through difficult seasons and give others determination not to fail.

Are Dreams Enough?

Despite the power and effects of our dreams, however, they are not enough.  Most everyone has dreams and most of those dreams go unrealized because substance is lacking for our thoughts to be turned into reality.  It is a leader’s role to take big ideas and turn them into reality.  This is the hard work  of leadership but is crucial if anything is going to be accomplished.  Leaders remove words like “ought”, “should” and “might” from their discussions replacing them with “will”, “must”, and “can”.  Dreams that are accomplished require a clear vision, a definite process, clear decision-making, timely measurements, and constant evaluation.

A vision differs from a dream in that it is a clear articulation of an achievable future.  When a dream is shared often the dreamer has difficulty explaining or convincing another person of its merit and nature.  When a vision is shared a leader is able to clearly articulate what the “big idea” is and how it is to be transformed into reality.  If you cannot explain your vision in a few sentences and a short time then you probably don’t have one.

Are Visions Enough?

Visions produce the hard stuff of transformation.  Transformation of an idea includes an accurate assessment of the current environment or state of the organization followed by the strategic intentions that are to be implemented to realize the vision.  Also, an accurate understanding of the current organization, an evaluation of the people currently employed, the culture of the organization and finally the work that has to be done to be successful is essential.  Then the vision must be tested in the light of perceived forces that will both help and prevent the organization to be successful.

This is a common process for those who operate their lives and organizations by clear visions.  In reality, however, most leaders never do the hard work required to see dreams realized.  I think one reason is because leaders are generally not trained in the processes of visioning and planning.  In addition, they did not know where to go for the resources required to be successful.

There Is Help – And it is Simple!

I am aware of many helpful resources but frankly most of them are out of reach in costs, too complex, or hard to use.  One resource that I can recommend that is available, easy to use, and is supported by competent professionals is Seen and Sustained, of Brandbuilder Publications and The Virginia Baptist State Convention, Inc. (VBSC).  Seen and Sustained is a workbook co – authored by Dr. Leonard N. Smith, VBSC President and Senior Minister of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Arlington, VA and Akia Garnett, VBSC Communication Officer and President and CEO of Brandbuilder. It is an effective tool based on the concept of continuous improvement rather than crisis management which allows a leader to work with his/her leaders to move from vision to reality. Churches and non-profits can expect excellent results when using this product.

Scripture says that “without a vision the people perish.”  The reason people perish and are scattered is that their dreams die never fulfilled.  If you are a leader move your dreams into the reality of a vision which motivates you to the actions necessary to be successful.


Ashamed?

09Oct10

I have recently read or heard several believers state that they are ashamed to be called or referred to as “Christians.”  The claim is usually made that Christians are so vilified in culture that the term is actually harmful to our witness and work.

Most of the time those who make these statements have good reason for concern and they often make their points with heartfelt passion.  They refer to churches that are filled with believers who lack true belief, authentic lives, and display only marginal commitments.  In addition, they point out that many persons stumble over the claims of Christ and never give an ear to actually hearing the gospel because of these professing Christians.

In their concern for the kingdom, these pundits give the usual statistics about how many persons in the United States are “spiritual” but not religious and how many current believers are willing to “do” church without ever attending a church.  What typically follows are calls for church discipline, changing church structures, planting house churches, planting relevant churches, and doing ministries in effective ways.

I agree most of the time with the concerns and I can see value in most of the suggestions on how we might reach our culture in more effective ways.  To these concerns and suggestions I might add a few of my own.  When I search scripture for answers for today I am encouraged that these trends are not new and the problems we face have already been recognized with solid answers provided.  A few observations:

1.  Stay with scripture.  Many are involved in researching the problems, identifying trends, criticizing current congregations,believers, and offering solutions.  Unfortunately for some, scripture is only quoted not followed.  We make serious mistakes if we think that analyzing trends and changing methods will change the world.  It never has unless solutions come from scripture and are put in contemporary contexts.

2.  Stop blaming everyone else.  If you have answer, share it.  If you don’t, seek one.  If you can’t then be quiet.  Trends, surveys, research and cultural solutions are only that.  Also, invite those who have been in the fight for a while to join the dialogue.  Describing the problem is not finding the solution.  If you think your data is correct, shouldn’t all believers and congregations be served with it.  New is not always better when its just new.

3.  Try to gain some perspective about why things are the way they are right now.  This just did not happen overnight.  Be aware of what happened in the 70’s and 80’s when similar concerns were addressed.  We are going to need new understandings but we have to understand them in a larger context that the last fifteen years.  There are some people who have been at this a while with keen insights that might be helpful.

4.  Give solutions that are helpful to pastors and congregations.  If you do not help the Body of Christ you are wasting time.  Deliver the information and solutions to those who are in the trenches with all ages not just one segment.  We must have a kingdom view that includes everyone.

5.  Remember that all our problems are spiritual and thus have spiritual solutions.  Knowing the times, understanding salvation history, trusting the Bible, following the Spirit’s leading, and exalting Christ is always the foundation.  There is no power on earth that can overcome righteousness, purity, and the power of God that transforms our lives and the lives of those we encounter as Salt and Light.

6. Make sure your own life is transparent and authentic.  Hiding behind the problems of others is not the same as honestly finding solutions to those problems.  There are many researchers, critics, new voices, and dreamers today with some great insights and ideas.  But in the end, those who count are those who do something.

I pastor a local church that deals with a multitude of issues with the people we have and those we reach.  We have a culture we live in, a context we serve in and a future we move toward with the confidence that God will allow us to enjoy our work and fulfill our mission.

God is at work to bring history to its proper end with Christ as Lord and His saints serving Him forever.


A  Judge in California recently ruled that the State’s Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. In his ruling the judge opined that the majority of voters in California who voted for the measure did so out of an irrational bias toward homosexuals because of “unscientific” and “religious” views.  The Judge also noted that the law was unconstitutional because it denied equal protection for homosexuals who choose to marry as well as due process of law.

I do not read many legal opinions but the profile of this one was interesting so I read it-all 136 pages.  In it the judge’s biases are clearly identified.  In his view the plaintiffs were clearly the experts on marriage parading a bevy of expert witnesses who gave sound, rational, scientific, and legal testimony while the defendants were dull traditional moralists and  fearful souls making irrational and illegal arguments in favor of their position.  The judge concluded that evidence showed those in California who voted for Proposition 8 were people whose moral and religious views formed a belief that led them to conclude that “same-sex marriages are different from opposite-sex marriages”. And, this does not provide a “rational basis” for supporting such a belief.

In other words if you have a moral or religious view about anything to do with this issue you are not rational and  rationality is the only basis for determining anything legal.  He also says that Californians that voted for this Proposition have a private prejudice that makes them feel superior to homosexuals who want to marry.  In the end he agreed with the Plaintiffs who contend that:

1.  Marriage and marriage laws have changed over time.

2. Marriage serves many and more purposes than procreation.

3.  Same-sex marriages will have little or no effect on opposite-sex marriages.

4. Banning same-sex marriages was done by a majority whose private, moral, and/or religious views punished an unpopular majority.

I suppose that his ruling has to put our nation on notice because in the U.S. code marriage and spouse are defined in all laws as: “…the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” (Title 1.7)

There are more issues related in this opinion but these seem to me to be the significant ones.  So with the Judge’s opinions in hand I have a few questions for the future regarding marriage.

1.  What is the meaning of “marriage” from now on.  If this ruling is upheld then marriage as an institution or even a word will change forever.  If same-sex marriage is to be based on “rationality” then is it safe to assume that one day a person will be free to marry his/her pet?  How about two men and three women?  How about a woman and her son or another close relative?  I don’t think I’m being moral or religious to wonder if marriage will have any meaning in the future thanks to a judge who thinks he is “rational.”

2.  If the definition of marriage changes or simply goes away then what about the words “husband”, “wife”, or “family.”  If those terms can mean anything then they eventually mean nothing.  They might become as significant as “uh” or “huh.”  I don’t think my questions are moral or religious but rational.

The Judge has determined by his own “rational” authority that marriage is in no way to be governed by moral or religious views so that means marriage is only what someone determines it is.  In the end it is a choice governed by the reasoning of those who seek it.  Those arguing for the repeal of the California law define marriage as simply a choice of a couple who make a commitment to remain with one another and join economically to support one another in material needs.  But “rationally” this seems to be only one view and may limit another persons right for equal protection and due process if they choose for example to marry their goat, their three best friends or their favorite aunt.

I hope higher courts see the bias of this judge’s ruling and the danger he has set in motion.  If he is upheld then a cornerstone of our nation will have eroded.  Children and women will find less protection and more abuse and neglect.  Public discussion of marriage will evaporate to a meaningless political/legal war of words.

I will admit that I do not know all the legal implications of this ruling nor have I given opinions on all that is in the judge’s document.  I have no desire to see anyone discriminated against or denied rights provided by our Constitution.  But some relationships do not qualify for marriage traditionally, morally, religiously, or rationally. The judge is wrong in this one.  If we are fortunate he will be reversed and our nation will be stronger for it.


We just finished Vacation Bible School this week at my church with a record number of children and workers.  I am always amazed at the power of commitments that turn out the most interesting responses.  On any give day last week there were parents who committed to get their children to VBS on time and ready for whatever awaited them.  There were workers who came ready to teach, lead, help, nurture, and do anything that they were asked to do for the children.  There were the children who nearly always “get it” on the first day who committed to learn songs, bible verses, stay in line, and move when told.

The power of these commitments go beyond the ordinary however.  Some parents bring their children with the hope that they might have a good day, or that they might forget the pressures they face daily at home.  Some of the children are at risk of not having enough to eat or ever having much hope that their lives may improve.  But a Mom or Dad gets up and commits to bring a son or daughter with the hope that something will bring a change in fortune or future.

Some workers come each day with commitments that overcome their battles against cancer, old age, job loss, and many other private struggles and disappointments.  Most come, however, with a commitment to something beyond themselves as they give their time and energies to work with the children.

The children come with commitments to experience and learn despite many issues which they face daily.  Some have physical and mental challenges, yet they come.  Some have personal and family issues, yet they come.  Some are shy, some are energetic, some are reluctant and some are ready for anything; but they come.  They come the first day not quite sure of what is happening and leave the last day singing songs and doing body motions they have learned.

As I watched the children leave Friday with cowboy hats and VBS shirts  holding five day’s work in their small hands, I understood again the power of commitments.  Committed persons, large and small, young and old, strong and weak make a great difference for themselves and those they serve.  Commitment placed in the right things moves the world toward the places it should be changing lives for the better and leaving legacies to remember and follow.

What are your commitments?  What will they accomplish?  Who will benefit from them?  Commitments can overcome our heartaches, weaknesses and struggles and turn our lives into powerful forces of change and good.  Find something worth a commitment and pour you life into it; even if it’s for just one week at a time.

Gene Mims


To me, life can often be compared to putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  With the picture of the puzzle in view, the pieces can be put together successfully.  With only the pieces however, it is nearly impossible to make sense of the picture and frustrating to attempt to complete the puzzle.

It is not hard to lose dreams, speculations, and pursuits in the crush of ordinary living.  Most of us have to deal daily with questions, answers, and activities surrounding our money, family, health, work, and if we have time, dreams.  Living life at the pace we seem to be resigned to, it is easy to lose sight of the overall meaning of life.

The Questions

For centuries we have asked the same important questions about life and living, namely:

  • Who am I?
  • What is the meaning of my life?
  • Where am I going?
  • Does what I do really matter?

The answers we get to the above questions depend upon where we start.  If you start with the pieces of your life then you are bound to get more questions.  Focusing on money, family, health, work, and personal dreams can lead us to spend time and energy on things that are important but may have little impact on who we really are and our significance.

The Picture

In truth we are gifted with eternal not temporal qualities.  We are made in God’s image and given significance because we have living souls.  The pieces of life do not satisfy the soul’s appetites but the picture does.  The fact that we are eternal beings on our way to forever changes our understandings about the pieces of life.  We are free to live as stewards of this life and not bound to the narrow focus of selfishness.  Knowing that eternity is ours means that we can relax in this life when asking the “big” questions.  We can focus on the long road ahead and not the immediate sharp turns and detours that we often encounter.

The Gift

God has given us eternity and with it comes the joy of living in the good, enduring the bad, and benefiting for both as He directs us to and builds us for that which lasts forever.  This means that we are able to understand money, family, health, work, and dreams as temporary and limited, yet important in the long run of eternity.  Live today like you are going to live forever.  It will help you focus your life on the picture and not the pieces.


My family and I have lived in Nashville for nearly twenty years and the events of the last week have once again convinced me that we are fortunate to live in this city and metropolitan area.  The devastating flooding that ruined the homes and threatened the lives of so many people in our area and state have in fact shown the character and spirit of our citizens.

In any crisis the character of individuals is displayed and developed and our crisis is no different.  The acts of kindness and heroism displayed to and among the people of this area have been nothing short of astounding. We have had the best of leadership from our Governor, Mayor, Senators, Representatives and the people who work for them.  At no time did our leaders show fear or place blame as they went about their work to rescue and restore the people they serve.  We may have been ignored by national media and the President but the leaders who live here have led us in remarkable ways.

Each day I find more and more reasons for optimism knowing that all that can be done is being done from government, businesses, corporations, churches, synagogues and temples.  Most of all, however, I find strength from the selfless people who walk up and down destroyed areas offering helping hands, money, comfort, food and water.

I am pleased to be a resident in this city and pleased to live in a place where differences of opinion, faiths, philosophies and backgrounds have been easily set aside to help suffering people recover from their losses.

Gene Mims


We were having a conversation at church recently about the many options believers have in choosing a church.  Just a few years ago we could talk about traditional churches or contemporary churches but now the lines are blurred and the options have greatly multiplied.

On the surface this might seem like a believer’s dream-unlimited choices that one might choose from in order to find a perfect fit for himself or a couple or a family.  I have had serious conversations with folks that have recently come our way and what I find is just the opposite.

Choices, Options, and Needs

Many people tell us that the number of choices and options are almost too much to handle.  What they define as needs in their lives and for their families are almost never addressed by the churches that they visit.  In a recent month I noted from conversations from our newer members the following observations:

1.  Most people looking for a church to attend assume that worship services will be well done including good preaching and music.

2. Most people looking for a church to attend assume that child care and children’s ministry will be quality, safe, and the facilities will be clean.

3.  Most people looking for a church to attend assume that the congregation and especially the pastor is grounded in scripture.

Having said the above what has been most surprising are the following observations:

1.  Visitors are not greeted in most churches (no matter their size and reputation) and people are generally confused by this.

2. Many of our newer folks report to me that their children did not have a positive experience the churches they visited even when they visited multiple times.  It seems that many felt like their children were treated like additional burdens instead of welcome visitors.

3. The majority of churches made no contact with the individual or family following the visit.  No calls, visits, cards, or emails.

4.  The lack of biblical preaching was a major disappointment.  Many pastors read a text of scripture, put their Bible aside and never referred to it again.

5.  They could not determine what the church was doing in ministry, missions, evangelism or discipleship.  There were no printed materials or information available.

A Caution To Everyone

When I hear comments like these, I want to make sure my church never makes these mistakes.  I know we can all let people come and go without engaging them but we have to make the effort to greet them and engage them if they will allow us.  I am amazed at how much conversation goes on in church and denominational life fueled by the latest topics of interest to the latest experts.  We hear words like “missional” and “transformational” used in discussions about denominational renewal, church planting, and discipleship.  As interesting as such topics are, people who are lost, unchurched, between churches, are real persons who have real needs that real people can meet.  Our categorizing them notwithstanding, they are hurting, seeking, and hopeful individuals that we have great opportunities to help.

Instead of wondering about their categories and adding fresh words to our church lexicons ,what about a focus on a few basics?

The Basics

1. People like to be greeted.  Wow!  How about that for a change.  Greet folks by giving your name, asking theirs, showing genuine interest and excitement about their coming to your place.  Help them find answers to their questions and concerns.

2. Change whatever you have to in your ministry to reach out to persons and when they visit make sure they feel good about coming, especially when you minister to their children.

3. If someone visits you make sure you attempt to contact them as soon as possible.  Call them or email them but do something to let them know you were glad they showed some interest in your ministry.

4. Preach the Bible!  Do it your way but don’t give in to phony series that sound like something Dr. Phil came up with.  People actually expect to hear scripture preached when they visit churches.  They are not put off by it like many believe they are.  You can do it your way in any context you like but do it.

5. If you know what God is leading you to do then publish it to your folks and give it to your visitors.  They want to know what you stand for, what you are attempting and how you are going about it.

Finally

I think we make church harder on the front end than it has to be.  We live in a post-christian world that easily breeds a christian consumerism that is difficult to address.  No one denies the challenges of evangelism, discipleship and worship today.  But without a genuine interest in people and a clear purpose for our churches the tasks we have only prove more difficult.


I known I am not always aware of what is what, but….why do greeters and seating captains at empty restaurants have a hard time determining where to seat you when you come in?  We often eat dinner early and most often the restaurants are empty but we stand there watching a sixteen year old person pour over the seating chart like it is a physics test.  How hard is it to seat someone?

Rules

As I have pondered this I have come to feel such persons have obviously been schooled by management to put certain persons in certain places with certain servers.  It seems too complicated but I know that behind all the deliberation there are rules.  Someone has software in a computer somewhere that directs management to balance out the seating so that maximum profit is achieved with minimum risk and effort.  In the meantime I stand waiting in amazement that a table cannot easily be had.  All I want to do it eat and enjoy the company of my wife, family and/or friends.

Focus

This reminds me to remember in my own life and work to focus on the reason I do what I do.  There are many good things and important things to do, learn, and observe while trying to be effecient and effective but nothing is more important than the reason you do what you do.  Serve food, sleep people, sell gasoline, raise children or build churches; it makes no difference.  Find out what most important to the people you help, focus primarily on that and then get to the other stuff.  For me-I just want to be seated.


I have read a number of comments recently by people who claim to be atheists.  Their claim is certainly not a new one.  In fact for me, it is a worn-out one.  I began thinking about those who claim to be atheists and my mind kept coming back to one question.  Why do atheists always talk about God?

Listen to an atheist or read one and you will notice that they always talk about God, believers, churches, theology, faith, etc.  To me this is remarkable.  So remarkable that I have give some thought to such a paradox.

Unicorns

Stay with me for a moment and I think I can give you a better understanding to my perplexity concerning atheists.  You see I do not believe in unicorns.  You may and that is surely your right, but I don’t.  They are cute in cartoons, movies, and comic books, but I must confess that I don’t believe in them.  So what’s the point.  The point is that since I don’t believe in unicorns I don’t give them much thought.  I don’t write about them or speak about them.  I don’t go to conferences on how to stop people from believing in them.  I do not fund legal societies to stop people from being able to talk about unicorns in schools and public places.  I  don’t worry if people celebrate holidays dedicated to unicorns.  For me they don’t exist.

Give It Up

To all bent-out-of-shape atheists I say simply, GIVE IT UP! Find something else to worry about like global warming, Republicans, education, war, and rain forest destruction.  Let those who believe in God alone.  If He doesn’t exist then why all the worry and concern?  If He does exist then you don’t care anyway.  He won’t bother you.  Try not to be bothered by what you don’t believe in and work on what you do know. The more you talk about God the more likely it is that those who may share your position might begin to doubt it and actually search for Him and find Him.

A Truce

I suggest a truce.  If you will not worry about those of us who do believe in God, then I promise not to begin a campaign against all those who continue to believe in unicorns.


When Congress passed the “Stimulus Package” last week it exceeded in real dollars the amount that Franklin Roosevelt spent on the New Deal in the 30’s.  That is quite an accomplishment considering that most of those who voted either for or against it never read it.  Never read it!

History Reversed

It seems to me that our founding fathers risked their wealth for a legacy that continues to benefit us today.  Our current national leadership has sacrificed a legacy for temporary wealth.  One generation was willing to lost properity for posterity while another sacrifices posterity for a hopeful prosperity.  Two generations from now will pay for this.  Presently we wait to see if such reckless spending will create anything but debt and more chaos.

Dangerous Government

Someone said many years ago that a government which gives you everything you want will eventually take everything you have.  Somehow those words seem ominously on target today.