Ponder the Common “Musca Domestica Linnaeus”



“Ponder, for a few moments, the humble housefly.

Well, first of all, “Musca domestica Linnaeus,” the common house fly, maddeningly common, is anything but humble. Unbidden and with no introduction at all, it will enter your home, light on your person, fly up your nose, or into your ear.

I was preaching last Sunday when, yea, verily, in my pulpit, a fly tried to light in my eye. It could have been worse. The act of preaching requires an open mouth, and the creature could have easily flown kamikaze-style right down my gullet. I’ve heard of such, even with a Scripture reference: “He was a stranger, and I took him in.”

I despise flies. The little pests “originated on the steppes of central Asia” (Wikipedia), but are now found—no surprise—pretty much everywhere that’s not frozen year-round.

Hard to imagine what a fly “knows,” but the little winged pests in my locale are quite aware that cold weather will soon spell their demise. Open a door for two seconds, and you’ll invite in four flies. Prop open a door—say, a church door—for any reason for very long and, I promise you, someone will be fighting flies all week. And these flies, at this time of year, are especially “sticky,” “clingy,” and as annoying as, say, two 2016 un-presidential presidential candidates.

I refuse to live with them. The moment I hear the infernal buzzing of even one of the little, uh, blighters, in my home or office, I’ll stop almost anything I’m doing and go on the hunt because I know there will be no peace until one of us is dead.

By the way, this is free: Flies “take off” backwards. If you’re aiming at one, aim a few fly-lengths behind him. (It pays to know the ways of your enemy.)

I’ve never known anyone to look at a close-up photo of one of these little beasts and feel warm and fuzzy. They’re disgusting creatures with filthy habits. They richly deserve to be swatted, squashed, spray-poisoned, systematically eliminated, and yet . . .

Why God created them, I’ll never know. But that said, how many decades of decades, if ever, would it take a gaggle of scientists and nanotech engineers to build anything even close to a fully functional and realistically annoying robotic fly? (Imagine what the NSA or CIA could do with a fleet of such. On second thought . . .)

We can go to the moon (well, in the past we could; now we’re reduced to hitching rides into space with the Russians). But building a functional fly-sized fly would be way more elusive than a modern moon-shot.

All of God’s creatures are amazing. Even the bacteria hitching rides on the feet and backsides of a flying fly. (I still wonder why we call flies flies and don’t call roaches “crawls.”)

As we ponder God’s creation, even the incredibly annoying common house fly should make us feel suitably small and lead to some much-needed humility.

But swat away! God’s got plenty of the amazing, disgusting little pests. It would be a blessing if they were much less common.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“Would You Speak About ‘Ministry Today’?”



“Would you be willing to speak briefly to my seminary students?”

In the weeks since one of my best friends and most capable colleagues made that request of me, along with eight or nine other ministers, a fine group whose quality I can only dilute, I’ve been pondering what to say about “Ministry Today.”

The first challenge is relatively minor. He said “brief.”

The second is that my only real qualification to give such a speech is that I feel incredibly unqualified to give such speech. That, by the way, will be one point: Never trust any minister who claims to know all about “doing” ministry.

I’m pretty sure that my task is more than simply to mention how many pastors in “ministry today” need anti-anxiety medication. I doubt my friend wants me just to discuss various pharmaceutical options.

One major point might be that ministry today brings with it some challenges somewhat unique, but that in most ways ministry today is hard because real ministry has always been hard on any day.

Still, as is historically true, prosperity brings challenges more threatening to deep faith than hard times and persecution ever bring. We “swim in a sea of selfishness.” The consumer religion approach—“Have It Your Way,” looking for the best value in “religious goods and services”—which fits our culture like a glove rather than transforming it, is as deadly as it is tempting.

To the ministry students, I will probably say, you need to ponder often and deeply what real “success” in God’s kingdom looks like. The church needs pastors, not religious rock stars. It is very difficult to be a real pastor to a flock so large that you don’t know the faces and names of the sheep. A large church can be a great blessing, but so can a small one. And let’s be honest: Most large churches in our land aren’t large because they’re good at bringing unbelievers to Christ; they’re large predominantly because they’re good at making small churches smaller.

I’ll probably also (ironically, I’m afraid) tell the students to guard their hearts against cynicism.

I’ll warn them against the idea propounded by church growth seminars that most churches are just one amazing program or one big change away from explosive growth, an idea that invariably produces explosions and hurts most the very sheep who least deserve the wounds.

I’ll tell them to look at Moses and his faithful leadership. I’ll also tell them to think about, pray about, and take steps to avoid,  the mistake even Moses made by allowing weariness and frustration to lead him to “strike the rock” (Numbers 20). It’s every tired pastor’s temptation.

I’ll tell them, don’t forget whose kingdom it is you’re giving your life to help build. (Clue: It’s not yours.)

I’ll urge them, love the Lord. Love the flock, real people with real faces, joys, and sorrows. Never dishonor them and demean your calling by using them to feed your ego, as if they are simply a stepping stone on your career path. Remember that these are God’s people whom you’re privileged and called to walk beside as you make this journey together, learning each day to live in faith, in grace, following the Lord.



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

A Fool-proof Formula for Everything? No Fooling?



American magic.

It’s a funny term, particularly when spoken by missionaries who deal with witch doctor types and superstitions regularly. You just don’t expect them to look back across the Pond, smile, shake their heads indulgently, and say, “Yep, that’s American magic.”

You see, magic, at its heart, has to do with manipulation. You get the formula right— eye of newt, tongue of frog, liver of lobster—and out pops a potion-produced prince or hex or whatever.

American magic? It’s the idea that there’s a fool-proof formula for everything. There’s not. And we’re fools if we think so.

The hard truth for sinners like us, and like everybody else, is that we’ll never get life right. Deal with it. Actually, God already has, and we’re not God—which is quite a load off. God absolutely will not allow us to file Christianity in the Self-help Section of life.

But American magic, peddled by folks who may wear business suits but still bear a serious family resemblance to their brothers across the ocean dressing for shaman success in loin cloths, says that if you just work hard enough, long enough, and, with exactly the right formula, you can’t help but “succeed.” Add on to the garage and order your Ferrari!

Want to build a mega-business, a mega-church, a mega-life? Somebody will sell you a formula. If it doesn’t work, you just didn’t cook it right.

Want to live almost forever right here—or maybe five minutes longer than folks who ignore a good many health rules but in the dastardly unfairness of life chose parents with better genetics than yours? We’ve got non-transfat, non-caffeine, non-gluten, non-[pick any three letters of the alphabet], non-taste formulas for that, and we’re busily commissioning food police to help us make food choices that masquerade almost as “moral” choices.

Couple the right number of sets and reps and rounds with the other gerbils on the treadmills, the right vitamins, and an amazingly dreary preoccupation with abs and gluts, and off you go to live long, healthy, thin, annoying lives.

Well, maybe. (I admit that even the Apostle Paul said that “bodily exercise” has at least a little value.) But life is unfair. Even American magic fails. The economy tanks. We pick one of two appalling candidates for president. Merger mania mangles your company. One microbe or cancer cell cancels out a lifetime gym membership, and a life. And you’re surprised to find yourself standing before the Almighty with low cholesterol and great abs but a tad ticked in a postmortem sort of way that, drat it all, you died anyway!

So what to do?

Maybe get some perspective. A life lived joyfully in love is far better than a life just lived lengthily any other way. Moderation in enjoying lots of good gifts at the right time and with the right kind of gratitude to God will bless most of us a good deal more than world-class low cholesterol.

It ticked Pharisees then and now, but Jesus eschewed magic and lived a life of trust, not manipulation. He lived a life of divinely robust holiness that could never be confused with pious sterility and the cut-rate pseudo-sanctity that’s as shallow as it is stern, and all about lengthy lists of things we don’t do and don’t chew.

Magic doesn’t work. Trust does.



      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



 Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“There’s an All-seeing Eye Watching You!”



My tastes in music and my theology have certainly changed since then, but when I was a small child, my favorite song was one we sang occasionally at church (I’m very glad we don’t do that now) and pretty often at home (at my request).

That’s another story, but, yes, as hard as it is for most of us to imagine now, when I was growing up, my family spent quite a bit of time singing together around the table or in the living room at home.

We were at home occasionally back then instead of bouncing, kicking, throwing, putting, or serving all manner of balls every evening of the week. Those are not at all bad things, you understand, but our society does seem to have a serious problem with balance and priorities, don’t you think?

To make the music work, so that a family filled with low-voiced altos and basses could manage to fake four parts, we lowered the pitch of the songs pretty drastically. My sister sang the melody, Mom sang alto (I can still hear her smooth alto tones), Dad stretched to catch the tenor (a tenor, he was not, but he strove manfully onward) and, as my voice changed, I picked up the bass. My younger brother, who had the hardest time sitting still for family singing sessions, fidgeted, and, when my much older brothers and their wives were around, we just parceled out the parts as needed. We still find time to sing on the rare occasions when we’re all together, and though Mom and Dad and my sister are gone, they still seem very much a part of the proceedings.

Okay. Back to that song.

For at least a little while in my young life, my favorite song was a questionable piece entitled, “Watching You.” I’m told that I used to prance around the house singing, “Otching Ooh!” (way before I could sing bass). Not filled with the greatest music or the best theology, that song pictured God as an “all-seeing eye watching you.”

I was very young at the time. I obviously wasn’t old enough to have smoked grapevine on a Scout campout or puffed pencil shavings in an old pipe back behind our house (that was a very hot smoke!), or the idea of an all-seeing eye watching me would have been a tad less comforting. The fact is, at that age, I didn’t care what the song said, I just liked snappy and upbeat music, and it had that, if not much else.

My musical tastes have changed a lot since then, and so has my understanding of God. Is God watching me? Is he watching you?

Yes, I certainly believe that he is. But not as an all-seeing cosmic code enforcement officer or a humorless EPA or IRS bean-counting bureaucrat just waiting to catch us in a mistake.

No, our Father watches us through the eyes of love because we’re the sons and daughters in whom he delights.



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“May I Introduce You to Lancelot Andrewes?”



Lancelot Andrewes. Recognize the name? Probably not. But Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626) was Bishop of Winchester (Church of England), a member of the committee of scholars whose task it was to produce the King James Version of the Bible, and “probably contributed more to that work than any other single person.”

For the information above, and almost everything else in this column, I’m indebted to the very capable James Kiefer for his biographical sketch of Andrewes’ life.

Kiefer’s work shows up regularly in “The Daily Office from the Mission of St. Clare,” an online devotional site and mobile “app” based on the venerable Book of Common Prayer, the incredible centuries-old work whose words still find their way, whether we know it or not, into Shakespeare, into pretty much all traditional marriage ceremonies, into many, many of our church services, into many funerals, etc.

But that’s another story. Suffice it to say here that the BCP is a devotional, liturgical, historical, and English treasure, originally published in 1549, sixty-two years before the King James Version was finished in 1611! I tend to gravitate toward the 1979 BCP revision, and I enjoy most the morning “Daily Office” which includes Scripture readings and prayers. I like the continuity, the discipline, and the knowledge that these are prayers Christians have prayed in worship and individually for, literally, centuries, along with, of course, reading the Scriptures given for each day. To the prayers, I add my own on the days I use this resource (and I don’t every day; the flesh is weak, and I’m a lousy example for daily devotional-keeping).

All of the above to explain where I found the information on Lancelot Andrewes, who, Kiefer writes, was “a master of English prose, and learned in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and eighteen other languages.” But particularly fascinating to me are some excerpts from Andrewes’ personal notebook of “Private Prayers,” published after his death.

The words and “order” of his devotions are beautiful and, no surprise, seem “formal” to us, words affirming faith, confessing sin, rendering praise. But I especially like his many and varied simple words of “thanksgiving” for life, rationality, citizenship, education, gifts of grace, “calling, recalling, and further recalling,” “longsuffering towards me,” for hope, for the “fruition of good things to come,” “for parents honest and good,” for “teachers gentle,” and “colleagues likeminded,” “hearers attentive,” “friends sincere,”  “for all who have stood me in good stead by their writings, their sermons, conversations, prayers, examples, rebukes,” and even “wrongs.”

As he closes, he wonders how he can adequately give thanks to God for all His benefits. And he ends with, “Holy, holy, holy,” praising the eternal God who “hast created all things” and for whose “pleasure they are and were created.”

I love this glimpse into the private devotions of a “long-ago-gone-on” father of our faith who blessed and still blesses God’s people in ways he might never have dreamed. May God continue to multiply the blessings, large and small, of lives lived for Him.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Mouse Traps and Human Traps Are an Age-old Problem



“Warning! Some mice were harmed in the research for this column. Some of the images contained herein may not be appropriate for small children or squeamish adults.”

I mean to say a few words regarding varmints (a good word that comes from “vermin”) of the rodent variety.

Humans share the world with an incredible variety of creatures. Many are beautiful, even inspiring. Some are also amazingly useful. (I’m thinking filet mignon and boots.) But some are pests. Let pests multiply, even if you have kind motives and an empty head, and you get pestilence. (I’m thinking plague, “Black Death.”)

I like where I live, and I like most of the neighbors, two-footed and four-footed, who live around me. A friend saw three deer in our front yard one recent morning. Too many can be a problem and eat the wrong things, but I don’t mind some help keeping a 10,000 square-foot yard mowed.

But the nearby field also brings in much smaller four-footed mammals. If they were stealthier, hid better from my wife, and didn’t have such appalling hygiene, we might not have a problem. But they are not, and we sometimes do.

This world really could use a better mousetrap. I’m afraid the old standard wood and wire model is still the best. Just add cheese (or peanut butter), and bang! He’s dispatched, bloodied and bug-eyed. Then, frugality versus squeamishness, you can either dispose of the body and re-bait, or toss the whole thing—hide, hair, and all. I just don’t enjoy baiting the things in the first place. I don’t enjoy misfires during baiting. Slaaaaapppp!

I once fired a BB gun at a garage mouse but missed. The ricochet caught me in the forehead, providing my sons with years of hilarity.

So I went to glue traps. Bait ’em with bird seed or peanut butter. The critter climbs on and finds himself “steadfast, immovable.” You might even catch a couple at once. But then you’re caught in a dilemma with a live rodent staring at you pitifully.

Somewhere on the way to the dumpster with my first wiggling catch, I (stupidly) opted for “release.” I’d pull him off with forceps and let him go. A very bad idea for both man and mouse.  Better just dispatch him quickly. Other alternatives (none good) involve turning the card over and a quick stomp, or heavy object to the head, or drowning in a bucket of water. (But the little bubbles . . .)

If your heart really gets the better of your head (don’t tell my wife), you can take the stuck up mouse to the field, and hose him down with WD40. If he doesn’t drown, he’ll scamper off smelling like fish oil and you can catch him again.

Tired of disposal dilemmas, I have now acquired a 15-inch-long plastic tube with a flat metal floor. Add peanut butter. Plug the contraption in. And before he can eat PB&J, the mouse gets hit with 8000 volts. He won’t care how you dispose of him. It seems to work and is pretty safe unless you’re a varmint or a tea-cup chihuahua with a taste for peanut butter.

We might do well to ponder the types of traps that we humans flirt with. Mess with them much, and we’ll find the only real question is how long the death will take and how many folks we’ll take down with us. Our Creator has warned us about those traps, and he’s paid an enormous price to clean us up and release us, free and empowered to live new lives.


           You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.



In the Face of Real Love, “Tolerance” Is a Weakling



Shhh! If in our society you are about to walk out your front door, it’s important to remember these days that you’re about to step into the temple of secularism. You must be very careful to be quiet and reverent lest you cause any stir in the temple and upset the worshipers in the midst of their devotions.

It is rather striking how religious modern secularists are about their irreligion, how very “tolerant” they are of anything except “intolerance.” No big surprise. It’s never easier to be religiously (or irreligiously) arrogant than when you’re being self-righteous about not being self-righteous.

By the same token, “tolerance” is always easiest when one of your deepest convictions is that no one’s deepest convictions or beliefs can be objectively right or wrong. Tolerance is only difficult when you find you have something to tolerate. If everyone’s belief is equally correct just because it’s earnestly held, tolerance is incredibly easy because at heart it just means not caring very much.

Once you actually start caring about something enough to believe that what folks believe about it genuinely matters, then you soon find yourself swimming in waters far too deep for tolerance; you will, in fact, sink unless you latch onto a four-letter word called love.

Love is always better than, stronger than, far more noble than, mere tolerance. “What’s right? What’s wrong? Is there any such thing as right or wrong?” Tolerance doesn’t much care.

But love cares deeply. It faces the bedrock truth, as real as the law of gravity— truly “inconvenient” though it may be, if, say, you’d prefer a universe where two plus two could just as easily equal five on days when the wind has changed and you’re feeling a little down on “four”—that in this universe some things really are right, true, and beautiful, and others are wrong, false, and ugly. Real truths, you see, have real consequences. It’s rather important that engineers who design bridges believe the old-fashioned, and true, multiplication tables, as inconveniently unbending as the stone cold truth behind those tables may be.

What if this really is a universe woven with genuine laws of right and wrong? Believe that truth, and in these days colored by the religion of “tolerant” secularism, it’s as if you passed gas loudly in the secularists’ church service, spat upon their holy altar, offended their non-god gods in some unforgiveable way. You seem incredibly intolerant and out of date. If we’re tired of those old multiplication tables, or any other truths that might bind or chafe us, let’s just take an opinion poll and change them, right?

But that’s where love comes in and mere tolerance is shown to be a tottering weakling. Love may be completely unable to “tolerantly” accept a person’s actions or beliefs as being anything but mistaken and harmful, but love is beautifully able to accept even the person with whom it most strongly disagrees as a person deeply loved by the God who is love. It cares deeply. And chooses to love anyway.



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“I Can’t Help It! I’m the Victim of My Genes!”


CurtisCare andFeeding02

Aha! It’s genetic! I’ve been reading about the several-years-old discovery of a “fidgeting” gene.

When I’m talking on the phone and my wife, rather discourteously, hollers at me, “Put that pen down! You’re driving me crazy!” she’s referring to my unconscious click-click-click-click-clicking of the writing instrument in my hand. And she’s betraying intolerance toward a man who is simply the hapless victim of his genes.

I’m wondering if pack-ratting is genetic, too. In any case, it’s another trait my mother passed on to each of her offspring.

My garage, I admit, is dangerously overloaded, but my sister, who lived in Houston, could have survived ten years of hurricanes with just “supplies on hand.”

I once suggested to one of my brothers that he’d need to deck himself out in high priestly garments if he wanted to safely enter his garage. When, once a year, Israel’s high priest entered the Most Holy Place to offer sacrifice, he was to go in with bells sewn onto the bottom of his robe and a rope tied to his leg. If he touched the Ark of the Covenant and was fritzed, or was somehow otherwise dispatched while officiating near the holiest core of that holiest place, the bells would quit tinkling and they’d drag his carcass out by the rope. (Turns out, the rope part of this is probably fictional, and the bell part likely for the Holy Place and not the Most Holy Place. But you get my point.)

Truth be told, the garages of the other siblings, including me, for sure, are not much better. My poor heirs.

But it was not in the garage, it was actually in a box of stuff up in our closet, never opened, inherited from my sister’s stash, who got it from my mother’s hoard, that my wife recently found a pile of congratulatory notes from age-old family friends (mostly long-since passed on) and the hospital instructions regarding the care and feeding of “Boy Shelburne.” That would be me.

The booklet was professionally printed, used by Northwest Texas Hospital (the original one) in Amarillo, and filled in, the specifics handwritten, by a conscientious nurse.

I’m not sure if Mom & Dad followed all the instructions properly or not, which may explain some things. I do know that it included a formula for my formula, consisting of condensed milk, Karo syrup, etc. What’s not to like? And it specified feeding me every three hours, a health practice, on the advice of that nursing staff, I’ve tried to continue all of my life. (Oh, and Mom was instructed to wear an apron when feeding me. If that’s required, lots of babies are in serious danger. And good luck trying to buy an apron. Out of style in every sense, and I’m weeping at the political incorrectness of the very thought! Trust me.)

By the way, people with the fidgeting gene are supposed to be naturally thinner than those without it. With my strict diet (I never eat anything that doesn’t taste good) and my feeding schedule, I’m thankful for that gene. Still, I evidently don’t fidget nearly enough.

Oh, this is funny. I just stopped to stare into space and figure out how to land this column—and caught myself jockeying my knee up and down like a sewing machine needle. Left seems to be this fidgeter’s knee of choice.

Genes. They are for most of us a mixed bag, both blessing and curse. But the worst curse we inherited from Father Adam. And the most amazing blessing, incredibly costly, is made available, free upon request, by the Second Adam who bore our curse, God’s own Son.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Animal Friends Are Among God’s Best Blessings



I’ve tried to wait a bit before writing this column. Since one of my life achievements is excellence in procrastination, I’ve been successful, although on rare occasions I’ve even put off procrastinating.

But I needed to wait. Some things are hard to keep in perspective. At the top of the list is anything—or anyone—that we love. And, no doubt about it, I loved that lazy furball, the little brindle-colored cross-breed canine critter we had to have “put down” recently.

People can be so crazy—literally—about pets that the excessiveness is obscene. I don’t doubt for a moment that a dog is “man’s best friend.” An incredible blessing.

But dogs are dogs. And though real grief at any level is still real grief, I’m slow to mention “this” grief in the same paragraph—or universe—as theirs.

But if it were possible, my sympathy for those facing severe loss is heightened as every time I walk into the house, get out of bed, open the blinds in the morning, or kick back in the recliner, I miss my friend.

Jesus tells us that his Father is so intimately connected to creation and his creatures that he sees when even a sparrow falls.

Hmm. That makes me wonder a little about grackles. You know, those goose-stepping, ill-mannered Nazi blackbirds. If I had my way, and my aim was better, lots more of them would be falling.

Up on their high branch, above the patio they’ve defiled, Grackle #1 growls to Grackle #2, “Say, did you hear what happened to ol’ Jake last night? Right in mid-cackle, he wing-clutched his chest, went inverted, and hit the deck. His heart? Not sure. One of the boys said he thought he saw something fly by and nail him. Maybe .177 calibre lead. Dunno if he was gone when he hit, but I’m dead sure he was gone once that Doberman down there got to him! The ol’ screecher leaves 42 children and a host of friends.”

Our little gal, Maddie, liked to chew on grackle when she could get it. I discouraged the practice. She seemed to have a hard time keeping it down, and I couldn’t imagine it being a healthy habit.

Son Josh was in high school when he brought the wiggling puppy home and unashamedly begged like a four-year-old to keep it. He said she was a Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix. Definitely a puppy of the first part. But I’m not so sure about the other part. Some sort of short-haired terrier?

Opinions vary widely as to her “beauty.” But her heart was good—even when twelve years later, her ticker wasn’t. From the get-go, she was sweet, gentle, and, to me, cute. She could jump like a cat, but, at rest, and she was almost always at rest, she crossed her paws like a little lady.

The house was a renovation wreck, two of Josh’s brothers were in the throes of preparing to head to Africa for mission work, and Mom was wisely and firmly against importing a dog at that moment. Tears all around. I backed off to a safe distance, expressing no opinion aloud.

Josh won. Maddie stayed. I’d already fallen for her. When Josh left home, Maddie didn’t. She and I were thick as thieves.

I don’t know what plans God has for our animal friends when “all things are made new.” I’ll not be surprised if He delightfully surprises us.


       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

A Church Advertisement That Will Never Appear


church 001

A very good friend just sent me an ad he saw for a new church in a city miles away from mine.

I’ve long thought that, for city churches particularly, some seriously thought-out and well done advertising might be very good. In this case, an existing church is starting a new one. The ad is well done, nicely packaged, and accurately reflects their approach to “church.”

They’ll kick off soon with a “rally.” Fine. Likely a very good idea. (But, please don’t tell my wife and dear friends who were cheerleaders, I never saw a rally with “pep” in front of it that I wouldn’t prefer to miss. It’s a personality flaw, I know.)

The ad says, “No perfect people are allowed.” Good. Such are hard to find and “wannabees” are annoying.

“Relevant” messages. Hmm. Theology lite or just good preaching? No organ for sure. I assume, no traditional hymns, but a “rockin’ band.” Right. This cool model requires it. “Casual dress.” Okay.

The ad didn’t say anything about a pastor. A plastic one on screen who preaches well but won’t show up at anybody’s surgery or do any funerals?

This really may be a great group, but its extremely popular approach is nothing new. In the 60s, mood rings, lava lamps, and the “church growth movement” showed up. The latter has lasted longer, but it has always felt a little plastic and trendy to me, a “consumer” approach that focuses on glitz and low to no expectations, assuming that discipleship will follow once folks are in the door. It is a troubling fact that Jesus ran folks off in droves taking exactly the opposite approach. Do I want to run people off? Noooooo!

I’m kidding a bit with part of what follows, but try this ad.

Large print. “We love Christ. We love you. We want you to come!”

Not-so-fine print: “Just so you’ll know, we sort of figure that commitment might mean attending at a faith-building (and not faith-withering) rate of more than half the time. That’s extremely generous, and nobody’s counting; we just love you and love it when the family’s together.

“You can call our building or sanctuary a worship center if you want to, but we don’t mind being called a church.

“We aren’t in the least embarrassed about taking up an offering. We can’t/won’t/shouldn’t require it, but we encourage sacrificial giving as a God-honoring blessing to all concerned.

“We won’t be ashamed to ask for some help doing stuff. What you say Yes to is completely your choice, but if you say No all the time, that says something, too. We are not a consumer church. If you want one those, glitzy and asking of you nothing at all, it won’t be hard to find.

“Formal dress is not at all required, but it’s just a fact that our pastor probably won’t wear jeans he paid extra to have holes in.

“We’re not very trendy and not all that cool. But when we say, ‘It’s all about Jesus, we mean it.’ It ain’t all about us or all about you. We figure serving a crucified Lord has consequences. You can ‘Have It Your Way’ at Burger King, but probably not 100% of the time here. You might even have to endure serious persecution by singing a song or two you don’t like that blesses someone else. That’s okay. They’ll do the same for you. We’ll never be mega-anything except seriously in love with Christ and the people He loves.

“If this picture seems God-focused to you, welcome! Come on in!”


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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