Category Archives: Societal Impact

What if we are all wrong?

42% of the population in Maine is functionally illiterate. I heard that statistic from Keith Lawrence last night at a Southern Maine Church Planting meeting. That statistic hit me pretty hard. If we assume a population of 1.3M people in Maine, we end up with a staggering 546,000 people in Maine that will not comprehend what we teach, whether from the pulpit or in living rooms across the state. I would also make the bold statement that most pastors don’t care based on their actions. Let me make a case for a second.

A typical sermon includes 5-10 minutes of introduction where an illustration is used or a word is explained etc, to get the people ready to hear the message. This could be a witty little story about the CEO of a company who prayed before every meeting or a quick run down of the ways in which we misuse the word love. This would be followed by a verse by verse or even word by word explanation of the text. We explain the text for 15 minutes or so making sure we pull out the nuance of the Greek or Hebrew word used only once in this very verse. We follow all of this up with the climax of application where we give examples of what we can all do differently as a result. At the end of the service the pastor dutifully stands at the door of the church listening to all the people ooh and aah about the sermon. Most weeks however, there are always a few people who seem to never “get it.” Sometimes it comes out as a simple, “That one didn’t speak to me.” A more common explanation is, “I just don’t get much out of it.”

What is the first reaction? I know what mine was/is. “Well, they just don’t get it.”

EXACTLY! They don’t get it. And instead of figuring out why, we do more of the same with better illustrations teaching them more about  Winston Churchill or Football than Jesus.

There are four levels of literacy accepted by most countries. Level 1 is the inability to read or write. This would be described as being illiterate. Level 2 is the ability to read very basic groups of words such as medicine doses and States/cities. Level 3 is the ability to fill out forms with a basic understanding of vocabulary. The ability to fill out a job application or other similar type of forms. These two levels are considered functionally illiterate. Level 4 is reading and writing comprehension. There are levels of reading comprehension however, and the basic rule is that a level 4 literate person could pick up a book written at an 8th grade level and understand it. This is the level at which most pastors in Maine preach at. Listen to sermons from all over the state and you will hear level 4 sermons. Sermons based on the information gleaned from not only research/theology books, but the very version of Scripture we read. What grade is your version written at?

If 42% of Maine is level 3 or below then you are correct, they DON’T get it. If 42% of Maine CAN NOT read at an 8th grade level, then why are we surprised when we hand them a Bible but they don’t seem to read it? I have been known to whack a bee’s nest or two in my day so it won’t come as a surprise for me to ask, “If the KJV is written at a 12th grade level, how many people are we saying that we don’t care about in our KJV only churches?”

So what needs to change? If we are going to try to reach the people of Maine by planting churches, what are we going to do about the 42% of people who will automatically be left out. I don’t want to shoot off a few flares then run away so my first answer is this.

When was the last time you told the gospel as a story? Was it the last time you substitute taught in Sunday School? When was the last time you started your entire sermon by just telling the story of the text in 5-10 minutes BEFORE you dig into the significance of each individual word. I am 100% guilty of this. I have preached to those seminary students in the seats while ignoring those who want to learn but just don’t get it.

I am not advocating that we simplify everything and go with felt boards every week, but I do wonder if we could take 30 minutes out of our week and craft a section of our sermon in order to reach more than 52% of the people who could walk into a service on any given Sunday. ( That was a long sentence but I’m not cutting it in 2 Tracy! ) Another reaction of yours could be similar to mine when I assumed, “I bet that number is lower than 42% in my church.” I bet I’m right, and I bet you are too! We designed it that way. We preach in a way to keep the 42% out.

Please take this information and be challenged to reach more people. This new information has certainly altered my mindset. I am note sure how it will end up playing out in my life specifically but if we truly want to reach Maine with the Gospel, we might need to rethink our delivery.



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What Can I Do?

I am having a hard time with something. I am feeling the weight of my decisions in a new way. Recently I have learned about the food that we eat as well as the economic framework of not only our country here in the USA but countries all over the world. I have always read about these issues but never dug into any one of them to see which side had more facts. Some say walmart is great for us, others say it is destroying us. Some say our food is healthy, some say it is destroying us.

If I am to worship God with everything I am, then I need to understand these issues. It was not until I realized that I was destroying the body God gave to me that I started to lose weight. This is the same reasoning that I feel this weight on me. Not the weight of pleasing God, the weight of taking care of what He has entrusted to me.

I was brought up to be a good conservative. Trickle down economics and three-piece suits were the training of my youth; so it feels very awkward to say that large corporations are ruining our quality of life. I’m not a journalist and I am not going to blather on about all the different things I have been reading about; that is your job to read and make your own decisions. I would love to chat with you regarding what your views are and how you are wading through the filth.

What can I do? Is there a way to earn a living and make a difference in Maine? Is there an organization devoted to worshiping God through healthy living? Should I start one if there isn’t? Would I love to start a non-profit…yes. Should I …? Am I reading too much? Am I learning too much? It was a lot easier when I trusted the FDA let alone the EPA which regulates a high percentage of the ingredients in the food that we eat.


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It’s Not Over

I am sad. Sad because of what I am seeing. Facebook and twitter are lit up. Blogs everywhere, and especially in Maine, are dripping with hate. Words are used. Attitudes are held. Fists are tightened. Lines are drawn.

I wish I knew which way Jesus would have voted on Tuesday. As I stood there at the Hollis fire barn with pen in hand, I prayed. I prayed that I would be true to my conscience which ultimately is the Holy Spirit. I prayed that God would give me one last measure of wisdom before I connected the arrow. I was literally shaking as I left the booth. Did I vote in honor of Jesus or not?

I know that most if not all of you are sure that there was only one way that honored God. And I have close friends who either would have, or did, vote both ways. Yes or no. No or Yes. There were a lot of issues that pressed on my decision. How the law in question was passed, how the Church is treated in that law, whether it mattered one way or the other…does this law change my role as a follower of Jesus Christ?

What I am seeing now is cause for concern. When facebook and twitter glow with praise that ‘our side won’ I immediately thought of the people dancing in the street on 9/11. I know it is much different, I am not trying make a connection other than that is where my mind went. “Down with those who do not believe as we do!” I’m having a hard time finding where it is our job to create a nation politically, in order to save people. I realize it is our job as Christians to vote…but in the words of Ron Sargent…”Change lives not laws.” And before the other guys get all excited…could you please give us a status or a blog without swearing or accusing of hate and bigotry? Is that all you have? The hate that spews/flows/gushes…can’t think of a strong enough word here…is astounding. I’m sure no one will remember this the next time it comes up for voting…which I am sure it will soon. Speaking of the next time. I wonder if the wording will be as kind to churches next time it is written and passed? Makes me wonder if it was as bad as people thought…will it be worse next time? No ‘clause’ protecting churches?

May the grace of Christ cover us all.



Filed under Current Events, Current Thoughts, Societal Impact

November Is Here

In case you hadn’t noticed the previous posts; November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This month I hope you will take some time to do something extra in order to support the people whose lives have been changed by this disease as well as those who work to end it.

Here are 10 things that you can do to take action in November. Make sure you notice #3 as a simple way to help and make your voice known and heard.

I know sometimes it is hard to focus on anything other than the 54 shopping days until Christmas as of today. I know that Target for one had Christmas stuff/junk/decorations right next to the Halloween decorations. I can only assume that Thanksgiving will get less space than Halloween received. While it is hard, I would encourage us all to focus on what we have…or don’t have. We have an opportunity to do something this month that we normally wouldn’t have done.

This is the time I start writing a tear jerking paragraph about how we need to be thankful and thinking of others…blah blah blah. You have heard that before. You know what should be written. Instead of reading and feeling sappy and teary…let’s go do something. Use purple frosting and be ready when people ask you why you did it, buy a purple tie and wear it every week, give money…do something. I will be adding some specific ideas as the month goes on and I hope to reach all kinds of people with the ideas. Feel free to leave some for all of us in the comments section.

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A while ago I wrote about and how I have decided that I would start doing something to help. Well, I have been doing as much as I can, considering how much money I don’t have coming in…but recently through the spotlight of stuff christians like I have found this organization. While I have heard about Free Trade items in the past, I had also heard valid arguments that in certain situations Free Trade hurts more than it helps. Either way, this new way of looking at Free Trade products has me thinking and I hope to get the opportunity to share this with many people.

This is clearly a way that we can do something tangible right now to help people who need help. Period.


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This past weekend at Lead09 was quite a trip. I kept oscillating between happiness and sadness as I saw both who was there, and who wasn’t. Knowing what the Gospel can do in the life of God’s church, I was saddened at the faces that I did not see there. Some are faces I would not expect to be there; but are saddened none the less. However, as I looked at the crowd of people who had gathered in Auburn, Maine to rededicate their lives to Gospel, Community, and Mission; I was given Joy from the Giver of Life to see people striving to live on mission for God. Both Tim Chester (blog) and Jonathan Dodson ( creation projectchurch planting novice), while under the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Jesus’ name and called us to a life of worship through putting off the old and putting on the new.

Most if not all in attendance have many years of church experience, but not much Church experience. We were asked to put off church as an event and put on church as Gospel played out in community for God’s mission. These aren’t brand new themes, however, the point of the Gospel is easy to miss when we are not focused on Jesus.

Some favorite quotes from the weekend are as follows:

The burden of mission is laid on God, while the blessing of mission is given to us.

Christ did not die for ad hoc individuals

The church will never outperform the movies and t.v.

Pot luck dinners are an institutional answer to a communal question

The answer is always squirrel 

The key is beer and nametags

I look forward to Lead10 or whatever they call it next year. Maybe Lead 1 aught or Lead 1 nil or even Lead 1 love…either way I am looking forward to next year.


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take a look at yourself

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