Lead with Love


Just recently the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Dr. Everett Piper, wrote a blog about his reaction to student attitudes toward university life at his school.  The blog, “This Is Not a Daycare.  It’s a University!” begins with the deconstruction of a single student’s negative response to a chaplain’s message at the school.  As the writing progresses, Dr. Piper explicitly states his desire to have students live up to the responsibilities of higher education at his school.  The main issue in the blog was concerning sin and confession of that sin as we are faced with the conscience made available to us by the Holy Spirit.  He uses different words to describe this message, but the issue is clear in his writing and it isn’t surprising considering his background in the Wesleyan or holiness movement.  The conviction of the Holy Spirit was championed by the Wesleys, John and Charles, in their music, speaking, and writing back in the days of an interesting Anglican Church in England.  Their movement pushed holiness into the lives of normal everyday people and those people accepted it gladly.  America was another recipient of this movement and it helped people “get right with God” and live within the power of the Holy Spirit.  So Dr. Piper reacts to the academic flee from the Holy Spirit and the assumptions that students bring to a university that they are free to think on whatever platform they desire and if they are oppressed in their thinking, they get to refrain from academic exercises, convocational messages, and spiritual growth practices.

The national media has picked up the story about this blog and spent a couple of days reporting it to syndicated audiences.  There wasn’t a widespread condemnation by the media because Dr. Piper wrote his blog well and made sure to stick to his message that pertained to his students at his university.  Sure, he brought in generalities about other universities, but he was clear that his message was for his students, their families, prospective students, alumni, faculty, and staff at his school on his school’s website.  Elisha Fiedstadt on nbcnews.com commented in a posted article, “Piper said some have disagreed with him, but parents of students at the school of 1,700 have been supportive, as have others who work in education.”  His removal hasn’t been requested and his school is doing well in the meantime.  Other reporters, however, picked up on the comments about protests around the country and responded with reactions by people involved with those protests.  At nytimes.com, Anemona Hartocollis writes,

“After reading the blog, Reuben Faloughi, a black graduate student at the University of Missouri and a member of Concerned Student 1950, the group that pushed for the resignation of Missouri’s president, said, ‘Growing up as a Christian myself, I can’t imagine Jesus writing a letter like that.’”

Dr. Piper attempted to steer clear of any racial issues and even says, “[OKWU] believe[s] the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin.”  Because of Dr. Piper’s attempts, the reaction to his blog by the media has been tactful and criticism has been specifically targeted at the formalities surrounding student culture as well as the disconnect between school leadership and the students it leads.

So here’s my thoughts on this blog: Dr. Piper’s words represent the widening generational gap that is affecting the culture in all facets of life.  I attended two universities at the turn of the century in Southern California, one public and one private, and the forum was open to all viewpoints if students were willing to work hard and be prepared for class.  For example, I remember some unprepared students in intellectual debates with professors who were cutoff because they lacked the knowledge from an assigned reading.  The open forum has always been the goal of all universities in our country because it allows young minds to explore the world in an environment that prepares strong leaders for tomorrow.  My time in undergraduate classes was more “liberal” in thought than most universities in the geographic middle of the country at the time, but the open forum was still present in the more “conservative” schools as well.  Then I went on to seminary in the middle of the last decade and open forums were introduced in a very specialized format.  We debated theology, doctrine, and Biblical scholarship as we trained for a life in ministry.  I noticed the generational gap first in seminary when our training for ministry ill-prepared us for a changing church culture and the vacating 18 to 25 year olds from church attendance from the middle to the end of the last decade.  Students asked for help in these issues but professors were unprepared themselves for this shift because it was new to everyone.   Since my graduation in 2008, I have seen the gap increase at an alarming rate and now the miscommunication between leaders and those they lead is becoming a detriment to organizations that have stood for many years.

The largest contribution to the problem that Dr. Piper addresses is the economic state of our nation.  Universities used to be hailed as higher education and were the aspiration of hard-working students who knew that a university degree would ensure a better life for their family.  Starting a family is not as important for graduating students in their 20’s and a degree doesn’t mean a fulfilling career that supports their lifestyles with the hefty student loans.  In 2008, the economy crashed and home building was stopped, houses stood empty, vacated by indebted families and individuals.  I remember driving through Phoenix, Arizona that year to see darkened, unfinished houses and apartment buildings, making Phoenix look like a ghost town.  Although different factors contributed to this economic state, it is the reality and the generation rising through the ranks distrusts the leadership that brought us to this point.  The type of leadership is also suspect to the up-and-coming leaders as the leadership in charge now relies on experience and authority to enact a “style” that is pertinent to individual personalities so followers will follow with confidence.  The problem with this is that authority is no longer given to someone due to experience because that experience is shown with an asterisk, like the ones on Major League Baseball records, due to the leaders’ involvement with the economic collapse.  How do you trust CEO’s now after they took bonuses when the government bailed them out on national television? 

So, how does the church move forward in this time of academic, economic, and societal uncertainty?  We should work together across generations to gain back trust from both directions.  Younger people are driven further away from leadership and responsibilities when they are “told what to do.”  Therefore, work with them and give them roles in leadership in order to train them in their faith and to show that you trust their generation will be successful in carrying on the message of the church.  Notice that Dr. Piper’s good responses came from the older generation and that just increases the mistrust between generations because it looks the old folks sitting in the parlor congratulating themselves for a job well done while the kids aren’t scolded for not sitting up straight.  I would suggest that Dr. Piper take a long look at what drives a need to have “trigger warnings” (a warning that something could create a strong emotional response in a classroom or the chapel) and listen to students actively in order to make a place of higher learning a place to prepare young people for the changing world outside of the academic world.  In our churches we should practice this as well and actively listen to each other in order to judge whether we are spreading the message of the Gospel with love or we are conducting business in order to keep an organization alive in its original state.


Back East

I am sitting in a friend's house in Tennessee right now and I am lamenting the inevitable return trip to Oregon--not because I don't like my home in Oregon, but because I feel like this is family here on the side of the country I didn't know until 2005.  The trip back east was a trip that would allow us to catch up with friends and see some things we hadn't seen in three years.  The funny thing is that we tried to hurry our time while I was in school here so we could leave and go to the west coast, but in the meantime we developed relationships with some great people who understood us and loved us for who we are.

Really this trip did a few things: we did catch up with friends, my daughter was baptized in the creek I baptized a few of my youth kids, we said goodbye to our son who rests in a cemetery in town, and we refocused our motivation for ministry by going back to the source of our passion.  We met God in ministry here in Tennessee and North Carolina.  I learned how to talk to youth and their families about how to live for God in times that are tough.  This is where I worked with God in tandem as His servant and learned to lean on His power for strength and guidance.  It seems like being on the west coast I have drifted from that kind of focus because I was leaning on my power and my strength to guide me through the process of building a church and a ministry.  It's nice to know that God's power is strong enough to handle anything that comes along and an accessibility that is ready any time I need it.  I originally thought that this would be a trip about grief, but it isn't.  Our time here has had its share of grief but it was really about remembering what I was trained to do in ministry.

I have been called to be a "pastor" in Oregon because that's what all of the preachers are called.  I know "splitting hairs" is what I do most of the time, so I'm going to do it again here: a pastor is a guide and people in Southern Oregon want to be guided in their faith in a way that makes it the pastor's faith and not the individual's.  I don't feel like our church needs a pastor because we have a guide in the Bible and the other people of faith who preceded us to show us the way.  The church needs a "minister" instead because a "minister" serves the church and the people of the church in the capacities that are needed.  I always strive to be a minister of the Gospel and I'm not going to pretend that I'm a "pastor" because I am not morally superior to those in my flock and God doesn't love me more.  I am glad to see that I am in partnership with the faithful at the corner of 2nd and B and if it took a trip back east, then God knows what He's doing on this trip in showing me my roots of faith and the potential for a fantastic ministry in Southern Oregon.


Through the course of a week, through the course of a month, a year, I am in awe of the transformation of individuals, the Church, and its community.  I am now entering my 9th month at CCoA at the corner of 2nd and B and my faith is being renewed by God through the faithful disciples in this Church.  When my family first thought about moving here to Rogue Valley to answer the call to pastor this Church, I was filled with too many emotions to mention here.  The most memorable emotion was fear.  That’s right, a pastor admitted to being afraid.  The fear was in response to being in a new place, to my wife’s medical condition, to the unknowns in the new journey, and the security of my family in Southern Oregon. 

A lot of time has passed since last year and many things have happened in and out of the Church as my wife and I have been serving the Church.  I’ve met many new people and learned about life in Talent and Ashland while others have learned about me and what I have to offer society.  The events of life continue to occur and add to my experiences in this corner of the world.  But that fear I talked about as the most memorable emotion is gone in a large part due to God’s role in my answering His call to CCoA.  I have witnessed the faith of believers acted out in subtle ways that express to me that faith isn’t dead and God still has work to do in this world.  He never gives up and that motivates me past fear to keep pressing on and never give up.

A week ago I spoke to some kids at a Christian camp and I was explaining God’s love to them.  In the midst of the explanation I was moved to tears because I was saying that God’s love is experienced when God looks at us past our marred lives and sees us as His children.  It moves me to think of that kind of acceptance.  Well, one of the kids pointed to me and said, “He’s crying.” That outburst was followed by, “I’ve never seen my dad cry.” 

Okay, so that put me on the defensive as I fashioned a retort to this kid’s complaint about my manhood.  Before I could get it out, one of the counselors spoke up and addressed the whole group and said, “He’s experienced God’s love and it’s so great that he’s moved to tears because that’s how much God loves us.”  Wow!  I went to seminary and the counselor just graduated from high school last year.  She was able to speak to the kids with a confidence in faith and explain why we believe. 

My fear is gone because we have her fighting for the faith in Southern Oregon.  The Church, in my calculations, is alive and growing because of the transformation we experience because God is present in this world making Himself known.  And one day, your best friend, brother, mother, co-worker, neighbor will be able to see God because of this life-changing transformation that even happens in the community surrounding the Church at 2nd in B in the city of Ashland.

Is Education Our Future?

Just recently our Church Facebook page received a message from an organization in the community.  This particular organization's purpose is to raise awareness to citizens about the surmounting debt incurred by college students in society.  In other words, they hold seminars in the community that provide vital statistics on the costs and benefits of a college education in America today.  We can't overlook this type of information as people in society because it impacts the future of our economy, environment, and young people. 

Along with rising costs of post-secondary educational institutions, the benefits of an education are deflating in America pushing students into certain areas of study.  My Bachelor's degree is in the area of Social Sciences, which was a popular content area in the 90's, but career counselors push STeM (Science, Technology, and Math) degrees today.  The shift in the popularity of career focuses has to do with the shift in the economy and the focus of the American culture.  Don't get me wrong, I believe that STeM degrees are vital to progress in medicine, communication, environmental protection, and other areas.  The reality is that the shift has occurred and it has made studying the Social Sciences a lesser priority.

Wow!  I hope all of this hasn't bored you yet or upset you in any way--especially if you hope for the future of the success of America's economy.  All of this has me thinking, however, about the lives of faith in faith communities or Churches.  Our society and culture has preordained the purpose of our Church from the outside to say that we aren't a Church unless we add to the culture positively just as it shifts the prescription of educational purposes to fit the needs of our economy, environment, and young people.  The same societal jury is handing the Church the verdict of individual hypocrites, who don't practice what we preach.  If that's the outside looking in, how should we look from within?  Well, we should turn to Jesus' ministry as He stressed a focus on the intrinsic value and responsibility of individuals who strive to live a life of purity that sees every human as a loved child of God accompanied with a focus on caring for those who are searching for help.  In essence the Church should look like what the outside world preordained us to be.  Why?  The American society and culture understands the importance of the Church in this world and is tired of a world without its influence.  If it appears that we are judged unfairly by the world, then look again because that wagging finger is simply a hand stretched out from an impoverished spiritual domain asking for help.

So, instead of getting upset at how the world sees us, look to God for help in how to strengthen the leadership of our Churches in the reaches of our faith and the growth of individual believers who seek to be a part of God's plan rather than ask God to be a part of their lives.  Through all of this thinking I've been doing, I look to God for help myself because I know that His answers to the problems of this world are a lot simpler for Him to see in His mind than my mind can imagine.  I know our Church doesn't exist in a vacuum or on an island, and I know that God is concerned about the sheep outside the flock so I invite you to think with me and look to God for help as we observe a world in spiritual peril awaiting another awakening.

A Visit from God (To CCoA)

By Daniel Buckley

It was the night before Christmas, and a Church was prepared

To celebrate the birth of a savior by showing they cared; 

The tree was all lit and the garland was hung,

Making a stage appear as festive as the carols they sung;

The saints were resting on worn-out pew seats,

While children were bouncing awaiting the night’s treats; 

And Charity in her outfit, and I in my sweater,

Had started the service with a simple Christmas letter,

When out in the city something arose to our attention,

My heart drew to our surroundings—hoping this service a retention,

Away to the streets our thoughts quickly tossed,

The Spirit opened hearts and changed lives of the lost.

The Son in the lives of the transformed few

Gave hope to the saints that sat in the pews,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But God with His glory and angels singing clear,

A song of salvation, so alive and giving, 

I knew in a moment the lost can start living,

With a disease of worldliness that entraps and ensnares,

Yet God sent His Son and the Church practices, prepares;

To go out and serve and spread Christ’s love on the way!

To spread hope and love at stores—even Hometown Buffet!

To the places where people are and we have been placed

We go and share Jesus to the whole human race!

Our savior was a man that is glorious and alive;

When we believe in Jesus our faith really thrives, 

He gave up His life so we could join God,

In this life and heaven without Jesus it’s odd. 

Things get real tough even around Christmas time

Remembering God’s grace is the point of this rhyme.

As I looked to the future, and saw God’s reach grow and grow

A Church became a body that God’s love they did know.

All of this happens when we give God our resolves,

And serve Him in thoughts, actions and as the earth revolves;

A life with Christ is better than without,

The miracles we see erase all our doubts.

In God’s presence we rest and he takes all our pain,

Don’t leave tonight and brave the roads in the rain,  

Going without God and facing this world all alone,

And going on living and fighting the world unatoned;

After all He made the world and knows it better than all others,

Don’t think that you can figure out a world in belief of another,

God’s grace makes it better when we stumble and fall,

He catches and loves us and our mal-intent starts to stall.

So what is our thought on a night like tonight?

What makes a night like this end up like it’s right?

We draw close to God with our hearts opened up wide,

And we look at those right here allowing us to decide

To put God first and love Him and be in His grip;

Love Him at home, at work, and yes, even on a trip.

Let God transform your heart so you can see how He does, 

And your life will be filled with the greatest that ever was.

So I end this thought with a message to you,

Go with God when you get out of your pew;

Tell others you love them and care for them with God’s love 

And that they too can share in a gift from above.

Solving a Rubik's Cube

This last Summer I set out to accomplish a life-long desire of mine: to solve a Rubik's Cube.  If you aren't familiar with this toy, it is a 3 by 3 cube with different colored sides.  The base is white, the top is yellow, and the sides are red, green, orange, and blue.  Each of the six sides has 9 squares and you have to line up the squares on the sides by rotating and rotating and rotating...

Anyway, I have owned Rubik's Cubes in the past and I haven't been able to solve them.  There are logarithms in place that help solve it, but I was determined to solve it on my own.  I tried and tried and then something happened.  When I was a substitute teacher at a middle school last year, a bunch of the students had Rubik's Cubes and they were solving them with ease.  I knew they used the logarithms but I was too frustrated to jump on their boat and set my course with them.  My stubbornness just made the frustration grow and grow until I couldn't take it anymore.  I Googled the solution to the Rubik's Cube and printed out the instructions. 

With the solution, I could solve the Rubik's Cube and line up all of the colors in order, but there was still a problem.  I had to have the instructions with me all the time.  So all Summer I spent every idle moment with the cube in hand doing the up, left, back, right, up, left--that's not the logarithm but you get the idea.  There are five phases to the solution and I memorized each phase by working on them over and over again.  Two months passed and I finally proved to my wife and daughters that I could solve the cube without the aid of the instructions.  Now, I can solve any unsolved cube with ease and my best time is under 90 seconds. 

The point of all this isn't to brag--but I can because I can solve a Rubik's Cube--the point is that I learned something else in my adventure this Summer.  I learned that my journey was like many faith journeys.  First, our human desire is to solve life on our own, but that gets frustrating.  Next, we see others with the solution from God and it looks great but we'd still rather do it on our own so we keep on stubbornly trying to solve life alone.  Then, we see someone turn to God who shouldn't and it makes us even more stubborn, thinking we are better than that.  But this all finally leads to a point when we just know that we can't do it on our own anymore and we decide to turn to God.  When this happens, we are new in the faith and we have to turn to the instructions (Bible and Church) over and over again.  Finally, down the line, we are able to be with God on our own and can help others come to know God. 

Okay, so it doesn't always happen this way, but you get the point and see that we can be stuck in a lot of different phases in our faith.  Sometimes we rely on others and sometimes they rely on us, but the common denominator is to be with God.  Rest in his presence this week and know that God will give you rest.

First Entry for a Trial Run

Today I am embarking on a new adventure...into the cyber world as a blogger.  I know this isn't a new thing but, since we have the capabilities on our website and I know how to write, I am venturing into a great world of words and thoughts.  It is important that a church gathers together, but sometimes we can't wait until Sunday to experience God, think about eternal matters or raise questions about our faith.  For that very reason, this is a platform that we can use as a church body to praise God and lift each other up in our faith. 

Don't be afraid to comment on a blog entry because this is a platform for you to be a voice in our faith community and a face to the outside world that might find us.  We are a faith community that is misunderstood by some locally because we believe in God and stand for the Truth.  If we can voice that Truth here, then there is hope for us to do the same when we are asked to defend it in whatever circumstance in life.  The worst mistake we can make in our faith community in the eyes of the world around us is to misrepresent the Truth because we remain silent and let others fill in the blanks.  We are not perfect people and we have trouble not making mistakes in terms of the Truth, but don't let the world be mistaken about what we believe and our continuing attempts to center our lives on the Truth.  And that Truth is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ--He lived, ministered, was tortured, crucified, raised from the dead, and lives at the right hand of the throne of God the Father.

So, my first attempt to reach out to you via the internet can be a success if you know it is here--I'll try to get the word out.  But if you find this and you don't know anything about CCoA, then I am here to fill you in.  Just know that God loves you and wants a relationship with you.