Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Mistress in Your Pocket" Reposted Blog by Rob Hurtgen

Last week on a beach vacation it finally happened! As I was opening the room door I felt it drop and then heard a pop that sounded unfamiliar. I picked up my IPhone and turned it over to discover a shattered screen. My brother in law made a few calls and off to Office Max we went to drop it off. I decided to have a new battery put in as well and it ended up taking about three total days. That is 72 hours without a phone. I had Renee text my Associate to let him know to go through her if he needed me. What was I going to do? No texting! No Twitter! No making a move for it when it rings or vibrates? No Fantasy Football updates?

 I will tell you what I did.  My life slowed down... to a peaceful pace.  I kept commenting on how nice it was to unplug, even though my old nature desperately wanted to see what was happening.  
The Church knows that I am not a Facebooker.  I really am not interested to know what you are doing every waking hour of the day, but I do Tweet.  I follow 375 folks and ministries, many and most either preachers or leaders. Not to big you may say, but I do find myself throughout the day or with some down time going right to it to see if I have been mentioned or sent a message.  Strangely enough, during this tech blackout for me I managed, and seemed to enjoy it.  

Perhaps that is why this Blog by Rob Hurtgen hit me squarely in the face.  Like cold water first thing in the morning!  My phone too was repaired and now back in service, but I now view it in a little different way.    I hope you will be as challenged and encouraged as I was in reading this this morning.  Pastor Greg

The Mistress in Your Pocket

Recently my smartphone quit. It would not charge. It was dead. Kaput. After giving my best Braveheart Freedom cry, I made an appointment to have the phone repaired. The earliest appointment I could schedule was a week away. I reasoned that with some work-a-rounds I could survive without the device. I even briefly toyed with the idea of not needing to get it fixed. After all, for many years I lived perfectly fine without any cell phone let alone a smartphone. Very quickly I realized not only did I use my phone, a lot. I also saw how the phone had become a mistress in my pocket.
That week was an out-of-digital-body experience of sorts. Rediscovering muscles that lifted my head straight versus letting it droop. I could see the crowns of the heads around me displayed. Faces were transfixed and aglow from their devices. The out-of-digital-body experience freed me to observe not only how I must also look during my own myopic moments of digital absorption, but also what the mistress in my pocket was causing me to miss. The following are a couple of observations from my sans smartphone week as to why we must intentionally and regularly practice a Smartphone Sabbath.
First, you are too valuable to practice a distraction driven leadership. As an effective pastor who loves, leads and equips the flock God has called you to, you have much to do. Sermons to prepare, bible studies to write, hospital visits to make, committees to lead, mission trips to organize, evangelism to conduct and on and on and on. Your tasks list is constantly growing. The more you do the more there is to do. If though you practice a distraction driven leadership will you never really be effective for the gospel. Distraction driven leadership will consist of leaping from project to project, person-to-person. A smartphone with its continual musical escapades of notifications can fuel that distraction. Your life, family, and ministry are too valuable to practice a distraction driven leadership.
Second, you may not know it, but you are web weary. You are bombarded with quantities of information every single day. News stories, blog posts and social media threads fuel web weariness. Just trying to keep up with whatever happens to be the latest trending topic is exhausting. Like an addict, you’ll be checking social media at stoplights. Scanning the web while waiting for your fast food meal to be bagged on the counter. Passive aggressively posting how the lady in front of you clearly has twenty-one items in the twenty items express lane. The constant need to be constantly connected and providing commentary for every moment of life will wear you out.
Third, your Pastoral FOMO will derail you. FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Formal recognition of this vernacular acknowledges global insecurities and disconnections that are fueled by being constantly connected.
Pastoral FOMO fuels the insecurity that God is working; but not where I am. Pastoral FOMO fosters an envy of achievement and a fear of irrelevance. Envy that you are not pastoring that church instead of the one you are. The feeling of irrelevance that everyone else knows the coolest facts and phrases long before you have even heard them. Pastors, who most by nature are extremely competitive, can easily be consumed with what we think we are missing out on. We easily can be driven by the fear that our ministry in the middle of nowhere—wherever that happens to be—is irrelevant to the greater kingdom of God. Too much time with the mistress in your pocket fuels hyper-envy and an obtrusive questioning of self-worth.
The solution is not to give up the phone. The smartphone, or some version of it, will be ingrained into our global society until the Lord returns. The solution then is to intentionally and regularly take a tech Sabbath to both remind us that we are first created in the image of God and to declare we are not the chattels of any man or device. We will not build our bricks without straw. How can we, in a hyper-connected world, intentionally disconnect?
Put your phone on a high shelf when you get home. Take your phone out of your pocket, put it on vibrate and set it upside down on the highest shelf you can reach. On vibrate, so you will not hear it ring freeing you to listen to your family. Upside down on the high shelf means you will not see it light up. If the phone is easily accessible it will be too easy to check that text, that email or that tweet and get pulled into a black hole of social media where the one-minute quickly becomes an hour. Put your phone down.
Turn off your notifications. Notifications can be a constant distraction. Notifications break your concentration and inhibit the capability to think deeply. The continuous dinging of email is a blockade of engaging in the deep work necessary for ministry. Notifications foster a distraction that most of us do not nee…squirrel.
Post, don’t peruse. This will save your digital life. There several apps available that allow you to post to various social media websites without logging into the actual website. Meaning that you can pseudo engage with various aspects of social media by posting and scheduling posts without losing hours upon hours to the device. Enabling you to be a creator of content and not just a consumer. This technique is particularly helpful in maintaining a ministry and leadership social media presence. A different strategy should be used for personal posts, though.
What ministry in the digital and social media age looks like and should look like is still being written. My forced low-tech Sabbath prompted me to see not only how much I use the phone but some reasons why I need a regular break from my phone.
The phone was easily repaired. So easily repaired that I am embarrassed at not only what caused the problem but also how simple the solution was. As a result, though, I am working on setting some new boundaries with my phone that declare the right order of relationships. Boundaries that tell me I am human not a machine.
Have you noticed the same in your life? What strategies have you used to ensure your phone does not become a mistress in your pocket?

Monday, September 19, 2016


Lately in football, there appears to be an epidemic of runners celebrating too early and dropping the ball before they even cross the goal line.  I am not sure what is going on but it happened again Saturday night as the Buckeyes played Oklahoma.  I originally missed it, but soon instant replay and Social Media were exploding with proof that Joe Mixon dropped the ball before he got to the end zone. How embarrassing!  All caught on national TV.  As a coach, I would be fuming.  It has happened more this year than I have ever  witnessed as a sports fan.

Sometimes I fear that as Christians, we may be doing the very same thing that these players are doing. We are letting up, taking it easy.

Like the players involved, we think we have really done something.  As we turn and look for high fives from our teammates, we get them because they missed it as well.  As a matter of fact, the crowd is slapping us on the back and shouting with great joy, but you see, they missed it as well.  The camera is like the eye of God, it doesn't miss a thing.  Cameras can malfunction, but God never does.

As we celebrate with each other, our community and neighborhood continues to live in darkness, blinded by sin.  We really think we have done something exceptional, only to be reminded daily and on every sports news channel in America that we will be known more for the fumble before crossing the goal line than the ninety seven yard return. the lesson?  Don't let up, don't show boat about something you think you have accomplished!  In the Christian walk and race, finishing is what matters!

My goal is to finish, and finish well!

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Glory DAZE

This has been one of the first times Renee and I have waited to go on vacation so late in the year.  I can tell you we are looking forward to it.  It is also one of my favorite times of the year as everything seems to get going again. School resumes, families begin to return to church, football is back, and everyone seems to have a little more get up and go. It is exciting for our family as well as our oldest 6 year old grandson Aiden is in first grade, and 4 year old Eli is in pre-school a few days.

We have a good group of teachers and students here at FSBC.  My hope is that these kids will enjoy and cherish these school days because they will come and go quickly.  You never think that when you are sitting in a hot room after a long day looking at a Geometry textbook.  The days seem to drag. Into our twenty third year here, it is a great blessing to watch some of these kids now, go to college, and even do their wedding, when I remember when they were born.  School certainly can be the glory days for some if we let it.

The more I pastor, it is easy to see how a church can be stuck thing about a day that used to be.  that memory can paralyze forward thinking and taking new territory for Christ with a "Glory Daze."

We are happy once again to be providing a meal for the Preble Shawnee football team and Cheerleaders on Thursday nights.  It is a great opportunity to bond and build relationships with these student athletes.  Pray that some of these kids meet Jesus this season.  May His glory, fill our days!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

(A Letter to My Grandsons) Following the Shootings in Dallas

This is a letter I read from the Pulpit at the close of my sermon.
 July 10, 2017

In the aftermath of two young black men being shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, LA. and Minnesota, and seeing it played all over the news and social media,  it makes me ask the question, “Why did it have to happen and end that way?”

Days later there were protests all over the country over the shootings.   In a peaceful protest over those losses in Dallas, Texas, a sniper like gunman opened fire downtown during the protests on the innocent police officers of Dallas.   Killing five, and wounding many, traumatizing families, and those who had given an oath to protect us, traumatizing America, and causing me to ask another question, “What has happened to our America?”

It has also encouraged me to write this letter to you:

An Open Letter to my Grandsons:
Aiden (6), Eli (4), Koby (2), Jordy (2 Months) 

July 9, 2017

A Letter From Papaw

Boys, words cannot explain the joy you have brought into our lives.  All of you are beautiful and special. So different, but so much alike as blood unites us all. You are Created by a loving God to glorify Him with your life.  My prayer for you all is that you will grow to love Jesus, His Word, and the things of God. That there will be a day when you all ask Him into your heart to save you, and to be your Lord and Savior.  That we will together, spend forever in heaven, with the One who died for our sin.

I write this to you today, because the America I grew up in seems to look a lot different than the one you are growing up in.  This week two boys were shot in encounters with police officers and died.  It appears that it didn’t have to happen and many have said it was because they were black.  Because of this, it has continued to divide people in our country just based on the color of our skin.  Never in my 54 years of life has it been this bad.  Not since the civil rights movement, when Martin Luther King led a change in America and reminded us all that all men are equal.

I want you to remember, that the color of someone’s skin, whether it be white, black, red, yellow or whatever, does not make them any different than you.  God loves us all.  Since recent victims have been black, some shout black lives matter!  I want you to remember and never forget all lives matter!  God loves you and he loves everyone.  Always treat others the way you want to be treated.  With respect, dignity, truthfulness, and honor.  Love people. Jesus did!

Don’t let your family or friends talk about someone and be mean just because our skin is not the same color.  Jesus died for everyone.  You are no better or worse than someone else, regardless!

Because of this tension in our nation, kids are being robbed of the innocence of childhood where your job is to have fun, play ball and enjoy life, to not worry.  You should be able to trust your parents and family to protect you and make sure you are safe.
I pray for you to have as  fun a  boyhood as I had growing up.

You have a lot of things I didn’t have as a boy, and one of them was news on TV all day long.  Another was video cameras everywhere.  You are seeing things that scare you and I don’t want you to grow up being scared. Always know that God is there and will be with you.  Always remember God is bigger and stronger, and can fix anything, even racial strife and prejudice in America. He can do it again. I pray you grow up happy and content wherever you live and whatever school you go to.

Another thing I want you to know is that you must respect authority and the law.  If you are ever pulled over by an officer, listen to him and be respectful. He has stopped you for a reason, for some concern.  He is trying to protect you, even if you don’t think so.  Pray for those that protect us.  They have families and little boys and girls just like you.  Every time you hear a siren, pray for first responders.  They put their lives on the line everyday for all of us.

It has been reported that the gunman who killed the 5 officers and wounded the others in Dallas was upset over the shootings by the police of the two young men, as well as others who have been killed across our nation. We all should be concerned over what we have witnessed.  Reports from eyewitnesses shared that before he died he had shouted he wanted to kill white officers, white people.  I don’t want you to ever hate anyone except the Devil.  The Devil is the liar. God loves us all.  Remember that killing is never the answer.  God commands us not to kill.  Those officers will never go home again either, and they have little boys just like you who will cry themselves to sleep because daddy isn’t coming home.

Always respect the power of a weapon. When you see one, you tell your parents. Never touch one and tell  Your daddy who will let you know when you are big enough and ready to be trained to use a gun responsibly.

One last note, I love you more than you will ever know, and I pray for you everyday. I pray that you will always be a man of peace and reconciliation.  May you never fall into the pit of hate and prejudice..  May God use you to show people His love.

 Always remember Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid.”  Jesus is the only One that can help, heal, and change our nation.

 I pray you have a happy boyhood.  Enjoy it.  It only comes by once. 

Love Papaw

Monday, June 20, 2016

SBC 2016 St. Louis/ Preaching and the Cross

I have been blessed to attend many SBC Annual Meetings since 1993, but none were any more moving than last week's meeting in St. Louis. John Meador put together an outstanding Pastor's Conference.  We arrived Sunday night, just as James McDonald was starting his message.  I missed Noah Oldham's message but just listened to it archived and he brought a strong, moving Word!

After the evening message, the praise team led us in beautiful worship as we sung about the cross, the blood, and the love of God.  As they sung, a man stepped out and began to notch a huge cross propped up.  He worked feverishly as sweat rolled form his brow.  You could tell he was in shape and that he was laboring.  He did the large beam  and then moved to the smaller.  He tied and hammered it together.  the choir continued to sing and was reaching a crescendo when about ten young men came out in black attire, took ropes and raised the cross to stand center stage.  Pastor Meador then ask all Pastors to come to the cross.  As we prayed together , with tears and repentance, the power of God had touched me, us, afresh.  I saw a Preacher buddy from Cincinnati and we embraced.  The words that came out were these, "No better place to see each other, than at he foot of the cross."

The old hymn says:

1. Jesus, keep me near the cross; 
there a precious fountain,
free to all, a healing stream,
flows from Calvary's mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
be my glory ever,
till my raptured soul shall find
rest beyond the river.

2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
love and mercy found me;
there the bright and morning star
sheds its beams around me.

3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
bring its scenes before me;
help me walk from day to day
with its shadow o'er me.

4. Near the cross I'll watch and wait,
hoping, trusting ever,
till I reach the golden strand
just beyond the river.

Jesus will you keep me near the cross?  I need you to do it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Power of God unto Salvation!

Sunday, May 22, 2016 is a day that we will never forget as a church.  What a blessing to begin the service with the baptism of three.  A mother and daughter, and a man that nearly everyone in Camden would recognize. Fred Green.  Twenty eight years ago, Fred became the owner of the local grocery store in Camden and has been a gracious, faithful friend to our church and this community.  Fred has always been a good, kind, and fair man.  If good men were to to get to heaven, one would think Fred would make it.

Fred's world, and the world of his family was recently shaken as he discovered a life threatening illness, and as God used it, it brought us face to face for conversation about Christ.  In that conversation we were reminded that good men don't automatically go to heaven.  That Jesus died for all of our good, which would never be enough, and for all of our bad which would never be bad enough to be forgiven.  The Holy Spirit spoke to Fred that day and his heart and life were changed in an instance by the power of God.

I was reminded that day as he and his wife left the office, that this is why we do what we do.  God is faithful and we must not give up.  The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation!  Romans 1:16

As this illness has led to an early retirement, and the sale of the store. As he was baptized many of his workers were in attendance.  What a blessing!  I pray God's best for the days ahead.

God's best is still ahead as heaven will be our home one day forever.  Until then, let's pray for the Fred Green's in our lives and community,  Let, pray and not give up!  Let's love people with the Gospel. Good people like Fred, and difficult people,  we are all lost if Jesus is not our Savior and Lord.

Thank you Fred and Lisa Green for your faithful service to the Camden Community.  May the Lord bless you in retirement and meet your every need as you walk with  Him.

Now we are brothers in Christ, let's live for Jesus!

Monday, April 11, 2016


That is question that appears to be coming from pastors all over the country.  As we get ready for our 2016 Spring "It's A Big Deal" Revival with David Burton from Jacksonville, I am more excited than ever about God using a fresh voice, with a fresh word, to stir our hearts, and bend our knees toward the Father.

April 13, 2016 will mark forty years since I gave my life to Christ... on a Tuesday night...in revival! God used a revival service and a guest evangelist who preached the word to speak to the heart of a fourteen year old church kid.  Revival means something to me and always will.

As a pastor now for twenty three years, we have had some great preachers come to the small town of Camden, Ohio.  Some full time evangelists, some pastors, some missionaries.  Pastor Mike Landry from Sarasota once told me, "You will never know if they will come unless you ask."  That has always stuck with me and I have tried to go after some of the best.  Often as a pastor, we are prone to ask a circle of friends, and sometimes the gifting of a certain pastor friend may not be a good fit for a revival in your church.

By attrition, churches have gone from week long, five services, four services, weekend, to a Sunday revival, then to not having one all together.  While a pastor and church has every right to schedule how they feel, have we gotten to the point where we think that revivals are not worth the time or effort?

Recently I heard of a pastor who  indicated that having a revival was too expensive.  Some claim their people won't come. Some say that a love offering will take away general giving of the church. Some say the lack of attendance was embarrassing to the pastor and church. Some simply don't want to bring in a speaker that their folks may enjoy more than them. Some argue that people are already strapped for time and adding something else just makes it harder. Could it be that revivals become a burden rather than a blessing because that is the way they are treated?  No preparation, no prayer, no excitement from the pulpit is sure to equal no expectation. God's grace still shows up in spite of ourselves.

We always see changed lives, and most of the time we will see people come to Christ.  Leonard Ravenhill has greatly challenged me recently with his heart for revival. "Why Revival Tarries" has become one of my all time favorite and challenging books.  God give me a heart to see you doing something that we cannot explain other than a mighty move of God!