Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ten Things I didn't learn in seminary

A friend asked me to put together a list of ten things that I didn’t learn in seminary about ministry but would be good to know if I were just starting out. (Wow… I must be getting old. No one asked me those types of questions a few years back when I was the new preacher kid on the block. Now I’m viewed as the wily seasoned veteran. UGH! I feel like I should say, “Come here, grasshopper, and I will share with you great wisdom.”)

Knowing I write this little letter on Thursdays, I thought, “Hey, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone” (sorry PETA). I could make the list for my friend and send that same list to my Thursday e-mail friends (besides I think there are some principles at work here that are good for everyone, whether in full-time ministry or not). So, from the wily veteran pastor to all you whipper-snappers out there in cyber land, here’s my list...

1) Grow spiritually. Sermon preparation and Bible study preparation are no substitute for personal private time with God. It is so easy for those of us in full-time ministry to seek God for others instead of seeking God for ourselves. The best ministry happens out of the overflow of what God is doing in our lives!

2) Be positive. Attitude really is everything. Let me just say it like it is: negativity stinks. Make Zig Ziglar look like a sad sack. Be the most up-beat, positive pastor your folks have ever had.

3) Have fun. We all have bad days. We all have long days. We all have days that we wish we would have stayed in bed with the covers over our head. But if ministry isn't enjoyable you need to try a new gig.

4) Make mistakes. What? That’s right… don’t be afraid of mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t experimenting enough. Everything should be an experiment. Part of the deal in experimenting is tripping up and falling down and learning how you got there. (Isn’t it weird that tripping up and falling down leads to the same place… face down in the mud?) Mistakes aren’t the problem, making the same mistake over and over again— staying in the mud--that’s a problem!

5) Always strive for excellence! A healthy dose of divine discontent is good! Strive to keep getting better and better at whatever you do.

6) Be not afraid of tough and loving conversations. Life is too short to hold a grudge. Use John 1:14 as your conversational model. Jesus was full of grace and full of truth. Truth means I'm going to be honest no matter what. Grace means I'm going to love you no matter what.

7) Most stuff is small stuff. Most stuff that happens in a church isn’t HUGE and earth shattering. Most stuff is rather manageable especially if you keep in mind that the garbage still needs to be taken out on Wednesdays and the dog needs a bath. In other words, life goes on. Don’t be consumed by the small stuff. And (remember this) even if the “whatever-it-is” you are dealing with is a Big Stuff kind of thing, guess what? God can handle the Big Stuff.

8) You are not Superman (or Superwoman). Even if you own blue tights and a red cape (ok that would be a little creepy if you owned such apparel and you are over 9 years old), you are not called to be the fix all, be all, answer all to the needs of your church. The church doesn’t need a Super Pastor (or Dear Abby or Dr. Phil or anyone else) they simply need a real person, being led by the Living Lord!

9) You are a Servant! Be prepared to work as for the Lord-- even when no one notices or when the job that needs done is yucky or when you think someone else instead of the “high and lofty pastor” ought to be doing it or when the task is not on your gift inventory list or when the matter at hand leads you to a place of thinking “I’m too good for this.” In such a moment repeat three times: I am a servant. I am a servant. I am a servant of the King!

10) Don’t worry about lists that people want you to make up. If you can only think of nine items, and they want ten… just give them nine. Or make up something dumb for the tenth item, like “why you shouldn’t worry about lists that people ask you to write.” Our way might not be exactly the way someone thinks it should be done… and that’s OK if in your way of doing it, you are doing what Jesus called us all to do: Love God. Love people. Turn our world upside down for Him!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Weekend...mostly Good (some bad)

It was a mixed review for the weekend. Good and Bad.

Bad... the rain almost washed out the Sr. High Pool party at our house.
Good... it stopped raining and we all had fun!

Good... two Arabic services (Saturday and Sunday Nights... wow! A mini-revival!)

Good... Rodney Kilgore and Eric Kesselring filled in great for vacationing Pastor Kevin Yesterday.

Good... the video in the first service
Bad... the technological problems that caused the video to be lost in the second service

Good... The teen service last night.
Bad... my teen's car breaking down after the teen service

Good...our friends Jim and Lori visiting from Michigan
Bad... the news that Lori's cancer has returned.

Good... the news that they believe to have caught the cancer early
Better... the doctors will be investigating...
Best... God is still the "Great Physician."

Add it all up... still a pretty good weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Me and the Tigers

I am ashamed to admit this… but I went to all three of the Tiger games.

The first game I went to with Ben, Pastor Jeremy and Justin Eller. We stayed to the very end—even though the J-Men are Royals fans and their team lost 19-4. Justin is in the Army reserves and the Royals give all military men and women four free tickets on Mondays. So the game was free.

The second game I went to with a couple of different guys from church-- Denny Wadsworth and Kelly Patrick. Denny's son, Scott works for the Royal (is the director of Ticket sales) so again the tickets were free. We had pretty good seats. That was the rain delayed game—but again we stayed until the very end. There were only about 500 or so fans there at the end. It was fun… although I didn’t get home until abut 1:45 AM.

Game three was yesterday and once again I had free tickets. The Nazarene Publishing House has tickets—and David Nash got me their seats. So Alex and I went to the game.

It was a busy baseball week! But the Tigers won all three so that makes me happy!

Hanging out in some hospitals

I’m hanging out at some hospitals today. Two people with Central connections are having surgery—in two different hospitals, in two different parts of the city. I don’t know when I’ll get back to the church— but that’s OK.

I like praying with people in hospitals. I like getting to know their loved ones who also gather at the hospital. I know some pastors these days don’t have the time or don’t feel the need or whatever—but I really like being there. When people are going through a difficult time (and I think being in the hospital preparing to “go under the knife” automatically qualifies one for having a “difficult time”), I love being able to go before the Lord with them—and remind them that the Great Physician is always “on call.”

I have had some different experiences in hospitals. People are not generally at their best in the hospital (again I think being in the hospital automatically exempts one from having to be “at their best”). I always try to knock on the door before entering a room—yet I have still managed to walk into some strange situations for which my seminary education did not prepare me. Seeing parishioners without wigs, teeth and necessary articles of clothing can be more than a little awkward (to say the least). I’ve been mistaken for a doctor, the husband or son or dad of the infirmed. I’ve been mistaken for the grandfather (ouch!) of a new born baby. Not known for having a particularly strong stomach, I have been in rooms when all sorts of bodily functions have been taking place—which has nearly caused my own unwanted bodily function.
Once a lady was about to have her foot amputated. It was the grossest thing in the world. Gangrene had set in. It looked bad. It smelled bad. It was bad. Even the medical team of foot specialists had never seen such a nasty foot—they were taking pictures. Knowing the grossness factor was off the charts, the doctors tried to shoo me from the room (to which I was more than happy to oblige) but the dear, sweet saintly lady just wanted her pastor to be by her side. “It’ll be alright, my pastor doesn’t mind staying.”
Ummm… my eyes, nose and stomach thank you very much for the confidence you have shown in me.

I’ve been with people when they have received wonderful news:
“The surgery went great!”
“The cancer is gone.”
“Your heart is better than ever.”
“He’s a boy!”

I’ve been with folks when they have received the worst possible news:
“I’m sorry, we couldn’t fix the problem.”
“It was far worse than we anticipated.”
“You should call in the family.”
“Your husband didn’t survive.”

Besides in churches, I’ve been able to pray with more people in hospitals than anyplace else. I’ve prayed for healing, salvation, peace and comfort in hospitals, and God has answered those prayers. In all my years of ministry, in various hospitals and seeing literally thousands of people—I only remember one time when someone refused prayer for their situation (I always ask permission to pray with the person). It’s been a privilege and honor and blessing to be in these circumstances, its one of the reasons I love being a pastor.

I write all of this to say— God works in hospitals. God still hears our prayers. God still heals. God still brings peace in the most trying, chaotic, awful times. So today, I’m hanging out at some hospitals anticipating God doing awesome things, and knowing that He will be with us.

Here are two things to take with you…

1) Pray always. If you know of someone or if you are going through a physical trial, keep on praying. Don’t quit. God hears! God heals! Praise the Lord!!

2) Visit or call or send a note or make a meal. In some way, make a connection with the one going through the trial. That’s a job not just for pastors. You too can be a blessing and know the joys of being blessed for your efforts!

Whether in a hospital or not… have a terrific day!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My visit to the Dentist

The dentist this morning upon seeing the inside of my mouth, burst into song: "Crown him with Many Crowns!"
When I shared with Karla this news, she and my wallet were equally singing: "Let your Heart be broken" (Hymn #543 if you are singing along!)

Some random thoughts….

Did you hear Josh Hamilton testify during the Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby on Monday Night? Repeatedly when asked about his accomplishments on the field, the outfielder gave the glory to God. After several of these exchanges on the air, one of the commentators for the event, Rick Reilly, responded, “It’s a bad night for atheists at Yankee Stadium tonight!” Josh Hamilton, you are my new favorite player!

We had our New Board cook out on Tuesday. What a great church board Central is blessed to have serving us! As we began to organize for the coming year, Dan Rexroth was re-elected as the Secretary of the Board and Tim Dykman was re-elected to serve as the church treasurer. The executive committee for the following year will be Dan and Tim and Missionary President David Cooper, Buildings Chairman Glenn Harding, Kent Kirby and Dr. Linda Alexander.

My son, Alex, is a new and proud employee of Chik-fil-a. But as I understand it there is no “family and friends discount.” Hmmm … that’s a bummer.

Can you believe that our kids will be back in school in less than a month? WOW! Where is the summer going?

We have extended an invitation to Rev. Carol Rittenhouse to be our new Connecting Pastor. Rev. Rittenhouse is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene (1987) and Nazarene Theological Seminary (2006). She has been on staff at Shawnee Nazarene and currently works with Mike Stipp in Clergy Services at Nazarene Headquarters. Carol will begin at Central on August 3.

I go to the dentist later this morning; I know what he is going to say: “This Prince needs a crown.” I know what my wallet is going to say: “NOOOOOOO!”

In my three years in Kansas City, I have not been to Oceans of Fun. Am I missing something?

Last night, I sat in on a little bit of a meeting (long enough to get some rice and chicken… yummy!) with our Arabic service leaders. They are a wonderful group of people that love the Lord. Keep praying for this group and for Pastor Jaime as he gives leadership to this ministry.

If I could add one thing to Kansas City… it would be a professional hockey team, so I could see the World Champion Red Wings play every once in a while. (If Karla could add anything to Kansas City, she would add a Great Lake… which is kind of hard, unless we have another Ice Age, and according to Al Gore that might not happen anytime soon. Even if Al is wrong, I think adding a hockey team might be a little easier.). Next week the Detroit Tigers will be in town… so if you have an emergency that requires a pastor, I might be a little late in getting there because there is a good chance I will be travelling to the hospital (or wherever your emergency is) from Kauffman Stadium.

Speaking of emergencies, Karla thought that I croaked the other night. Fortunately, she was mistaken. I was sleeping. Very soundly. I was not moving, appeared to not be breathing (no snoring from me, thank you very much), did not respond when she said my name (did I mention I was sleeping?), so Karla smacked me. “HEY!” was my groggy response. “I was worried you were dead,” was her answer. “Umm… I guess I’m not.”

Hey, we have a missionary coming on Sunday Night: the Taylors from the Philippines. Speaking of missions….

Did you know that over 120 Centralites have gone on a mission trip this year? It’s true. Not only that, we have several from Central going on the district mission trip to Mexico this week, and there is still time for you to go to Iowa for our next mission effort as we help the victims of the recent floods. Contact David Cooper for more info on Iowa. We are Mission Trip Crazy! I love it!!!

Of these events from the last year, what should I be more excited about?
Summer Fest (we had more people attend than ever), or
Biker Sunday (our first annual …. which got off to a great start), or
Vacation Bible School (after a two year hiatus it was back… better than ever!) or
Collide (remember last winter’s intergenerational, revival, gathering time?) or
The new Spanish Service that started in March, or
The new Arabic service that also started in March?
You’re right… I should be excited about all of these outreach ministries! And I AM excited!!!!

Have I mentioned lately that I am glad I am your pastor? I am that too!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Missions Matter

Our students returned on Saturday night from their mission trip to Nashville. Except for some bus troubles and not enough showers in the church where they were staying, it was a good trip.

Just in case you are keeping score at home that makes the third mission trip of the year by Central. So far this year, we've had 52 people in El Salvador, 60 in Nashville and (I think) 9 in Oklahoma City. At the end of the month we are sending a team to Iowa to help the flood victims. (Contact the Church office or David Cooper if you are interested in going to Iowa). Next year, plans are in the works for a mission trip to Africa-- and I am sure some other domestic locations.

I am glad that missions matter at Central!

This Sunday in the Sunday @ Six Service, we have missionaries to the Philippines Greg and Terry Taylor with us. I am looking forward to hearing how God is working in that part of the world!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Quote of the Week

"If you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water . . . in the church at the present day, we have many canals, few reservoirs.” - Bernard of Clairvaux

Facebook and Me

I have a Facebook account. For those who may not be aware of Facebook allow me to explain. Facebook is a social networking website launched in February of 2004 by a Harvard sophomore named Mark Zuckerberg. Today over 80 million people are on Facebook, and some have estimated that the company is now worth 8 billion dollars (that’s billion… with a “B”!) Suffice it to say young Mark Zuckerman probably isn’t eating Raman Noodles for dinner anymore. Facebook originally was limited to Harvard students, it then expanded to other colleges and high schools and the day before my 43rd birthday (September 26, 2006) was expanded so that anyone over the age of 13 could join.

My question became: Is it hip or creepy that someone my age has a Facebook account? My sons are both on Facebook. Several of our high school and college students are on Facebook. But should someone born before JFK’s assignation be on Facebook (I was not quite two months old on that fateful, November day in 1963, still I was alive and well and presumably sucking my thumb.)? So, to Facebook or not to Facebook that became the question. On Sunday, I decided to jump in.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the first four days of being on Facebook.

1) It was sad when I first signed up and read, “Rob Prince has 0 friends.” I quickly realized I had to invite others to be my “friend” or they had to discover my profile on other friend’s lists. I was so happy when I got my first “friend.” It was Jim Knight. Jim was a childhood chum, whose family moved to Colorado Springs when we were pre-teens so Jim’s dad could attend Bible College. I hadn’t see Jim in years.

2) Not wanting to look like a stalker or something, I decided to not ask anyone under college age to be my “friend.” If a student asks me to be his or her friend, and I know this person, I will happily comply, but it seems a little creepy for me to be asking students if “I can be their friend.” (Of course, I’ve asked Alex and Ben to be my “friend.” Ben said “yes.” I’m still waiting on Alex’s reply.)

3) I’m not the oldest person on Facebook. I have discovered that there are lots of us old guys on it. Both of my sisters (who technically are not “old guys” but do happen to be older than me) are on Facebook. My District Superintendant has a Facebook account. My goodness, Derl Keefer, who is the PrimeTime Director (read: Old Folks Director) for the Church of the Nazarene is a Facebook guy. (Although maybe Derl doesn’t count because besides having a really cool first name, Derl is a pretty hip fella with or without Facebook!)

4) All of the Central Staff has a Facebook account except for Jeremy Bond. Hmmm… maybe Jeremy needs a “Knuckleheadbook” account. (If you do not attend Central… this means nothing to you… sorry for the “insider” humor. To get these and other quirky bits of humor that often sprinkle these little pages…. attend Central church on a regular basis!)

5) After four days I now have 73 friends (I wish Central was growing at this same rate!).

6) It has been fun reconnecting with old college friends and folks from Michigan and fellow Centralites. My furthest away “friend” is Rod Green—he lives in Jordan. My closest “friend” is Ben Prince he lives down the hall.

7) The Facebook phenomenon is a tremendous example of the fact that we all have a desire to be connected. God has placed the need in us to be a part of a community, a group that is welcoming, inviting and loving. And the best news is that Jesus himself has said he wants to be connected to us. (Read all about it in John 15… that’s the Bible passage about Jesus being the Vine and we are the branches. There you can read such wonderful words from Jesus such as: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4). I don’t think Jesus is one of the 80 million Facebook members, but I know this: He invites all of us to be his friend. Jesus said: “You didn’t choose me, I chose you.” (John 15:16). His desire is that we are connected not just to a group of people, but to Himself and to His Kingdom.

It’s been a fun few days on Facebook. If you are on Facebook and need another friend… send me an invite. If you could care less about Facebook, we can still be friends… just the “old fashioned way” of phone calls, lunches, letters, e-mails, etc. (which in my old fashioned, born pre-man-on-the-moon ways… still seems better than Facebook). But in all things, whether we are “Facebook friends” or regular friends or even if you view me like your strange cousin Harold (and want to avoid me at all costs) -- make Jesus your friend and always stay connected to Him.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Our Economic Stimulus Check

On Monday it arrived directly from the US Department of the Treasury. The Prince’s economic stimulus check-- one thousand eight hundred smackeroos-- arrived in my mailbox. Yippee! Thank you, Mr. Mailman, Mr. President and all the members of Congress.

Now I understand that $1800 is not like winning the lottery or playing professional baseball. Karla and I can’t take the money and catch the first flight to Tahiti or some exotic place. You won’t see me rolling into the church parking lot with a new Ferrari on Sunday. Still 1800 beans is nothing to sneeze at.

Ben thought that he should receive his $300 portion. He thought that since each kid ups the amount received by $300 that he should have it. (Of course, this is after we have spent far more than his “share” of the $300 for his summer camp, baseball team, clothes, shoes, food etc…). I said I would be happy to give him his 300 greenbacks the next time (which will be the first time) he helps pay his share of the mortgage, the grocery bill, the light bill, the tax bill, the… well, you get the idea.

Since Ben’s not getting it… the question becomes what should we do with our Economic Stimulus check?

Hmmm…. according to, $1800 will purchase…
· 936 pair of Spiderman underwear (that’s a six pack for $11.48)
· 1260 baseballs (you can get 5 dozen balls for $82.98)
· Three Briel Multi-Pro Prestige Espresso Machines (at $512.95 each)
· Nearly one Sony Bravia 46” HDTV and Home Audio System (it’s $1898)
· A one carat diamond solitaire 14kt white gold split bale pendant-- IGI certified for $1,699.00 (Did you know that Wal-Mart sells diamond necklaces for 1700 bucks? I didn’t know that either. You can also buy a signed baseball from the 1986 New York Mets for $1050. Who would buy a baseball with the 1986 New York Mets signatures from Wal-Mart? Now if it were a signed baseball from the 1984 Tigers, I could understand. I knew Wal-Mart sold drain cleaner and socks and motor oil and toothpaste, but diamond necklaces and sports memorabilia? I had no idea.).

While I am sure my baby would look nice wearing a Wal-Mart diamond necklace, and I sure could use a double espresso about now, and my family room would sure look nice with a big ol’ flat screen TV hanging on the wall, I’m not convinced that any of those options are good choices for us (besides I really don’t think I could ever wear 936 pair of Spiderman underwear.).

With just a little “googling,” I discovered that most of the world lives on less than $2000 a year. So for a little more than what the government sent our family to stimulate the economy there are plenty of families in the world trying to make ends meet for the whole year. Wow! With the money that we will spend to kick start our economy—there are families that will budget their entire year. Double wow!

I write this not to make you feel guilty or to tell you to need to send all the money into the church or Nazarene Compassion ministries or some other worthy cause—but rather to simply remind you once again how blessed we are in America. As we celebrate our Independence tomorrow, take time to be thankful. I know it stinks that gas costs four bucks a gallon and a gallon of milk costs three. I know it’s bad that babies are still being aborted, and crime still happens and the coming presidential election will have more mud flying than a Monster Truck Competition. Still we live in a blessed place. We don’t need to pray for “God to Bless America,” He already has.

And because we are so blessed, doesn’t it make sense that we should complain less and be thankful more. Maybe we should waste less and give more. Maybe instead of praying for God to bless us, since He already has blessed us-- we should pray how we can be a blessing to others. Somewhere I read “that to whom much has been given, much will be required.”

What will you do with your economic stimulus check? That’s up to you and your family and God. I just pray that we are faithful—in how we spend our money, in how we spend our time, and in how we spend our lives!