I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Been thinking randomly lately... Some say I'm always quite random in my thinking... Just about finished a Pete Maravich biography (Great read)... Listening to several David Bercot lectures (really got me thinking)... Fell of the diet wagon, but will soon return to better eating ("soon" is a relative term)... Interested in the start of the NFL, but not really interested if you know what I mean... I haven't been shaving much lately (just on Sunday for the church crowd)... Feeling OLDER (I hurt my knee weeks ago & it still hurts!)... Got some sinus thing going  on too - no fun!... Wondering if I should pull the plug on this blog (Facebook killed the blogger?)... Well, looks like a good time to end here...

That's what I'm talking bout.


I just realized had several comments that I'd fail to "moderate" just hanging out there. I guess my new set up didn't work as planned (I thought I'd get an email to let me know - guess not). Anyway, sorry for taking so long to approve several comments. Who knows, I may even write a new post soon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I frequently hear good brethren announcing that they "always offer an invitation" whenever they preach. The implication is that faithfulness requires such a practice and to omit an "invitation" is tantamount to serious compromise. I believe I understand why men have these convictions and I am not interested in eradicating all "invitations", but I am interested in differentiating between human inventions and Biblical directives. Let's consider the "invitation time"  traditionally placed at the end of a sermon. Normally this would include a presentation of the "plan of salvation" and an "invitation song". The expectation is that anyone wanting to become a Christian would arise and come to the front of the assembly during the song in order to obey the gospel. Hmmmm. Where is exactly is this found in God's Word? I'm sure it MUST be in there because so many folks who claim to speak where the Bible speaks say it is a mark of fidelity to New Testament Christianity.

Well, actually it isn't there - not in the Bible at least. And neither is it there in the pages of early church history. It seems that history knows nothing of invitations for the first 1800 years or so of the church! It might make some uncomfortable to know that our invitation times have more in common with the "altar calls" of Presbyterian preacher Charles Finney in the 1800's than the book of Acts! Ironically a close examination of Peter's preaching in Acts 2 (the first New Covenant message) reveals that the people in the audience were the ones to inquire of Peter as to how to be saved (Read it for yourselves in Acts 2:36-38). And they did so without a standard invitation time or song. Apparently innumerable people have become followers of Jesus Christ without walking an aisle while onlookers stood singing a hymn.

(We should also consider that the standard invitation time has produced a Sunday only, preacher only evangelism system in many churches. This obviously is not the ideal. Additionally, Scripture doesn't teach that the Lord's day assembly of Christians is for evangelistic outreach. Evangelism may be a byproduct, but it isn't the expressed purpose. It seems that Christians got together  for encouragement, edification, etc. ["in-reach"], but that's another blog post for another time).

Let me be clear. My issue is not whether or not a local church offers invitations. I believe in local church autonomy but reject the idea that every practice not mentioned in Scripture is automatically prohibited.  My concern is when dogmatism clouds our handling of Scripture resulting in casting aspersions on brethren. There are many Bible verses that are twisted and stretched to produce denominational errors, so let's not do the same things when defending our traditions.

You are invited to reply but you must do so in the absence of a song unless you can sing & type at the same time!

That's what I'm talkin bout...

Monday, June 07, 2010

MS-150 (115)

I'm back and sort of rested from the weekend's MS-150 bike ride on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The event was executed remarkably well especially considering the number of participants and everything that has to be coordinated. Our cycling team (Blazing Saddles) has really grown from its beginning in 2008. This is in large part due to our team Captain's work - Lisa Taylor has really been getting it done. Our team was able to raise over $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was a good time & for a very good cause. It's the third year that Tammy & I have done this ride and this was the hottest and the windiest (sp?) too. They actually shortened the ride the second day because of concerns about the elevated temperatures (110 heat index). We ended up with a total of 115 miles on the rode.

Many friends & family helped take care of our precious children and that ultimately allowed us to do this ride. We are grateful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A DOZEN Reasons Why I Like Preaching Through Books of the Bible.

1. All Scripture is breathed out by God. Preaching through entire books demonstrates that we value every word of God!

2. Biblical ignorance. Sadly, many church goers skip & dip through Scripture and never get a good grasp on the flow of God’s Word.

3. Better at maintaining context. Sometimes hopping around Can result in out of context proof texting.

4. Cover topics that I might have avoided. Whatever is next is next!

5. Can’t be accused of picking a certain passage to go after someone or to further an agenda. (Well you might still get accused anyway! lol)

6. Safeguards against preaching what I want to preach and cherry picking verses to support what I want to say.

7. This how God’s written word was delivered to us. I highly value systematic theology, but nothing beats the power of going straight through a Holy Spirit written letter!

8. It allows people to more easily follow along with one main text for each sermon. People begin to see how things fit together and they can venture to study for themselves as well.

9. It helps show people how to study Scripture. Good preaching is a result of good hermeneutics in part and this should come through to the listeners.

10. It helps me know where I am going each coming Sunday. Cuts down of the Saturday night specials!

11. It’s cost effective when I can buy several resources for one book.

12. It places the emphasis on the passage not the preacher.

After all of that, I should note that I do preach “topical” messages and series as well. This can also be a very effective method of teaching Scripture too. It definitely has its place. And I employ this method of preaching quite often. Here are a few titles of relatively recent sermon series: American Idols, Old School, It’s All About Jesus, At Your Service, Frequently Asked Questions, The Big 10, Red Letter Questions, Heroes OT, Storm Stories, Go Fish, Faith Factor, Christ Encounters, On the Road Again, It Is About the $$$, etc.

There are a few church folks who would prefer if I moved on from the Gospel of John and that’s not surprising. People have preferences for sure, but I’m not planning on finishing with John any time soon. It’s one of only four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ we have to treasure and study. The Lord’s apostle wrote it, The Holy Spirit inspired it, and our Sovereign God has delivered it, so let’s enjoy every word of it!

That’s what I’m talking bout!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Yesterday we rolled out a survey at church. Only about 25% of the people in attendance responded which was a little disappointing. We are allowing a couple of weeks to complete this relatively brief survey, so we may get more responses next Sunday. It also could be one of the those things where most people are "okay" with what's going on and just decide to leave the survey to others. We provided a comments/suggestions section and I was frankly surprised by the lack of response. And I wasn't surprised by a few predictable comments! I'll start analyzing the results more fully next week. Interestingly 70% of those who responded indicated that they have invited someone to OCC in the past year. I admit I was stunned a bit by that. I would've had it much lower. About 2/3 of the respondents think we are "headed in the right direction." Which means 1/3 apparently think we aren't!

A good survey can be helpful, but you need to ask the right questions and, more importantly, you need to invest some effort in analysis and interpretation of your results.

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Give me the text!

When I prepare a sermon I usually read several different commentaries as part of my preparation. I also like to download a few sermons on the passage at hand and listen to them as a drive around  town or workout at the gym. I really am an auditory learner so I love my aging Ipod Nano & the podcasts, sermons & lectures that it holds. Anyway, I find it quite startling how often I will start to listen to a "sermon" based on a particular passage of Scripture only to end up skipping to something else. Why? Simply because the preacher guy is saying little to nothing that resembles the passage from which he's alledgely preaching! It really is very surprising how often I encounter this sort of thing: Read the text & blah, blah, blah. Now I realize that there may be various applications from a passage and there's a lot more truth packed in a text than one particlular sermon can highlight, but some preacher guys are just using the text as a starting place so as to say whatever thay want to say! Sometimes, as I'm listening, I say to myself, "WHERE'S THAT IN THE PASSGE?" So if you are treaching from a particular text please don't be so quick to depart from the truth contained therein. Hey, I might be listening to your podcast - so thanks in advance!

That's what I'm talkin bout!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Expanded Bible New Testament

I'm at Ollie's in nearby Hampton the other day and checking out their books (as I usually do). I came across The Expanded Bible: New Testament and remembered looking through it a few months ago. The price was right as it usually is at Ollie's so I picked up a hardback edition. I think many of you would enjoy this presentation of the New Testament. It's underlying text is the New Century Version (slightly modified I think). Now normally I wouldn't recommend this translation but in this format I really like it. The NCV is a "dymanic" or "thought for thought" translation and long way from the NASB, ESV, NKJV or even the NIV for that matter. Yes it's easy to read, but that's not enough for me. In this format howveer it is full of "notes" within the text itself and it is much more than a plain NCV. Think of it as the old Amplified version but MUCH better IMHO. You'll find brief comments, literal, traditional & alternate renderings, references, etc. in a well done approach. Some how a nice balance is struck here - not to much, but fairly hefty nonetheless. The NCV is in bold font so you can read it fairly easily if you don't want to read every additional word in between. It's actually pretty easy. Reading it out loud you'll sound like a teacher interjecting relevant information as you're reading. I suggest you consider it as a resource. You can get the PDF for free here

That's what I'm talkin bout!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Read John

I've been in a sermon series for a few months now based on the Gospel of John and I'm loving it! I know I'm the guy who thinks whatever book I happen to be studying at the time is the greatest ever, but John is truly TREMENDOUS! You can't read John and straddle the fence on the divinity of Jesus Christ (1:1,2,14a: 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.). You can't read John and suppose that all religions are the same (14:6: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.). You can't read John and conclude that Jesus was just some good teacher doling out several catchy & memorable sayings (8:24: I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."). John's Gospel is uncompromisingly in your face stuff and it resonates deeply in me with every passage. So, take a few minutes and feast on the life of Christ as recorded by the apostle John.

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I haven't been political lately, but...

I'm wondering. I'm wondering where all the anti-war protesters have been. I recall a particular vehemence and passion in protesters back during the Bush (#2) administration that seems to have diminished. Where is the hollyweird crowd? Where are the musicians? Maybe I've just been missing them (I don't pay much attention to them). And where is all the vitriol for President Obama over not bringing the troops home? President Bush was bellitled regulary & with much fervor - we all know that. I say this as someone who pulled for Ron Paul and as someone who was not in favor of invading Iraq in the first place, so I'm not a GOP/Bush apologist. I just find it curious that much of the anti-war fury has subsided eventhough the war hasn't.

I guess one might also note the GOP's ground troops & talking heads are suddenly concerned about the swelling of the federal government. The political door swings both ways for sure!

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some Answers

Here are some very brief answers to my recent interview. I was interviewed by a neighbor for an assignment in a Religion class at nearby CNU.

1. Do you believe the Bible literally?

Literaly is a loaded word. I believe the Bible is Divine revelation and is true. Some things in it are literal; some are figurative, etc.

2. Do you think we (the U.S.) should attempt to get other nations to embrace our form of Goverment?


3. What are your views regarding separation of church & state?

Keep them separated. I  would also note that we have freedom OF religion & not freedom FROM religion.

4. Do you believe your religion is the only correct one?

Yes. Jesus' subsitutionary death is the only means of salvation from mankind's sin (& coming punishment).

5. Who would you prefer handle benevolent/charity type efforts - government or private organizations?

Private orgnizations.

6. How do I feel about religious "hot button" isues like homosexual marriage, abortion & stem cell research?

-Homosexual marriage - incompatible with Christianity.
-Abortion - takes an innocent life.
-Stem cell - not sure, but think we can find others sources rather than cells made available from abortions. Would like to avoid a potenial supply & demand system here.

Do you address social/political issues at church?

Not much really. This can cloud our true focus. I'd prefer to keep the main thing the main thing.

What Happened to the Comments?

I recently moved to the DISQUS comment moderation system. I have been inundated with spam lately. Anyway, DISQUS adds some features & controls I like, but it has resulted in the disappearance of the old comments here WTBW? I'm in the process of trying to retrieve the old comments, but I haven't heard back form the DISQUS folks yet. Hopefully, I can still get them back and haven't lost them permanently. We shall see.

And it also allows me to dispatch one incessant jackass who cannot understand that his comments are not allowed here.

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"Hey, you're a pastor, right?" That question came from my approaching neighbor as I exited my car yesterday afternoon. He attends CNU & was working on an assignment for a Religion class. He needed to interview a "cleric" and you know me - I'm definitely a cleric! (lol) He recorded our interview with his spiffy green IPOD Nano (nice). Anyway, he asked a series of very interestig questions and I rambled off my answers. Here is the gist of a few (answers not included)...
  • Do you believe the Bible literally?
  • Do you think we (the U.S.) should attempt to get other nations to embrace our form of Goverment?
  • What are your views regarding separation of church & state?
  • Do you believe your religion is the only correct one?
  • Who would you prefer handle benevolent/charity type efforts - government or private organizations?
  • How do I feel about religious "hot button" isues like homosexual marriage, abortion & stem cell research?
  • Do you address social/political issues at church?
It was a really good conversation and I got to proclaim Christ. I could tell we had a lot in common at least politically. He's a Republcan moving toward Libertarian (like me). He's a Political Science major (I was too before switching to the most intellectually demanding major: Sociology!). He's a CNU student and I'm an alumnus. We supported the same candidate for Governor here in Virginia and, right now, we have the same mayoral candidate's sign in our respective front yards. There was much more, but the sum of the discussion was better than the details. How cool was it to have a college age guy sit in my living room and discuss with me the important issues of our day? VERY COOL. Now I need to figure out how to make that happen again.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Missed Church?

Last Sunday our leadership decided to "cancel church" because of a serious snow storm that hit our area. As a result of "missing church" I have given some serious consideration to what exactly was missed. I'm one of those guys who mocks people who watch "church" on TV and I'm also a little uncomfortable with churches using video sermons, so I was surprised by my own introspection. I asked my wife Sunday to be honest and tell me what we missed by staying home. How would you answer that? If your church cancelled last week what did you miss? Think about it. Some people opted for TV church (or internet streaming church) and I have a sneaky feeling that it wasn't too different from actual church (minus the fuel expense & travel time). So what what was missed???
  • Watching a sermon? (I know I'd like to believe that's true since I'm the guy delivering the sermon). This could however be accomplished by TV or at least via a podcast.
  • Singing? From my observation most folks aren't singing at church anyway, but if you're an exception you could still sing at home. You could even pick the music and sit and stand as you please!
  • Giving? Online giving is an option (though some folks want to deliver the check as an act of worship just like Biblical times).
  • The Lord's Supper? Now I'm sure you're thinking that here is the place where attendance is required. Really? I don't know about the church you're a part of, but most churches I'm familiar with make COMMUNION basically a private event...complete with indvidiuals in various forms of the holy fetal position around the room (errr... sanctuary) with mini-shot glasses (errrr....cups) & chiclets (errr... bread) in their hands with their eyes firmly closed in funerary contemplation. This goes off the same whether there are 2 or 200 people in the room.
  • Prayer? Since only one guy usually prays I'm not sure how to handle this one. Most of the church prayers are generalities and fairly detatched from the lives of the people.
  • Fellowship? If you mean walking by people in the hall or chatting briefly about the weather or football or American Idol then I could see where this would be difficult to do on your couch. But, honestly, fellowship is mostly non-existent in "church services" and we know it! We have about as much fellowship as people have at the movies - think about it.
So what's my point? Something is wrong with what "church" has become. We really aren't that far from our "TV church" attending friends in reality and that should scare the you know what out of us!

That's what I'm talkin bout.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Such as..." (still funny 3 years later)

Aimee Teegarden “Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

Miss South Carolina Lauren Caitlin Upton

“I personally believe, that U.S. Americans,

are unable to do so,

because uh,

some, people out there, in our nation don’t have maps.

and uh…

I believe that our education like such as in South Africa,

and the Iraq,

everywhere like such as…

and, I believe they should uh,

our education over here,

in the U.S. should help the U.S.

or should help South Africa,

and should help the Iraq and Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future,

for us.”

Host Mario Lopez “Thank you very much South Carolina.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why is it?

Why is it that...
  • Sororities & fraternities can create life long bonds in a few years but many churches remain fragmented, disconnected and detatched?
  • Cults (often without "paid staff") can mobilize so many people to action while churches struggle with commitment and doing the most basic stuff?
  • Numerous organziations are flexible enough to engage a changing culture yet churches remain stagnantly committed to the same old thing?
  • Bars & clubs are full on Saturday night and church buildings have plenty of room on Sunday mornings?
  • Social/Politcal movements seem to garner intense participation yet so many church folks are satisfied with the staus quo?
That's what I'm talkin bout.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Have Life?

In John 5:39-40 Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." This rebuke was delivered to the hyper-manmade-religious elitists of Jesus' day. One of these guys memorized more Scripture than entire congregations do these days, yet Jesus administered a huge smack down on them instead of an honorary degree from Jerusalem Bible College. Why? Because their advanced studies were all for nought. Sure, there are plently of folks who need to dramatically ramp up their time in the Word, but it's not always that simple and it doesn't always resulting in finding life in Jesus. As Jesus points out you can be quite accomplished in Bible study and COMPLETELY MISS THE POINT. They took the book and added to it a some extras like moralism, legalism & nationalism and came up empty! So,what is the point of the Scriptures? JESUS! Jesus is the point. The whole book glorifies and honors Him. It all points to Him! We need to read Scripture with that overarching thought in mind. Life is not in the Book; it's in the Author and perfecter of our faith.

That's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The irony of it all...

Yesterday I preached from John 5:1-15. It's a powerful passage about dramatic life change (one of my favorites too). An invalid (for 38 years) is healed by Jesus after Jesus asked the resounding question: "Do you want to get well?" I pointed out that the religious leaders of the day seemed to be oblivious to the man's healing and instead chose to focus on his perceived violation of their law against "mat carrying" on the Sabbath. I noted that in my observation there are many churches more concerned about maintaining tradtions while being conspiciously inattentive to the lack of life change in their congregations. Following Jesus is about life transformation not human traditions - at least that's what I thought.

Now let me insert some observations from our congregational meeting after the service. I really don't enjoy these meetings for various reason that I won't mention here. We were way behind in our giving (versus spending) throughout the year yet significantly closed the gap  in the last two weeks. Yet we still finished in the red. We carry a large building debt along with the usual bills and expenses. We run a very lean budget too. Mid-year we changed the format of our "service" where we no longer "took up the offering" but instead allowed people to drop it into one of several boxes around the "sanctuary". It was asked in the meeting if our drop off in giving corresponded to the change in the method of receiving money. Not a bad question in itself. The answer is yes & no. Yes it did - actually giving always drops in the summer. We've also had our attendance drop too. People have died, people have moved, people have lost jobs. Additionally, those who count the incoming money have also told me that the regular givers are still regular givers. Now let's go post meeting...

In the hallway a long time member approaches me a says that we need to go back to the bags going around the room. (perhaps not the exact phrase, but close). Do we really need to do that? Is that the solution to our debt & financial challenges? Or is this just an opportunity for those who want to return to the predictable comfort/tradition of the way we used to do it (in spite of the fact that the offering has been declining for the last few years). What are the other alternatives to generate funds? BINGO would work, but, we prefer car washes, yard sales and suppers around here! I wonder if we shouldn't send people bills? Or maybe we should have each aisle come forward and give (I've seen that it one church). Or maybe we should count the offering and pass the bags or plates again in order to make budget (seen that too). Why do collect an offering at all? Is is to help poor saints somewhere? Nah, it's almost exclusively to pay for our debt, our stuff and the services we expect from those on the payroll.

One of the issues unbelievers often have with the church is our financial dealings. So the solution to our debt & budgets woes is to thrust a bag into the lap of everyone in the our presence on Sunday morning? So will we go back to old way? I don't know yet. If we do we can be sure that we will get the occasional guy quickly digging for his wallet and dropping in a 5 spot so he doesn't look bad in the eyes of the saints, but is that what we want?  Maybe so - if the offering is about getting instead of giving...

That's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sunday Jobs

This post isn't about folk working on Sunday instead of showing up "at church". It's about all the jobs we give people on Sundays "at church". Most church growth gurus teach that is necessary to get members involved in mininstry/service as part of a healthy church growth strategy. On the surface this seems right - Christians being servants. Yet, wnen you think about it for a while it seems (to me) that there's something below the surface AND it isn't necessarily healthy. Most Sunday church jobs in medium size congregations involve things like greeting (or "guest services" if you're sophisticated), nursery, serving communion (unleavened chiclets & non-alcoholic mini-shot glasses), collected the offering, etc. I got to thinking..... and I wondered how many people show up on Sundays BECAUSE they have a job to do. Sure that's gets them "there" but is that really what it's all about. I could come up with some prety creative ways to get people there. How many people wouldn't come without a job? How many realize Saturday night that they "have to go tomorrow" because they are passing out bulletins this Sunday? Maybe that's why we create more & more "minstries" so that we can get people to show up. Contrast that with the early believers in the book of Acts and you'll get my point (maybe). Fellowship, the Apostles teaching, breaking bread & prayer. Nowadays that's not good enough, at least for some people in certain places. IMHO, the modern church continues to devolve resulting in ever increasing efforts like the aforementioned strategies (often unrelated to biblical fellowship or discipleship) being employed to manufacture attendance thereby creating an allusion of a healthy church. Of course I might be wrong, but that's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I'm Back (at least for now)

I had  3 different people mention my blogging absence in 24 hours. So, I thought I'd test the waters again. I like this blogging thing - I like reading other blogs, so why stop?

1. Sometimes (you may have noticed) my blogs can be rants. I like a well written rant, but some of my rants were moving potentially close to some of my readers, fellow church members, or even friends. Of course I could post the random, inoffensive "what I had for lunch" kind of stuff, but that seemed silly & trite. (Not that I'm above that all the time).

Also, I got into Facebook and that cut into my internet time. I got sidetracked there and it got easy to just one line post rather than try to compose something semi-thoughtful here. Ironically, I've gotten a little tired of FB latley too.

Finally, I've been some introspection lately and my current focus isn't eligible for public consumtion, at least not yet.

So what's up with me these days? I've been doing some serious personal analysis and long term thinking. You know the "where will I be in 20 years?" kind of thinking. I'm trying to balance reality and my idealism. Been thinking about church, the bible, etc. a great deal too. Maybe I'll blog about that ... one day.