Category Archives: Things Dad Taught Me

“I Can Do All Things…”

Tuesday Re-mix –

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

I grew up with a pretty healthy dose of Zig Ziglar and Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking…or at least with my Dad’s slightly more scriptural version of that philosophy.  Dad used to always say to me, “Son, with God’s help, you can accomplish anything you set your mind on accomplishing…and you can be anything you set your mind on being.”

Honestly, I am not sure I ever really believed that.

I just never really bought into the promise that, “through God, I could do all things.”  The whole notion of being some kind of spiritual superhero sounded glamorous and all, but it raised a few questions in my mind.  First of all, what if I set my mind on being God?  Could I accomplish that?  Secondly, shouldn’t there be some moral correlation to that rule?  Or is it really anything at all to which I set my mind?  And what if what I really set my mind to accomplish conflicts with what you really set your mind to accomplish?  Then what?

I had a thousand questions about this concept, especially the secular version of it.  But even the scriptural version gave me trouble: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  It would be many years before I would begin to understand it.

As it turns out (I would later learn), being empowered by God is not quite the same thing as being gifted with super powers which I could then go and use either for evil or for good.  Moreover, it does not even mean that my story will always be powerful or successful or even meaningful.  In fact, being the kind of Christ-follower Paul describes …

It is Always About the People

Tuesday Re-mix –

My Dad had a kind of a rule when we went on vacation.  Well, maybe it was just a strong preference or philosophy.  Sometimes those things all can sound the same with Dad.  🙂  Dad felt strongly that, when taking pictures on vacation, there should be a person in every one of them.  In other words, a vacation picture without a person in it is just a waste of film.  So, anytime we saw something noteworthy or cool and wanted to take a picture of it, Dad wanted someone (ANYONE) to go and stand by the thing for the picture.  I followed that philosophy most of the time, but am just going to confess now that, as I have grown a little older, I have often broken that rule and have taken some pictures of some pretty amazing scenery…without any people in them.

But perhaps that preference says more about Dad and what is important to him than it does about his taste for photography.  You see, Dad is a pastor.  Irrespective of his various titles and positions in ministry, in his heart he has always been a pastor.  To him, people are important.  In fact, they are the most important thing.

I would like to think I have learned that preference from him, especially where the church is concerned.  It is all about the people.

I think it is easy to make it about other things…the buildings, the budget, the music, the parking, the numbers, the location, the constitution & by-laws, the committees, the votes, the worship planning, the strategic planning, the reports, the offices, the retreats, the concerts, and I could go on and on.  You get the picture.  But even as important as most of those things are, they are never more important than …

The Routine Maintenance of Every Relationship

Tuesday Re-mix –

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…  Hebrews 10:24-25

As a teenager starting to drive, I spent one Saturday afternoon learning from Dad how to change the oil in my car.  It was actually pretty interesting to me.  I was fascinated with the whole process.  Dad was very careful to show me how to change the oil filter without damaging it, how to drain the oil and properly dispose of it, how to tighten the drain plug again without stripping it, and how to put the new oil into the engine.  It was a whole process.  I learned it all.

Then, by the time I was 40 years old, I had paid to replace two different automobile engines as a result of NOT changing the fluids regularly enough.  It seems that, while I did learn HOW to change the oil…I had not learned THAT I must change the oil regularly!  I am a slow learner.  🙂  The truth is, I have had a hard time learning about routine maintenance in lots of respects…appliances (both major and minor), household, landscaping, automobiles, computers…you name it, if I have owned it, I have struggled with routine maintenance for it.

Relationships have routine maintenance requirements as well.  All relationships do…even Christian relationships.  Relationships between really good people still need maintenance.  Relationships among experts on relationships still need maintenance.  Without that maintenance, even the strongest of relationships will tend toward breakdown.

I am always amazed in my counseling endeavors when I find two otherwise intelligent, personable, Christian leaders who spend little time actually nurturing their friendship with one another and who then seem befuddled by the …

“Loser’s Limp” and Avoiding Apologies

Tuesday Re-mix –

 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  Luke 15:21

“A stiff apology is a second insult… The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”  G.K. Chesterson

I have a pretty tough apology to make this week.  I will confess to you that I do not want to have to do it.  The more I think about it, the more my sinful mind begins thinking other thoughts…alternative thoughts…thoughts of deflecting the fault to someone else, or even of feigning my own “hurt” from the situation in an attempt to distract from my fault.  Do you ever have those kinds of conversations in your head?

My Dad called it “Loser’s Limp”.  I was about 10 years old.  I was the second-string quarterback of the Bellaire Panthers Pop Warner football team.  I was running plays with the second-string offense against our very formidable first-string defense.  I called a simple running play in the huddle, came to the line, called for the snap, and proceeded to turn the wrong direction to hand-off the ball.  It was a busted play and I got smeared all over the field by our entire defense.  I was the last to get up.  I was humiliated, and maybe just a little bit injured.  Maybe.  I did not want to face my coach, so I slowly but emphatically limped off the field, hoping everyone would forget my mistake and just feel sorry for me and my injury (which was growing worse and worse in my mind).  I got to the sidelines and met Dad’s gaze.  He was giving me the disappointed look (I didn’t …

Real Leaders Have Hard Conversations

Tuesday Re-mix –

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

Am I the only one who thinks “Pastor” should be one of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” episodes on the Discovery Channel?

Thinking about another truth my Dad taught me about the church.

Those of you who know Dad know that he is certainly capable of “stirring the pot” even to the point of conflict.  That capability is, I think, actually a reflection of a particular leadership skill he possesses…he is capable of having the hard conversations in a church.  You know the conversations I mean: the ones nobody else on the staff wants to have, the ones which may prove to be a bit awkward, even painful.  I have watched him in ministry for all of my 52 years on this earth and, whether as a pastor or a denominational worker, or even as a Sunday School teacher, I have known Dad to step up to the plate many, many times when a hard thing needed to be said or conveyed.

This is not a lesson he has ever spoken to me, at least not that I can remember.  Rather, this is a lesson I learned from watching him all these years.  Real church leaders, the ones who are genuine influencers, are the ones who are willing to sit down and have that very difficult conversation which nobody else wants to have.  The pretend leaders, on the other hand, will avoid those conversations at all costs.

You know well the conversations I mean…

…that volunteer who needs to be “counseled out” of a particular ministry position…

…that employee whose gossip is becoming a problem…

…that Sunday School teacher …

God’s Will: Keeping the “What” and the “When” Together

Tuesday Re-mix –

Last Summer (2011) will go down forever in the scrapbook of the Coffee household.  It was crazy!  Between May 10 and May 28 (just 18 days), my older daughter graduated from ACU, my younger daughter graduated from MacArthur High School, and my older daughter got married!  That whole month is just a hazy flash in my memory.  But it was not over.  To top all of that off, my younger daughter was driving with a friend through our neighborhood in the middle of a weekday morning and got hit by a drunk driver.  Timing is everything.

The car accident happened at an intersection. My daughter was actually the second car to go through the intersection. The drunk driver blew through a red light and totalled my daughter’s car. My daughter and her friend were (thankfully) spared any serious injury. If the drunk driver had come a second or two sooner, she would have missed us altogether. If she had come a second later, she would have done serious (maybe fatal) damage to my daughter. We have all thanked God for his perfect timing. Timing is everything.

Sometimes it takes circumstances like this to help us appreciate just how important God’s timing is. That is particularly true in the church.

I have lost count of how many conflicted congregations with whom I have worked who struggled in one way or another with God’s timing. Here are some examples:

Moving forward on a narrow majority “vote”…

Paralyzed by caution and missing an important ministry opportunity…

Forging ahead with huge changes without building the necessary consensus…

Making the right decision in committee but fumbling the communication out to the rest of the church…

The pastor weighing in too soon on a controversial issue…

The pastor weighing in too late on …

“Church People Don’t Mind Change…They Just Mind Being Changed”

Tuesday Re-mix –

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

Change is inevitable.  We can fight it, we can rebel against it, we can pretend it doesn’t exist.  We can hide from it, we can curse it, we can cry out to God against it.  But in God’s church, among God’s people, there will always be change…because this revolution Jesus called “my church” is in fact a living, breathing organism.  And where there is life, there is necessarily growth…and where there is growth, there is  [gulp!] CHANGE.  Mark it down.  It is an eternal truth.

Yet despite all of the scripture devoted to this truth and even in the face of thousands of years of evidence of it in the human experience, managing change among God’s people (i.e., in the church) remains one of the toughest leadership challenges around.  I have never met a pastor who did not consider the ushering in of change to be one of his most difficult leadership tasks…ever.  But if you were to come to the conclusion that God’s people just do not like change, I believe you would be …

I Plead the Fifth…Commandment, That Is…

 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.  Exodus 20:12

I am pretty excited about a new series of posts I am starting for the Summer.  I do not yet know how long the series will be, so no commitments along those lines, but I have a feeling the well of material for this series runs pretty deep.  I will be writing about things I have learned about the church…from my Dad.

Some of you know my Dad.  He blogs over at www.kencoffee.com.  He recently marked the end of his 60th year in vocational ministry (read about that here).  He has pastored and served on various church staffs over the course of that 60 years, but probably made his deepest and widest mark on the kingdom (so far, anyway) as a denominational leader/worker.  Growing up in his shadow, it still seems to me that, no matter how many people know about me and my ministry, I will still be known by most of them as Ken Coffee’s son.  And you know what?  That is OK with me.  🙂

With Father’s Day coming up, I have decided to honor my Father in a special way.  For the last few months, I have been working (off and on) compiling a list of things I have learned from Dad.  This list was originally supposed to be a Christmas present to him, but it wasn’t ready.  So now it is becoming a Father’s Day present…one that will last throughout the Summer, because the list is long.  There are things about family and things about cars and things about vacations and things about finances and things about work and things about sports and things about, well, just about everything.  …