10 Random Observations about the Church

A row of Church pewsI travel and perform/speak in a different church almost every weekend and have for the past 40 years—that’s a lot of churches. You do the math. And these are churches of all denominations and sizes and colors. Lunch with the pastor after a morning service is typical. I can almost always count on being asked a question like this:  “Chuck, you are in a lot of churches… what are some observations you’ve made about the church today?”

I know they want an answer with some profundity, but I don’t know if my answers will satisfy. So here are 10 random observations about the church, for what they are worth, and in no specific order.  This is not a scientifically researched treatise… just my observations.

1) The medium-size church is disappearing. I am often in church buildings designed to hold 500-1000 people with less than 100 in the worship service. There seem to be churches of under 100, and the mega church with thousands of people, but not much in between—churches of 200-500 are few. Pastors routinely over-estimate their attendance. They will tell me they have 150 people in worship but when I arrive there are less than 100… this happens a lot!

2) Based on my experience it would seem that the average age in most churches today is over 50. There is plenty of gray hair and there are not very many millennials in the pews.

3) The “Meet and Greet” moment in the worship service needs go. Most churches do it and in most churches it feels forced and awkward. I see plenty of meeting and greeting before the service that seems genuine. If your main goal is to make a visitor feel welcome, I think there is a better way to do it.

4) I have rarely visited a church that matches the negative stereotype portrayed in the media or by Hollywood. (That being the extremes of super fanatical or super boring). I’m not saying they don’t exist… but they are certainly not what I have found under the majority of steeples in the country.

5) People really do “play hooky” from church when the pastor is gone. I often fill in for a pastor who is away at a conference or on vacation. I almost always hear the head deacon say, “I don’t know where everybody is today.”

6) Contrary to what the media would have you believe, the church is filled with people who care about the poor and are involved in ministries that are truly striving to make a difference.

7) At the risk of sounding like my parents… your music is too loud!

8) People still sit in the back (maybe because the music is too loud) or are very spread out in the sanctuary, making those 100 people in a space that hold 500 feel even more empty.

9) There is not much being done to encourage and elevate the arts in most churches. Other than the worship team/band, the opportunities for an artist to be involved in the life of the church are very limited. (I’ve blogged about this one before, but I have to throw it in here.)

10) It can be a challenge today to figure out a church’s denominational affiliation. Oh it still exists, but you won’t find it on church signs and in printed material like you used to. This can be good thing. It can also be embarrassing if, say, you are charismatic and think you are in a Pentecostal church, only to find yourself being stared down after raising your arms and shouting hallelujah in a Baptist church.

Like I said, no science here… just some observations from that “Christian Actor Guy!”

A Visit to the Dominican Republic

As you may have read in my earlier post, Meeting Cristal, I had the privilege of traveling to the Dominican Republic with Food for the Hungry. It was an amazing trip. I came away very impressed with the work they are doing. I also got to meet a precious child that my wife and I are sponsoring. This video give a little overview of the trip.

If you would like to sponsor a child like Cristal, you can easily do that by clicking here: Sponsor a Child!

Meeting Cristal!

Meeting Cristal Mariel, our sponsored child in the Dominican Republic. Her Grandmother looks on.

Meeting Cristal Mariel, our sponsored child in the Dominican Republic. Her Grandmother looks on.

I am just back from visiting the Dominican Republic with my ministry partner, Food for the Hungry. As a partner with this ministry I take a few moments of my stage time at my performances to invite people to consider sponsoring a child. Food for the Hungry does an excellent of job of reaching some of the most vulnerable communities of the poor, and through child sponsorship, works to transform those communities to become self-supporting within a window of about 10 years. They help with such things as clean water, food, health care and education. They work with the church to  address the spiritual needs of the communities as well. It is a excellent program and I was privileged to see it first hand on my visit.

My wife and I sponsor a little 7 year old girl named Cristal in one of these poor communities and it was a thrill to actually meet her on this trip. I think the visit was a bit overwhelming for her, and who can blame her. I’m sure I would be intimidated too, if a group of people I had never met showed up at my door all excited to see me, and me barely having a clue who they were or why they were there! I brought some gifts for her and was able to see her home and meet some of her family. I will be looking forward to being a part of her life for many years and look forward to the day when her situation is improved enough to no longer need our sponsorship.

Here is a little video of me presenting gifts to Cristal:

If you would like to sponsor a child and begin a life changing relationship with one of the “least of these” you can do that be clicking this link! Sponsor a Child Today!

The Child Who Wouldn’t Accept “No”

“Daddy, can I have some ice cream?”ID-10010052


“Daddy, can I have some ice cream?”

“I said NO!”

“Please, Daddy, can I have some ice cream?!”

Can you relate?  We have all been there…probably on both sides.  I’ve been that kid who wears down the parent, and the parent who is worn down by the kid.  Sometimes it’s easier to give in than fight the battle.  But if you’re saying “no” for the child’s good, for health, or discipline,  or just not wanting to deal with a child on a sugar high…those reasons…you give in but feel guilty.  Show of hands?

But what if the child was persisting not for selfish reasons, but for the good of another? What if the child was “nagging” you from a heart of love and compassion?

I saw just that recently.  As you may know, I partner with the Christian relief and development organization, World Vision. After my performances I offer an opportunity for people to make a difference by sponsoring a child. Those who are interested meet me at a table afterwards where they can select a child to sponsor. It was at the table that I met Maria.

Maria made it to the table before I did and was holding a picture of a little girl from El Salvador.  “I want her,” Maria says.

“That’s great!” I say to Maria, who looked to be about 7 or 8 years old. “Is your Mom or Dad here?  You will have to ask them.”

“We’re from there,” Maria says.

“You’re from El Salvador? That’s awesome!”

Maria takes the picture folder and disappears into the crowd of people mingling in the foyer after the service. I visit with others at the table but also keep one eye tracking Maria. I spot her talking to what appears to be her mother. A few minutes later, her mother is escorted to the table by Maria.  She watches as her mother asks me questions about sponsorship, how much it costs, and what the sponsorship does.

“We’ll have to ask your father,” she says and then lays the picture folder on the table and goes back into the crowd.

Maria snatches the folder back up and ducks away again. A child on a mission.

A few seconds later I spot her showing the folder to her dad.  Dad is shaking his head “no.” Maria turns away. I am visiting again with more people but watch as her dad approaches the table and firmly sets the folder on the table and walks away… very much a “that settles that” sort of feeling.  I continue to visit with others at the table.

Children in El Salvador show me their art work - World Vision Trip 2006

Children in El Salvador show me their art work – World Vision Trip 2006

I turn back to see that the picture folder from El Salvador is once again missing from the table. Across the room I spy Maria showing the folder to an older couple and a few minutes later she has dragged them over to the table.  The couple is Maria’s grandparents.  Delightful people who share with me a bit about how they moved here from El Salvador and also share that they already sponsor a child with World Vision.  They would love to see this child sponsored but can’t do it themselves and confirm that Dad has said no.

I look down at Maria, “I’m sorry Maria, maybe next time.”

“But I want her!” she says.  With that she once again grabs the folder and disappears into the crowd.  I go back to helping others at the table who are signing up to sponsor children.

A few minutes later I look down to see Maria once again at the table beaming a big smile back at me.  Mom is beside her filling out the information to sponsor the child.  Dad is nowhere in sight.

Maria’s persistence won! I don’t know if dad agreed or if mom just decided to do it anyway, and deal with the consequences later.

You could debate that the parents caved and gave in to the child. Or that the parents were being stubborn and should have said yes sooner. Maybe they could plead guilty on both counts.

I like to think that love won. I am pretty sure that at least two children will be better for it… and have a sneaking suspicion that probably mom and dad will too!

Would you like to say “yes” to a child in need?  You can easily do so here by clicking here!

One In A Million with World Vision!

This year marks a pretty significant milestone for the Christian relief and development organization World Vision.  Through the efforts of numerous singers, speakers, comedians, visual artists and yes, even actors, nearly ONE MILLION children have been sponsored.  I am blessed to be among those who are making a difference, using our voice to help the poor.

If you are one of the nearly one million who have sponsored a child THANK YOU! If you haven’t yet made that decision I encourage you to do so.  You will make a better story for you, the child and the community in which they live!  Click the link to be ONE IN A MILLION!

Thanks a Million


Meet Mari Luz

We just returned from a wonderful visit to the Dominican Republic.  Part of our purpose in going to this island nation was to visit our World Vision sponsored child, Mari Luz.  She is a beautiful child and we are privileged to be a part of her life. Take a moment to view this video montage of our visit.

Working through an interpreter we were able to have a conversation with Mari, though she is quite shy. Her favorite color is pink. Her favorite subject in school is math. We found out that one of her favorite things to do is attend Bible Club (provided through World Vision). Though only 7 years old, Mari has a dreams.  When we asked her what she wants to be when she grows up she said she wanted to be a doctor!  Sometimes people wonder if their sponsorship really is tied to a specific child… I hope this video answers that question!

If you would like to make a difference in the life of a child, and quite possibly have your life changed too, I invite you to sponsor a child like Mari Luz. Click this link and get started in making a difference! Sponsor a Child!

The Gift of a Child

It’s the season of Christmas and we are busy with the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the big day.  But if you are like me, you need to be reminded that Christmas is first and foremost a birthday celebration. We busily search for just the right gift for Mom and Dad, Billy, Suzy and Uncle Joe, that we can often overlook giving a gift to the one whose birth we are celebrating.

Last weekend I saw a beautiful example of a gift given to Jesus.

After my performance at a church in Elk Grove, California, where I had shared about the work of World Vision and their sponsorship program, there was a young girl who really wanted to sponsor a specific child. She waited around clutching a the picture folder, waiting to talk to her parents. Her father finally came over to the table, but told the girl they would not be able to sponsor the child and placed the folder back on the table among the other pictures of children needing sponsors. The little girl walked away, heart-broken.

Another lady from the church observed this scene.  She pulled the father aside and there was a brief conversation.  With the father’s blessing this lady sponsored the child as a gift to the little girl. That picture folder was going to be under the tree waiting for that little girl on Christmas morning.

What a great example of the true meaning of Christmas!

How do you give a gift to Jesus on his birthday?  This girl, and this dear lady know the answer to that question.  Jesus gives us his very own Christmas “wish list.”  He is very explicit in how we can give him a gift. It is found in the parable of the sheep and the goats.  It goes like this:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25: 34-40 (NIV)

If you would like to give a gift to Jesus this Christmas, sponsoring a child with World Vision is one excellent way you can do that. You can even do it as a gift to another person—you pay the sponsorship and let the gift recipient participate in the relationship with the sponsored child.  What a great gift for a parent or grandparent to give to their children and grandchildren!

Merry Christmas!

A Turkey And The Gospel

Remember that old Carol Arends chorus: “They will know we are Christians by our love”?

A great theme to be sure. But I think many of us in the church are a bit conflicted on how to show those around us that love.

To some, showing love means sharing the Good News of the Gospel—”how can I love my neighbor if I don’t tell them about Jesus and how He came to save us from our sin?”

To others, showing that love is more about serving others and social concerns—“how can I love my neighbor if I don’t give water to the thirsty, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless?”

Both are right.

Yet many churches strive to excel in one of those areas and often ignore or fail at the other.

This last weekend I was privileged to participate in a weekend outreach at a church that struck a balance between the two… and in my opinion did it very well.

The church was Crossroads Tabernacle in Ft. Worth, Texas. They decided to reach out to the community around them, targeting people in the more needy communities. They canvassed the communities, distributing flyers announcing the weekend services and promoting the special services featuring an actor performing a one-man show (yep, that would be me).

I have been featured at outreach events before… and it is humbling to admit it… but I am not much of a draw.  People who don’t normally attend church are not motivated to go see a show with some “Christian Actor Guy” that they have never heard of.

It takes something greater than that to get people to respond… and this church found it.  The answer?  A free turkey!

In order to get the turkey, you needed to call and reserve it and agree to come to the church to pick it up. The turkeys would be distributed after the services so you needed to attend the service and see the performance in order to get your turkey.

Call it a gimmick if you like, but it worked.  The church had between 300-400 reservations for turkeys for the weekend.  Both services were packed.

The church purposed to make sure the people visiting felt welcomed and I was impressed with the spirit of the congregation. This was not just one pastor’s vision—it was obvious to me the entire church shared the vision to reach out to the community. An hour before the service the members of the church gathered to pray for those who would be attending.

The church also purposed to make sure that nothing was required or expected of their visitors except to show up. An offering was received, but with explicit instructions that this was for members only… “please DON”T give” was the message to guests. Guests were encouraged to submit prayer requests, however, and many did.

The pastor had requested that I present something with a clear presentation of the Gospel and so I chose to present Encounters, a drama on the life of Christ.  The play was done as the “sermon.”  The audience was one of the most responsive I have had in a worship service setting. There was laughter, applause and profound “hmms” coming from the audience. I am sure that many were surprised that the “message” would be presented in a format that was entertaining as well as meaningful.

God moved.

After the play the pastor gave a simple invitation to receive Christ and at both of the services several came forward for prayer. Bibles were given away to anyone who wanted one and I don’t think they had any Bibles left to give away a the end of the second service.

It was a very impressive weekend.  This congregation found the balance. They served the needy and fed the poor. They shared the Good News of Jesus and love for all people. They let the community know that there is a church in the neighborhood that cares and showed that in a tangible way.

I believe there are people in that neighborhood who can say “we know they are Christians by their love.”

“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love”

What would you do if…

What would you do if you had to make the decision between feeding yourself or feeding your children? That’s the reality of life in the Horn of Africa for millions of families right now.

Here are the facts:

  • 12.4 million are affected in the region, and some 30,000 children have already lost their lives
  • More than 35% of all children in the region are now facing emergency levels of malnutrition
  • Starvation is a real threat in famine-declared areas of Somalia
  • Worst drought in 60 years
  • World Vision has assisted communities in the Horn of Africa for 3 decades.
  • Even now, our teams in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are responding to this crisis with food, water, blankets and other critical needs for families

I am proud to be a partner in ministry with World Vision.  It is one way I know I am making a difference!  I invite you to do something! Make a better story for you and for people in need!

Text “FAMINE” to “20222” to give $10.


World Vision and the Gospel


Occasionally people ask me if World Vision is really a “Christian organization.” For some feeding the poor and caring for orphans and widows isn”t enough… they want to be sure the Gospel is being preached as well. I understand the concern. While World Vision”s primary mission is to address the root causes of poverty, as a Christian organization, it might encourage you to know they are also pro-active in spreading the Gospel in other ways as well.

This email came in from one of World Vision”s church relations team members traveling in Ethiopia, and I thought you”d really enjoy hearing it, too:

We visited a community that over 10 years ago was holding a 40-day prayer vigil. On day 37, they received a “word from the Lord” that an organization was coming to their area to help them preach the Gospel and save lives. Within a few months, World Vision began work in a village near where they prayed. When WV arrived in the village there were three Christians meeting underground because of persecution. They had been beaten and even jailed for their faith. World Vision began its work with the poor in the name of Jesus living out the Gospel and pointing people to Christ. Today, there are four churches in this village with over 1,000 in attendance. The surrounding community where the church met to pray has grown from four churches to over 70 and there are 30,000 Believers. The lead pastor over these churches told me it was WV that was responsible for teaching them how to spread the Gospel. He said that it”s easy to preach the Gospel, but it”s hard to live it and that”s what World Vision does. Last year, World Vision partnered with the local churches to hold an evangelistic outreach to the entire community. They trained hundreds of volunteers to go from house to house sharing the Gospel and 850 people accepted Christ. World Vision provided funding and leadership for this campaign – it”s a modern day revival.”

I think this is pretty cool! You can be a part of this great work by sponsoring a child!


Chuck Neighbors

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