Thursday, April 2, 2020

Week #3 of Being a Pastor During a Pandemic . . .

I have come to the conclusion that I can't pastor the "future church" unless I made three decisions:
1) I decided that an old dog (me) can learn new tricks if I want to keep being able to eat.
2) I decided that I am NOT going to ride the Coronavirus wave and, once this is all over, just go back to the way we always did church.
3) I decided to be proactive, going forward with the understanding / belief that we are entering into a new normal. So many things I have taken for granted as a pastor . . . are gone, either for the immediate time to come, or forever.
I'm watching as many webinars for pastors, as long as they make sense, that I can. . . unfortunately, some of them are all saying the same thing, and interviewing the same people. I have little time for that. The better webinars, in my opinion so far, include:
1) Those hosted by Fresh Expressions US. They have established free "think tanks" to share ideas on-line. The content of the webinars is quality, and I've been taking lots of notes.
2) Webinars about the CARES Act. Apparently, churches may qualify for payroll and utility payment help as a not-for-profit business. I want to learn as much as I can a about this, just in case.
It feels like I am taking a crash course with lots of trial and error regarding social platforms like Facebook Live and Zoom. This afternoon I am inviting a few friends and staff to join me on a trial run Zoom meeting so I won't embarrass myself too badly when we begin using Zoom weekly for church meetings and studies.
I've also learned that when I post anything on the Facebook pages of the two churches I serve, it needs to be good quality content. I'm learning to write out a few notes to follow, especially when videoing myself, so that I don't wander or chase rabbits, which I happen to be an expert at.
I'm also learning that you need to post daily! Yep, every single day. Articles for families, devotionals, video announcements and invitations, updates . . . as well as other things that I'm sure I will learn about in the very near future.
Finally, I have rediscovered the telephone and what it means to call people who DO NOT have the internet or a smart phone. I know it's a risk, but I've "given away" my phone number so that folks can call me. A text message will work for some people, but for those who are really lonely, especially those who have been told/ordered by their adult children to "stay inside," a hearing a live human voice means so much.
I am glad that I have, for many years, believed the concept of "L3", or Life-Long-Learning. What I am having to learn, just on a novice level . . . is a bit overwhelming.
Is all this painful . . . YES. Will it all be worth it. ABSOLUTELY!
Rick ><>

Week #2 of Bing a Pastor During a Pandemic . . .

I wrote this late last week on my personal Facebook page. I wanted to share it here as well
1) I've pretty much been sitting full-time behind a desk looking at a computer screen reading emails and articles on how to pastor during a pandemic. So far I've "attended" 4 webinars on the subject hosted by Fresh Expressions US, Mission Alliance, and other groups. All of them good . . . and all of them suggesting the same thing . . . We are at a strange and difficult place . . . and what we all share in common is that we are all facing a future that we cannot map out. I agree with this 100%. The other thing they all mentioned . . . give yourself permission to fail. When I played baseball years ago, I was always the clean-up hitter. I was the power hitter, the home run guy. I tried to hit a home run every time I stepped to the plate. Now, the game is totally different, and we will be making up the rules as we go. We might as well embrace, now, that the rules will constantly be changing. We will learn from the failures and successes of each new attempt we take to reach out to people longing for connection during this time, and in the days afterwards.
2) I've been recording videos for Facebook pages for the Comanche and Gustine churches. Doing so is a bit terrifying. I just placed an order for new some sound / video equipment from Amazon to help do this better. Big learning curve ahead. Why didn't I embrace learning how to do this years ago? Because there was always someone who could do it for me. Not anymore. Sure glad I got my iPad Air last year. I'm learning how awesome it is . . . and I'm learning how social media can be used for good.
3) I'm reading the Bible and praying every day. I've been praying hard for myself and all of the clergy I know that we can be witnesses of peace, and examples of how to successfully live out lives of faith somewhere between cautious wisdom and anxious fear (worry). I've written over 70 pages in my Bullet Journal. I've been writing a lot on the computer as well. And I've written about 25 pages in my devotional notebook. I threw away a Pilot G-2 yesterday. I used up all the ink in it.
4) I find that I am honestly missing Mr. Rogers. Yeah, I'll admit it. Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. I've been reading a great book titled "A Visual History of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". I've been praying a lot that Mr. Rogers would channel himself and speak through me every time I open my mouth these days. Mr. Rogers, I truly miss you. I'm trying really hard to be a good neighbor. And, when I'm scared or worried, I am trying to look for the helpers. If you watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, you get that.
5) I've been on the phone a lot. Not checking the internet. Not checking email. Not texting . . . but talking to people by phone. There are a lot of lonely people right now, who don't have the internet or a smart phone for various personal or financial reasons. But then, there have always been a lot of lonely people. Now, it seems I have the time to realize it more. The cell phone can reach out to more people than Facebook can, but it takes a lot more effort.
6) And . . . I've been hearing the stories of people who cannot GO to church sharing how they are trying hard to BE the church. I am so proud of everyone associated with our churches in Comanche and Gustine. They are trying to take care of themselves, but they are also working hard at loving their neighbors.
I'm a proud pastor of some great people!
7) Finally, I think we are living in a time when we all have the opportunity to reorient our lives away from distractions, and learn once again to focus on really important things, that truly matter and bless our lives more than greed or possessions . . . family, friends and faith. Offered out of my humble opinion . . .
Rick ><>

Sunday, March 22, 2020


It seems that I am a new new live-stream preacher these days because of suspending worship services due to the Covid-19/Coronavirus crisis.  Radical Social / Physical Distancing is the new buzz word these days.  However, distancing from us is something that God will not do!

I haven't posted too many videos on this blog, but thought some might be encouraged by it.

Blessings in these days of trial.  A new reality is upon us!  God is still with us through it all!

Rick ><>


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Rick Mang: Minister of Encouragement

Earlier today, I posted a blog that was a copy of the devotional I wrote this morning on Facebook for the two churches I pastor.

I used the term "Ministry of Encouragement."   For the past several years, I have sensed that my entering into a focused ministry of encouragement was my next call in life.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and wondering what it could, and would, look like.

Now, as we find ourselves immersed in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic/crisis, it has become more clear, especially as our best course of action to defeat the virus seems to be radical social distancing, that my intentional and purposeful focus on encouraging others is what I am supposed to do.

So, as I have time, I hope to post articles about encouragement on the several Facebook platforms that I manage, as well as this humble blog.

If you have any suggestions for topics or approached, or if you have a story of encouragement to share, please let me know.

Here I am Lord . . . use me!

n my humble opinion . . . 
It is certainly a unique time in my life to be walking my personal Lenten season journey in preparation for Easter, while at the same time serving as a spiritual leader in two rural communities that are attempting to coordinate appropriate responses to the current coronavirus situation. 
My prayer this morning was that I would choose to not react emotionally to what's going on out of fear . . . but instead choose to respond out of my faith. I try to pray that prayer every day, and have for many years. Doing so has probably kept me from doing some things that I would most certainly have lived to regret.
My prayer this morning also included something that Adam Hamilton suggests in his book, "The Walk: 5 Essential Practices of the Christian Life." I ended my prayer with "Lord, here I am, use me."
Perhaps what many of us, who profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ, need to focus on today is to overcome the honest emotions stirring within us (fueled mostly by uncertainty), and instead choose to respond to where we find ourselves today out of faith. 
One way we can respond, and be used by God in service to others, is to step forward to become ministers of encouragement.. If there was ever a time to make the effort to compliment others, it is now. It there was ever a time to tell the people in your life, "I appreciate you!' it is now. I believe that when we offer encouragement, we are letting people, who might be having a bad day, know that God has not forgotten them.
We need people who will pray "here I am Lord, us me". We need those same people to step forward as ministers of encouragement in service to others. Doing so, in trying and uncertain times like these, is most certainly choosing to respond out of faith.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"The Servant Leader": Another book from my "This book changed my life" bookshelf . . .

(Pardon the change, but I choose to rewrite this post today (2/5/2020) . . . I felt the need to be a bit more transparent. Enjoy!)
It's common knowledge, to many who know me, that I am a "peace" guy. I try my best and work hard at being able to understand and speak to those on all sides of an argument, belief or position.  
That's not the way I used to be. In my earlier years, I used to be very opinionated and argumentative, especially if I believed or thought I was right. If you didn't believe like I did, then you were, in simple terms, on the "other side of the issue." Loosely translated, you were my enemy. Your being my enemy excused me from having, or feeling obliged, to treat you like I treated those who were on my side (meaning those who had accepted me into their group). You were to be dismissed, devalued, and not ever defended. 
I am ashamed to admit that at that point in my life, I needed, for some reason, to believe that warped kind of thinking. Looking back, I believe it more about having low self-esteem and the need to be accepted by a group . . . any group.  
I quit believing and living like I had on the day when I engaged in an emotional/spiritual assessment exerice. In that exercise, I was asked to symbolically look behind me. In doing so, I began to see all of the people that I'd left wounded and hurt on the side of the road who didn't think or believe like I did. As I saw each face, my heart broke into hundreds of pieces as the awareness of the pain I had caused others began to swell inside of me like some emotional/spiritual tidal wave. The experience caused me to actually slump into a chair as I put my head between my hands and rocked back and forth as each wave of realization crashed upon me. 
I wonder what hurts worse . . . hurting someone else, or the realization about what you've done?
Part of the pain was coming to realize that I wasn't raised to treat other people like that. I was raised to be a bridge builder, not a bridge burner! I was taught by loving family, teachers, coaches and pastors that there was never any kind of justification, ever, for causing harm. I remember thinking, and perhaps crying out . . . "I'm not a bridge burner! I am not a bridge burner! I am a better man than that." I just had to be a better man than that.  
Another great influence that helped me decide to live differently was a book that was gifted to me by the late Paul J. Meyer of Waco, TX. 16 years later, I still encourage people, especially those who do lead others, or who want to lead others, to read this book. The authors are Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. The title of the book is: "The Servant Leader: Transforming Your Heart, Head, Hands and Habits." The central premise of the book is this, that one can never see or understand themselves as servant leaders (modeling Christ's example of leadership) and communicate with others who "are different" until one finally come to grip with two things: your pride, and your fears. 
The horrible thing about pride and fears (well, my pride and fears) . . . they mix like oil and water . . . in other words, not very well. 
In the rural setting I am humbled to serve in, I've discovered that even though I'm the pastor of a local United Methodist congregation (I actually pastor 2 churches) I'm also a "village chaplain". I'm approached and receive calls and inquiries from all sorts of people. What a humble privilege it is to be a pastor to all kinds of people . . . God's children every one. I believe I am approached, more often than not, because people know that I try to live out my life and faith as a servant, and that I strive to be a person of peace as often as I can.  
Those of us who are privileged to lead others . . . may we give strong consideration of the blessing and benefits, to ourselves and to others, when we try to be servant leaders. Our world desperately needs servant leaders.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Sweetwater.com

I would like to offer a shout out to the folks at Sweetwater.com.

I recently ordered several sets of strings.  I called in by phone to place my order, and things could not have gone more smoothly.  I even got a new set of strings for my Guild Jumbo 12-string.

Price wise, I know I saved around $10-15 total, and the price of gas needed to drive to Guitar Center in Fort Worth or Waco.   That would be an over 4+ hour round-trip not counting shopping time.  Ordering from Sweetwater by phone took maybe 10 minutes. 

Ordering online or by phone makes more sense now that we live in Comanche County, TX.   The folks at Sweetwater.com really came through.