The leader of my denominationDr. Jo Anne Lyon, was invited to the Oval Office last week, along with a handful of religious leaders, to meet with the President and discuss comprehensive immigration reform.

I don’t know about you, but my boss doesn’t sit down with the boss all that often. It got my attention.

Immigration Rally In Washington

As I’ve begun to examine this issue, I have learned that we desperately need reform—not for political reasons but because it’s the right thing to do.

Here’s why.

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As a seventh grader, I was the greatest football player in the world, and I knew it. There was no organized team, but I played in my backyard every day, by myself.

Football and passion

I would hike the ball to myself, throw long, arching passes to myself, make impossible, diving catches by myself, then run for a touchdown, high-fiving myself in the end zone.

I was unbeatable. Not even I could stop me.

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I entered pastoral ministry in 1986, and I’ve experimented relentlessly with preaching forms and techniques for nearly three decades. Preaching today is both more interesting and more challenging than ever before.

Though much of my speaking has been in the pulpit, I’ve also done a good bit of presenting in classrooms, at conferences and retreats, and in business settings. For the first 13 years of my ministry, I delivered three different messages a week. I still preach before a live audience almost every single week.

Preacher and Congregation

Over the years I learned many lessons on how to improve preaching, and the most important one is this: If you want to boost your impact on an audience, preach without notes.

That sounds daunting, I know, and perhaps you think it unnecessary. But I believe you should give it a try. Here’s why.

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When recruiting people for the Water for Life mission in Haiti, I often say, “This is your chance to change the world.” It’s a bold statement, and some will disagree. Short-term missions has more than a few critics.

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They do have a point or two in their favor. These intensive, whirlwind experiences are supposed to produce a positive result, but even some proponents admit they can be disastrous.

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I was nearly home after a short bike ride. It was one of the first days pleasant enough to ride outside, and I felt good. It was a warm-up ride, hopefully a prelude to a good season.

Then it happened. A vehicle slipped alongside me on the moderately busy street, the street I live on. There was no shoulder, and he passed me rather close. Nothing unusual about that. But what happened next startled and upset me.

Dangerous City Traffic Situation

The driver slowed a bit, turned toward me, and angrily hollered: “Use the sidewalk!”

Cyclists are perfectly within the law to ride on the road in Indiana, as I thought everyone knew. Riding on sidewalks brings its own dangers and is prohibited in some locales.

Even so, motorists and cyclists are ancient rivals. Like farmers and ranchers, we irk about how to share a limited space. This was not the first unpleasant encounter I’d had with a driver.

But this time was different.

The antagonist here wasn’t an impatient minivan pilot or a macho pickup driver. It was a motorcyclist. A fellow two-wheeler.

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Once in awhile we find a chance to do something of unquestionable importance. These opportunities lift our lives out of the ordinary routines of everyday life and allow us to experience meaning and purpose in a direct way.

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That’s why I’m going to Haiti in September 2014, and I’m inviting you to come with me.

World Vision has reversed its decision to allow the employment of gay Christians in committed relationships and reaffirmed its prior policy that it will employ only celibate single people or those who practice fidelity in a heterosexual marriage. (Comments on their previous position are here.)

This saddens me, not because I endorse homosexual behavior in any context—I affirm that God created sex as the unifying, creative act between a man and woman, even though most people don’t use it that way.

I am saddened by what this episode reveals about the state of the church. There is deep division and great anger over the question of homosexuality, and confusion even among some of our brightest leaders on how to respond to the cultural challenge.

It is unfortunate, too, that Christians will likely be perceived as angry bigots by our own neighbors, and that gay people have been told once again that they are not welcome in the church.

Team, we can do better.

On the positive side, Jesus is alive, it’s a beautiful day, and we’ve all got good work to do.