Ken L. Hagler

Author's details

Name: Ken L. Hagler
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Jedi Pastor Ken: A Way To Be: Finding Grace In The Christian Year — April 8, 2014
  2. Jedi Pastor Ken: Why I Am Thankful I Did Not Give Up Facebook for Lent — March 11, 2014
  3. Jedi Pastor Ken: Do We Need More Effective Leaders or More Spiritual Leaders? — March 3, 2014
  4. Jedi Pastor Ken: Life Assurance – Reality of Mortality — January 8, 2014
  5. Jedi Pastor Ken: Do You Hear What I Hear? Away In A Manger — December 17, 2013

Most commented posts

  1. Jedi Pastor Ken: How Losing My Sight Has Helped Me to See More Clearly — 2 comments
  2. Jedi Pastor Ken: Undoing Our Souls — 2 comments

Author's posts listings

Apr 08 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: A Way To Be: Finding Grace In The Christian Year

Original post at

It is amazing to me how many people who go to church, have grown up in the church and even pastor churches, do not realize there is a Church calendar.  No, I do not mean churches having business calendars or facility calendars.

I am not going to write about the specifics of the Church calendar (also known as the Liturgical Year).  You can do your own Google search on that one.  No, it is just I have been thinking about how little, I, and others and maybe you, take for granted the counter-cultural statement we make when we acknowledge we Christians are on a different schedule.

Your church may not recognize Advent or Lent.  No sweat, it is likely you still note Christmas and Easter.  Your church may not note Saints' Days or Feast Days, you know it does not make you somehow "unchristian."  The traditions of the Church maybe something you celebrate or something that makes you cringe because there is no chapter/verse reference for it.  It is okay.

Regardless, it is worth considering that the calendar of the Church offers us a chance to live out the reality of incarnation, that God has intervened in this, our world.

Marian Monahan's quote struck me this past week as she led the final retreat with our Companions In Christ group.  As I work to prepare for Palm Sunday and Easter, it just hasn't let go.  What keeps striking at my soul is that there is no explanation we can really give for Christmas and Easter.  The HOW of the happening of holy intervention in our world we don't fully comprehend.  And no, Jesus does not give us the info on this at all.

What Jesus does is give himself, give of himself, give all of himself, so we might BE like him.  The calendar of the Church changes our orientation from us being focused on the universe revolves around us (we know what astronomy tells us but our egos say different) and our desires, and instead helps us orient our lives to being centered on God and orbiting the One greater than ourselves.

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Why I Am Thankful I Did Not Give Up Facebook for Lent

Original post at

Each year when I approach the season of Lent, those 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, I find myself stumbling and tumbling to figure out what to give up or to take on.  I found some great ideas this year at a couple of blogs (like this one).  It got down to the last minute (in other words, Wednesday morning of Ash Wednesday) before deciding to take something on.  Ever since reading “TheWay of the Pilgrim,” I have been drawn to the practicing “praying without ceasing” so for this Lent I am being very intentional about using Orthodox prayer bracelet, praying through the Jesus prayer three times around (roughly 30 times), at morning, noon and night.

                This practice constantly brings up my state: I am a sinner.  By the time I’ve prayed it about 20 times, this really becomes the focus.  Now I do not “beat myself up” over this but it is a reminder how much I am in need of God’s mercy. 

                I had thought I might give up Facebook…until today when an important piece of my journey opened up.  You see, I am in a denomination that creates tension believing there is a middle way.  As my friends post differing opinions and thoughts, I get a laugh, I get mad, I get tempted to unfriend (I’ve only done that once), but what I have been really working hard to do is listen.  I'm trying to listen to voices expressing their own journey of faith in Jesus Christ that is at times, very different from mine. 

                And today I read these words, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”  Spoken by Abba Pambo in the fourth century, these words were like a wall to stop me cold.  We have made it so easy to cut off differing opinions, even those we term sinners, and we do it without even considering or giving second thought to the heart inside them, a heart that Jesus loves.  A heart, like mine, like your’s that is crying out to Jesus in the tenor and voice unique to that one person, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.”

                So I am glad I did not give up Facebook and all you sinners like me with hearts in need of a savior.  And thanks for not giving up on my heart as we journey toward Easter.

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 03 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Do We Need More Effective Leaders or More Spiritual Leaders?

Original post at

The call for more effective leaders in our churches is something
I’ve been hearing for the past two decades. It goes back to my time at Asbury Theological Seminary and throughout my time in full-time ministry. We’ve been clamoring for more training, better systems, and effective pastors.  Look at the multitude of offerings out in the church marketplace - we've been getting it!

Where has it gotten us?

That was the question I found myself asking as I skimmed through the most recent issue of “Circuit Rider” magazine. While I delved more deeply into it, I was struck by one of the choices of a quote to be used. It was in Bob Farr’s article, “Stuck: Now What?” The words highlighted read, “The church is in desperate need of entrepreneurial leadership. It’s no secret that we’ve trained (and that the congregation expects) most pastors to be shepherds and caregivers. (pg 15).”

I think Bob makes some excellent points and offers some much better insights in his article than what is reflected in this quote. This is Bob’s fourth point under the heading of “building a system of transformation,” and I think he makes a stronger case for the issues of “transforming grace” and “lay and clergy collaboration.” His point on leadership is one overdone (entrepreneurial leadership) and one I’m not sure is close to accurate (we’ve trained…shepherds and caregivers).

Starting with the last point, I cannot help at look at my bookshelf where I have all my class notes. I look at the classes I took and I see courses in Bible Study, Greek, history, polity, preaching, worship, theology, etc. I did have one course in “caregiving.” When I talk with peers, it seems to me, our seminaries are far more focused on training up seminary professors than pastoral caregivers.

As for the first point, I really struggle here not only because of my own experiences (both success and failures) but because I see the weight and pressure this seems to put upon clergy. While the Book of Discipline says an Elder has the responsibility to “order the life of the church,” we tend to supplant the role of Jesus who “… is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18, NRSV).” And no, I don’t think this is playing semantics, I think we are seeing the effects of ignoring Jesus’ position under the same premise that had the Jews calling for a king like the other nations rather than keeping God as their Sovereign. 
We’re looking for CEOs and the next Steve Jobs to take the pulpit. No wonder so many pastors sit on the edge of their seats ready to buy the newest iPhone when the one they have is more than sufficient. 

Urban T. Holmes noted in his research, “The ordained person is expected to be a person of prayer that the person in the street cannot be. People speak in various ways of wanting their pastor to be spiritually deep. (pg 34, Spirituality for Ministry).” The Upper Room employed The Doble Research Associates to study the impact of The Academy of Spiritual Formation on the lives of participants. The change in the personal lives of clergy was dramatic but of interest to us ought to be the changes in the practices of ministry. The majority of clergy began to take more risks with ministry, they were more open and vulnerable in preaching and it changed their approach to committee meetings.

I think the choice of quotes to highlight from Bob Farr’s article was not the best. It seems to me it fit with what is a dominate approach to thinking about the clergy role. If clergy were trained to be better leaders, we’ll have better churches. It is a paradigm that may work some of the time in some places but it is far from a Biblical model and it isn’t even the model of John Wesley, who wrote numerous letters counseling clergy, not on leadership skills but on accountability to the Biblical record and witness of the Spirit.

I think Bob makes a much better point just a few paragraphs later when he writes, “…trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to a new place and to truly welcome you to whatever the new place is. Learn not to judge what the outcome will be. As it turns out, it really isn’t in your control. (pg 16).” I am all for better equipped leaders but the focus on the equipping ought to be less on seeking new leadership skills and instead focused on listening to the Spirit of God and the leading of the Spirit of God.

Permanent link to this article:

Jan 08 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: Life Assurance – Reality of Mortality

Original post at

Take a look at these two, seemingly unconnected scriptures: Matthew 2:1-12; Luke12:15-21

There is an old joke about pastors to be wary when they have “gone from preaching to meddling.” The change takes place when the message goes from good moral stories and teachings about sin you don’t commit and starts interfering with your life.  So today let me cut to the point - today I’m going to be meddling.

The old year is behind us and we’ve already reflected on the mistakes of the past year and the new year is ahead of us.  More to the point, it is Epiphany Sunday, a day of revelation.  We not only commemorate it as the coming of Wise Men, but also an illuminating moment, the realization of THE revelation.  In Jesus Christ, God IS IN the world but that does not mean all IS RIGHT with the world.

At Jesus’ birth, there is Herod, ruler over the region of Judea.  Herod, the fox, the head honcho, the top dog, his plans are for him and his own.  He has worked hard to solidify his position for himself and his offspring.  He has put together his own insurance plan for life, one of the few people who could do so.  But a group of wise men arrive seeking a king and all is thrown into disarray.  A little research reveals his insurance plan wasn’t as solid as he thought - in Bethlehem a stumbling block has arisen.

Suddenly we hear the cry: “FOOL!”  Harsh words for certain, no one likes to be called such a name.  Could Jesus have had Herod in mind when he told the story of the foolish rich man?  “Fool!  Tonight your soul will be required of you.”  This is the reality of our mortality - our life is uncertain at best.  No amount of insurance, investments or estate planning will ever secure for us an assurance for the future.  You cannot possibly put together a portfolio that could insulate you from your mortality. 

In recent months, I’ve been intrigued by the storylines of many tv series, ones such as "Dexter," "Breaking Bad," and “The Walking Dead.”  They are shows that have examined what humans are capable of.  But in truth, we have a more relevant, more real testimony from the previous century.  A few years back I experienced an epiphany in reading Dr. ViktorFrankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  It was his story and lessons from surviving the Nazi death camps. 

“So let us be alert - alert in a two fold sense:
Since Auschwitz we know what [humanity] is capable of.
Since Hiroshima we know what is at stake. (179).”

The reality of mortality is part of our life which we can not escape, that we ignore at our own peril.  Though I doubt few are because so much is unknown.  Let's be honest, I doubt you missed the play on words in the title "Life Assurance."  The Affordable Care Act has left many of us not knowing what is next.  How will it effect our work and our lives?  And our history is repeating itself throughout our world.  But the epiphany of Frankl, that human being’s primary motivational force is the search for meaning, is what the story of the Wise Men and Herod tells us.  It is the parable which Jesus told of the rich fool and we dare not forget that God gave us the greatest treasure in Jesus Christ.  Consider your insurance and what assurance it truly gives, then consider that giving your life to God, to being generous not merely with wealth but your life.  In Jesus alone we find true assurance of a life which God welcomes.

Permanent link to this article:

Dec 17 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Do You Hear What I Hear? Away In A Manger

Original post at

Read the Scripture for this message: Luke 2:1-7

If you missed last week, you missed out on our giveaway and some great conversation about favorite traditions.  There and in some other great times with friends this week, we started talking about the variety of traditions that are wide and varied around the US and the world.

Does Santa wrap the presents he brings to your house or not?  He didn’t when I was growing up but when I got married, suddenly he started wrapping gifts.  Today is Lessons & Carols in our traditional services.  I never had been to this type of service until I moved to Cumming FUMC.  It is a really beautiful service to be part of.  Nativity scenes were not an immediate part of church tradition either.  Nope, Francis of Assisi was credited with creating the first one, a living one, around 1223.  In 1957, Frances Kipps Spencer at Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia began thinking about a way to decorate the Christmas tree in her church that would be more suitable for a sanctuary and came up with the idea of the Chrismon tree with symbols of the Christian faith.  Some of our traditions are easily taken for granted.

Since it appeared in 1887 in a book of songs no one would be caught reading today “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses,” people believed that it was the church  reformer, Martin Luther, who had written the song.  It was described as a lullaby which he sang to his kids.  But in 1945 a church historian named Richard Hill began to research the song’s origins.  He went all the way back to Luther’s original writings and have you guessed?  Yep, there is no trace of these words in Luther.  In fact, the earliest Hill could find the words referenced was in 1885 and then it was only the first two verses.  Somewhere between 1885 and 1887 the third verse was added.1. 

We’ve come to imagine so many scenes of the night of Jesus’ birth from this carol among others.  Did they have cribs like we have back then?  How do we know there was a cow there?  One of my favorites though is the line, “no crying he makes,” really?  But there is one aspect of this simple little carol that is spot on important – the one whose head lay in that manger was the Lord of all creation.

Over the past few weeks we have traced the advent story through three carols now.  It began with prophetic message of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” God had heard the cry of all creation longing for hope.  And in “O Holy Night,” the truth of that name was given to simple shepherds and sinners, a word of hope to us all that God loves everyone.  And it was the shepherds who brought word of another title for this little baby, a title we find in 2:11 – this is Christ, the Lord!

Jesus is referred to as Lord over 700 times in the New Testament.  The idea of Lord combines two ideas 1) that this is The One who has the absolute power to create us (which God did) and 2) has the absolute authority to demand our worship (which God doesn’t). 2.  To be Lord is to be The One who is ultimately in control.  I’m sure some of ya’ll have done personality inventories.  I am a Myers-Briggs “J,”  I’m a DISC –“D,” I’m an Enneagram “1,” shall I go on?  Clearly, control is not an issue for me – not!  Those are images we know far better than the image of “Lord.”  We don't use the word Lord much (though it is part of pop culture in one place: Darth Vader is also known as Lord Vader, but I digress).

Why is this important?  What is the difference this ought to make in our live’s?  I believe that Jesus is God after all.  But that is just the point!  It is easy to make declaration of belief but it is so much harder to release control of our life.  Jesus is far less interested in just what we believe than He says he is concerned about how we’re living life!  “After what they did, there is no way I’ll forgive!”  “How can avoid going into debt if I give 10% to God especially during Christmas!  Look, I’ll give God Sunday mornings unless the game on Saturday is a late game or if the Sunday game is a 1pm start time, or if I had a long week.” 

I really don’t know if you are hearing what I hear, I hope so because what I have been hearing today or these past few weeks has been a vision for a new creation, a new world, a new life.  As I have been leading a small group this year, I’ve been offered some new ideas and this week really struck home on one of them.  “For God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” was a verse we reflected on everyday.  One day we were asked to write a list of all those we loved and consider them as we reflect on the verse and then, we were to list those we had difficulty loving and reflect and pray for them.

You know what I heard in this?  I heard that believing offers a new life, an eternal life, a life like Jesus, Emmanuel: God is with us, the one who is Christ the Lord!  Eternal life doesn't refer to living the same life.  Eternal life refers to the new life - God with you! God isn’t going to force you to believe or change.  In that manger, the Lord Jesus came to us, became like us.  Later he died to save us.  We sing it in Away In A Manger, a simple prayer, "Be near me Lord Jesus," and it echoes the promise of Jesus in Matthew 28; "I am with you always even to the end of the age!"

Works Cited:
1. Morgan, Robert J. "Then Sings My Soul, Book 2." Nelson, 2004.
2. Bromiley, Geoffrey. "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged." Eerdmans. 1985.

Permanent link to this article:

Dec 09 2013

Jedi Pastor Ken: Do You Hear What I Hear? O Holy Night

Original post at

When Heather and I got married we had to figure out how to merge our family traditions into our own.  We had to figure out when the tree goes up and when it must come down.  When do the presents go under the tree?  As they get wrapped or on Christmas eve?   One of the traditions of her family was listening to Nat King Cole’s famous Christmas album.  Today we’ve added a number of CDs to our collection and we have a blast doing karaoke while putting up the tree.  But I can’t help but stop and reflect everytime Nat King Cole’s version of “O Holy Night,” comes on in the rotation.

The carol, O Holy Night, was written in the mid 1800's. There was a parish priest asked a guy in town to write a poem based on Luke 2.  The man he asked was a French merchant and a poet named Placide Cappeau. Now Placide was known more as the life of the party than by a life changed by Jesus Christ.  Church was not on his to do list but he was known as a good poet. So, Placide wrote the poem as requested but then he did one better.  He asked a friend who was a good song writer to put the poem to music.  Of course, this friend wasn’t a Christian and in fact, his family was Jewish by heritage.  The song became so popular within a couple of years everyone in the Catholic Church was singing it!  Word did get out though about the character of the two guys who did the work and so a push was made to remove the song but it didn’t do much good as so many people loved it.

Legend has it that on Christmas Eve 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides, French and German, stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang the first line of “O Holy Night.”  The story goes that an unofficial cease fire occurred for the next 24 hours as the soldiers celebrated Christmas together.

Later in 1906, Reginald Fessenden was a 33-year old professor and assistant to Thomas Edison, did what many people thought was impossible. He used a generator, plugged a microphone into it and broadcast the very first AM broadcast in the history of the world on Christmas Eve in 1906. He read from Luke, Chapter 2, and broadcast the Christmas story.  Sailors on ships and writers at newspapers were shocked to hear a voice over their radios that before that day only broadcast coded impulses. Next he took his violin and played into the microphone the first song broadcast across airwaves in the history of the world.  The song was “O Holy Night.” (See Beliefnet's History of O Holy Night)

Honestly, why should this really surprise us?  As I spent time both with the scripture and the song, it seems to make perfect sense.  Read the words carefully and it seems that the song comes from the perspective of the shepherds.  Shepherds, a group of people whose profession made them unclean by the temple standards and unable to testify in court.  Shepherds were a people who the Pharisees and Priests couldn’t get by without because they needed the sheep for making sacrifices!  And who again wrote the poem?  Who wrote the song?  Why, an outcast and a sinner.

And so who is it the angel is sent to tell the “Good News?”  It is shepherds, in other words, the dregs and outcast.  And who is it Jesus, as a grown man, would be accused of hanging out with again and again?  What kind of people would attach themselves to Jesus, and follow every word and every step?  Tax collectors and prostitutes…sinners. 

But as I sat reflecting on the scripture and song, I felt I was still missing something.  How is it these two collaborators had created such an inspiring and well loved song?  And then it hit me in the first lines of each verse, the words of the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 13…faith, hope and love.  Could it be that these three that remain are a longing for all of humanity?  Could it be they expressed the desires of all our hearts and proclaimed a message that resonates in us all?

1. Hope for the weary world.  Have you ever just stopped and listened to your soul?  Usually it is on a mountain top or that morning cup of coffee looking over the beach.  Something speaks to our core – that is our soul.  Our souls have worth and we are not left to wander aimlessly in this life. 

2. Faith leads us to Good News, the reality that God has come to be with us (Immanuel).  This is what led the wise men to search.  All they had was a star in the sky!  They had no Tom-Tom, Google maps or Siri to talk with about where to go.

3.  Love becomes the new law by which we live.  Love is how Jesus lived and what he taught.  Not just any love but a love that breaks our handcuffs that have us locked to sin and frees us to live a new life!

The hope to begin anew is here.  The faith you have been seeking is here.  The love you have longed for is here.  If this is good news to shepherds it is good news for you.  If it is good news for tax collectors, it is good news for you.  If it is good news for prostitutes then it is good news for you.  If it is good news for sinners it is good news for you.  Faith, hope and love remain, wrote the Apostle Paul, but the greatest of these is love and love is here – in Jesus!

Permanent link to this article:

Older posts «