October 31, 2005

Intelligent Design

The battle between Evolution and Intelligent Design wages. The question is should Intelligent Design be taught alongside Evolution as a second, credible explanation of human beginnings? Many evolutionist think not, many Christians think evoltution should not be taught, and noone is really listening to the other anyway. CNN posted a story questioning the threat to science because of the many who believe creation to be credible.

Intelligent Design (ID) a threat to science? No, closed-minds are a threat to science. (On both sides)

But here is a problem on the Creationism side: The Bible is not a science textbook it is a theological document. The purpose of the Bible is not to lay down the precise manner in which God created the world it is to tell us the sacred love story of God for His creation. When reading the first two chapters of Genesis, if you see scientific data, you are looking at the wrong thing. It was not written to give us a precise scientific account of what happened. It was written as a theological treatise on God's creation of human beings and their special role in God's creation.

I do acknowledge that ID is simply noting that evolution does not account for all the details. Besides, how long can the missing link be missing before it is considered non-existent?

Philosophy of Science tells us the nature of science is a constant re-evaluation of the data. Scientific "truth" must change because it is based upon the observable data. Scientist are simply trying to give an explanation based on observable data.

The Bible tells us God created the world. It tells us human beings were the apex of His creation. The Hebrew language is ambiguous about whether they were literal 24 hour days. Could God design and create everything we know in 6 literal, 24 hour days? Yes. Could God also have taken His time or used evolutionary processes to accomplish much that we know? Yes. Who know for sure? Not me.

Let's let the Bible be a spiritual, theological document that tells us about God, and let it inform what we see in the world around us.

As God Intended?

When I read this story I thought, "Maybe we should return to baptizing people in a river?" But this is truly sad. I can't imagine what the family and congregation are going through.

October 28, 2005

Things I Have Learned While Planting a Church

In the final months of 1999, I on took the responsibility of planting a new church. During the spring of 2000, I would be finishing my Master's degree, leaving a church position as a youth pastor, becoming a father, purchasing a new home, moving into that new home, and beginning one of the hardest ministry assignments imaginable. Over the next two years we would have four major car breakdowns, a dozen or more minor breakdowns, a major surgery to repair a broken leg and bone cyst for my wife, near financial failure, and whatever else seems to go wrong when everything is going wrong.

There is great pain involved with every ministry position (emotional, financial, psychological). It is just part of being in ministry and learning to minister out of and in spite of the pain; even in the midst of success. The pain of planting my first church would be tragic if I learned nothing from it. I sat through more than 8 years of college and seminary learning "how to do ministry." (That is another story altogether.) With all those years of ministry training, the toughest classroom I ever entered was the church plant.

Here are some things I have learned about ministry, myself, and God in the midst of this church plant:

1. It is about me. I don't say this in some arrogant, self-centered way. I don't think the world revolves around me. But often the purpose of the trials, heartaches, and dissapointments is to develop us as a leader. God is in the transformation business, and that means He wants to transform me. Before I can lead anyone, I must be in a place where God trusts me and can use me.

2. It is about relationships. We can program church activities until we are blue in the face, and sometimes we literally are blue in the face, and still never be the Kingdom of God. It is about relationships. Loving God and loving others. We are to live in relationship with those who attend the church, those who lurk on the edges of church, and those who have no intention of coming to church.

3. It is about serving. We demonstrate God's love most effectively when we serve others. Whether through simple acts of kindness or volunteering in a homeless or some other act of selfless service to others, we are called to serve. We are not called to build a large church. We are called to reach into people's lives with the transforming message of God's love and serve them--that, I believe, will result in a growing church, but the priority cannot be on the growth.

4. It is simple. Sometimes we make church so complicated. We add things to the schedule and the agenda that are meaningless and lead us nowhere. Church should be simple. Worship, serve, fellowship (more than just hanging out), and reaching out.

5. I am called. I learned that I cannot escape the call to ministry. The struggles and challenges of the past six years have been almost unbearable at times, but I have learned there is nothing I would rather do than plant churches and be part of the ministry. On this side, I have come to like what I do. I am gifted in many different areas, but ministry is where my passion is. I could never be satisfied with anything else.

These are just a few things, and there alot more. I may get around to talking about a few more of them some other time.

October 27, 2005

On Passengers and Parasites

I like that phrasing. I discovered it while reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. (What an amazing mind!)

Passengers and Parasites are words Lewis uses to describe two types of people the church cannot afford to have as members. Passengers just sit there and hold on for the ride. Parasites drain the resources and give nothing in return.

Unfortunately, the church has too many of both. Could it be the fault of leadership? Cheap salvation? We are a community that has open arms for everyone, but it seems there must be accountability and expectations for the true follower. When I think about passengers and parasites, I don't even consider new people or those who have never made a commitment to follow Jesus.

What I think of are people who should really know better. People who have "been saved and sanctified." These are the ones that feel they can ride along with no commitment to the mission of the church (either the local church or the Church), or they feel entitled to benefit from the ministry of the church. The Entitlement Mentality drains the church's meager resources away from reaching the lost and caring for the poor and downtrodden.

I think it is possible for the church to be a place of grace, with open arms for everyone, and still be a place where people are held accountable for their commitment to follow Jesus. Those who have been part of the Church longer should have much more expected from them. They have the experience, the understanding, and the insight to lead the church. They are given the responsibility to lead in such a way as to fulfill the mission of God to transform the world--not make ministry about fulfilling their spiritual needs.

Great Implications for the Church

Scientists at the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company have created a remote control that works on humans. See the article here. A headset is placed on the person's head. When the controller moves the remote controls, the person moves involuntarily in the direction desired. The headset works by sending small electrical impulses into skull, just behind the ears. The technology, according to researchers, has a destinational use in video games and amusement park rides, but darker uses are immediately obvious.

I think this will change the way offerings are taken in the local church. If someone feels resistent to giving their ten percent, simply flip the switch and move their hand to their wallet or purse. The possibilities are endless.

October 26, 2005

A Balanced Faith

The other day I read a blog posting by James MacDonald. He is not a fan of the postmodern/emerging church movement. In some ways I don't think I blame him. The church is about more than style or cultural relevance. I think some take this too far, but they are calling us back to some things the modern church has missed.

1. The Church should be culturally relevant. We are not tied to historical expressions of faith. Besides, does the 1950's really represent the desired historical expressions of faith?

2. Jesus is the focus. I am not neglecting the Trinity, but Jesus is the visible expression of God. Hebrews tells us that He is the exact representation of God. The Holy Spirit is often called the "Spirit of Christ." We are not shortchanging anything theologically by focusing on Jesus. His earthly life demonstrates how we, too, should act and live. Being a Christian is not about denominational loyalty; it is about loyalty to one person--Jesus Christ. We are disciples, apprentices, followers--not whatever denominational moniker you desire.

3. We are a missional people. Though times have certainly been more kind to the Church, we are not, and never really have been, a home team. We are missional. God wants to transform the world we live in, and that means more than simply "getting someone saved." We demonstrate compassion for them. We are in the business of expanding the Kingdom of God.

4. Love for our neighbor. Christians have not always been the most loving people. That is unfortunate since Jesus said loving our neighbor was part of the Great Commandment. The emerging church challenges us to re-look at the way we treat sinners, homosexuals, other races, other faiths, and whatever makes us different from others.

What I want is a balanced faith. I want to be loving and grace-filled, but also hold be held accountable. I want to see lost people begin to follow Jesus, but I also want to heal the sick and visit the lonely. I like the extended title of Brian Mclaren's book A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. I think it is absolutely fitting for where we need to head as a Church.

Via Media

October 25, 2005

Civil Rights

Rosa Parks died Monday. Her refusal to move from her seat helped desegregate public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama. A simple act of civil disobedience, not to create trouble, thrust this unlikely department store worker into the spotlight of the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the boycott at just 26 years of age.

A few years ago I read The Children by David Halberstaam. It was a look at the beginning stages of the Civil Rights Movement and the college students who led the sit-ins at local, segregated diners. They were beaten, arrested, and some were killed for their belief that all humanity, whether white or black, were equal.

The civil disobedience couple with non-violent resistence was amazingly effective, but slow. Unfortunately many turned to violence to speed up the process. What happen, though, was more hostility, resistence, and reverse discrimination.

Racism, discrimination, and segregation are wrong wherever they are found. We are not allowed to treat other human beings as inferior. I think slavery and racism has left a scar on the United States that will never be erased--no matter how many attempt to live otherwise.

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

Listener Supported

On the way to work, I was listening to a "listener-supported" radio station. They are in the middle of their fund drive where if only "1%" of the people would call and support the station, they would be financially stable.

One caller told of how her son, with cerebral palsy, wanted to donate his $20 a month allowance to support this station. "I want to do everything I can to help people hear the Gospel, and so I want to support the station." Like people who have not made a faith commitment to Jesus are going to listen to Christian radio!

If he wants to actually reach lost people maybe he should send the money to a mission organization. Maybe even his church! Okay, maybe not his church. Unless his church has bucked the statistics and actually reached an unchurched person this year. But really, Christians, who probably aren't giving their tithe to the church or to help lost and broken people, are giving it radio stations.

It just sounds like organized pan-handling.

October 24, 2005

Redefining Disciple

Over the weekend I used a video from the Nooma collection during my Sunday morning sermon. The video, titled Dust, is a teaching video from pastor Rob Bell. But these are more than just talking head, teaching videos--these are artistic.

When we think of disciple we often think only of follower or student, but Rob expands that idea greatly. To be a disciple means that you not only follow and study, but also train to do what the Rabbi does. The disciples followed Jesus and learned from Him with full expectation that they would be able to do the things Jesus was doing.

How little we understand about our role. We sell ourselves so short of all that God desires for us. Jesus went through the towns proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God. He healed people, cared for people, loved people, and forgave them. We, too, can do the things Jesus did. I realized, while reading Power Healing by John Wimber, that we believe God can heal and that He talks to us, but we really don't believe it will happen. We wait until someone is practically on their death before we pray for them. No wonder we get very few answers to our prayers-we wait too long!

As a disciple I am able to do the things my teacher does. Jesus told the disciples they would do what He did and greater because He was going to be sitting next to the Father interceding for them. He does the same for us. Maybe it is time we stepped out, and prayed for something bold; for something radical. Maybe its time we believed God can still do the miracles we see Him do in the Bible.

We are more than just followers--we are doers. We are not called to sit on the sidelines and spectate. We are called to do the works of Jesus.

Now I am not one given to radically charismatic things, but I do believe God desires to work through us the same works done through Jesus. I believe God desires to heal people, forgive people, love people, challenge people, and, yes, even raise the dead. I don't know why some seem to see more of these things happen than others. Maybe it is because they simply expect them to happen. They anticipate God's presence and power, and offer it freely to others. We are not allowed to hoard God's power. It has been given freely to us, and we must give it freely to others.

Maybe that is why the Gospel lacks the power to transform--we are not really giving it away to others. We are looking to escape hell or make it into heaven or have our sins forgiven or released from our guilt. Maybe we need to give it all away. Maybe we need to be completely free with God's grace and forgiveness for others. Jesus certainly seemed to give it out free of charge.

October 21, 2005

Love Changes Things

Imagine what love can do. Not just the feelings we feel for someone, but love in action. Of course, love isn't love if it isn't acting. The absence of wrong action does not equate to love. Many people think that because they do not hate their neighbor or do anything bad to them that they love them. No, that is not love; that is indifference.

Love must be an action; a verb. And when Christian put love in action people notice. Roy Hattersley, an outspoken atheist in the UK wrote this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1567604,00.html. You will definitely want to check this out.

But remember, it is easy to be loving in the big things. True love will come to the rescue in times of great need, but true love will also serve in practical, even hidden ways.

October 20, 2005

Do I Really Want to Do This?

I have debated for a long time the use of a blog. I believe reading, discussing, sharing, and writing are all necessary for ideas to develop and grow. But putting it into a public forum?!

I have notebooks filled with thoughts. I write a lot, but not for others to see. It is really none of their business--some of the things I think. Besides thoughts, like children, grow; they change over time. What I think at one stage in my life may not be what I think at another. That is okay, but not everyone understands that process.

"How can you think something one day and think something different another?" But thoughts, theology, concepts and applications change. God doesn't change, but our understanding of Him certainly does.

This will certainly be an exercise in expansion.