December 27, 2005

For the Benefit of the Iraqi People...Yeah, right!

Here is an article from the New York Times. It reminds us that violence was not the method Jesus used, and that war really does damage lives.

If Google Ran a Church

There are several schools of thought in regards to church management and leadership. (Actually there as many opinions as there are people!) Some think that if the management or leadership arrangements were not in the Bible, they are not to be used. Others believe that the church should use the best practices available in the business world, and run the church as someone would run a business. Most of the rest fall somewhere in-between these two.

I tend to fall into a tension between the two of these. The Bible is not a step-by-step instruction book to management. It gives us a glimpse of how the early church used appropriate cultural structures to lead the church; though it wasn't completely a cultural structure. The business world has much to offer to church leadership, structures, and leading into the future, but the business world has much that is contrary to the church. For instance, the church was established to give away freely God's blessing to other's; especially those who could do nothing in return--The business world, though giving, is set up to earn a profit.

Here is an article from Newsweek.com concerning the 10 Golden Rules of Google. This article got me thinking about how the church (and church organizations) should treat employees.

Hire by committee: Many churches do this, but they hire by the entire congregation. At the Christian publisher that I work for, there is little committee hiring. Only the people directly involved with the new hire are invited to the interview, and then only if they are on the up-side of the leadership scale. Underlings don't count. Imagine a church that had children, teens, parents, in addition to the leadership team involved in the process. The church or organization would have to train them how to interview and what to look for, but it could be beneficial. I have, though, unfortunately seen churches that allowed too many people to be involved in the process. Though often it is not the "too many" that are the problem. The problem are those who have an agenda other than the best for the church.

Cater to their every need: There was a time when the pastor was put in a church-owned parsonage, and people from the church handled all repairs and maintenance. This was to allow the pastor to focus on the job of pastoring and spiritual growth. Unfortunately what happened was that when the pastor retired, they were in deep trouble. They had no home and no equity. Now many churches are falling on the opposite side. The pastor is given a housing allowance to purchase and maintain a home, but often the financial situation of the church is such that this is not always done sufficiently. I have also seen churches and church organizations treat their employees and staff as little more than indentured slaves all under the name of "ministry." We could learn something from Google.

Pack them in: There is more here than simply putting people into the same office. There is immediate access and face-to-face contact with co-workers. This cuts the miscommunication that often happens in e-mails. There is also a training factor. People are not left on their own, they have someone to help them acclimatize to the corporate culture. I think another important element in this is the concept of team. So often the pastor or even those on a staff of pastors are left on their own without a team. People wok best in teams. The Bible demonstrates this in the stories of Paul and Barnabas.

Make coordination easy: This is a communication thing. In a good team environment, communication is essential. Being able to communicate and to know what other team members are doing is important. Churches and church organizations do this through staff meetings, but could learn brevity from Google.

Eat your own dog food: This is interpreted as using your own services. I think the church does this, they use their own services. The problem is that many of the pastors don't want to use the churches they are a part of. They may not like the style or ministry, but feel helpless to change it. They may not feel free to be open with their congregation because they are supposed to be the "leader." There are also many ministers who don't spend time cultivating their relationship with God because they are too busy with church stuff.

Encourage creativity: There is way too much to be said here. The time schedule of the pastor is so overwhelming there is often no time for creative development. Sermon preparation is often left to the last minute due to hospital calls, counseling sessions, and meetings. And there is little time for advanced planning.

Strive to reach consensus: This is a difficult one to process. Yes, the church needs to reach consensus. Maybe the thing is that the church should strive to reach consensus, not make everyone happy. Decisions often need to be made over a longer period of time, with more people involved (not just those in charge), by pastors who have put in the length of service to have built trust and committment.

Don't be evil: Wow! If only a few church boards could learn this. Learning to disagree passionately, but with the overall purpose and mission of the organization at the forefront. Could we dare to dream of it?

Data drives decision: The church needs to be better at gathering data. Cultural data, spiritual growth data, performance data, feedback data. You name it we avoid it. We could get anal, but that would take a lot of work to get there.

Communicate effectively: It is amazing to me how pastors can preach a sermon and lead a meeting an still never communicate anything effectively. They botch conversations, push their agenda through without concern for others, and overall communicate very poorly. In one of the organizations that I work for, they are planning to move their world headquarters. One of the "postitives" of moving is that with all departments in the same building they will be able to "communicate more effectively." The reality is that if they are not communicating now, they will not communicate then.

The last couple of paragraphs offer insight into known pitfalls and the recognition that they don't know all the pitfalls. The church would do well to explore what their pitfalls are, and at least attempt to put some thought into how to avoid those pitfalls.

How about "theological arrogance"? Very common among recent seminary graduates and life-long scholars.

How about "cultural-relevance arrogance"? Very common among those who are "reaching those in the culture."

How about the "I-Can-Do-It-All complex"? Very common among pastors and dominating church board leaders.

This list could go on forever, but I will let you finish it.

December 21, 2005

The Scandal of the Nativity

I am not given to placing my sermons on my blog. I recognize that in written form they seem to lack the Spirit of the sermonic. I place this here just to remind us that the Nativity is more than just a glass or ceramic decoration, and it is certainly not just a "nice story."

Here goes:

The past couple years we have done something special at our house to help our daughter understand that Christmas is not just about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, or pretty lights. We put up our Christmas decorations, and “save the best for last.” After the tree is up and all the other things my wife makes me put up, we go to a built-in area near our kitchen and put up the nativity. I tell my daughter, that the real reason for Christmas is not the lights and trees, but the story of Jesus’ birth. As we put out the pieces of the nativity, I retell the story of Jesus' birth.

The story of the nativity as it is told to children and by “good, Christian” folks is really rather tame. It is sterilized for our protection. All offensive things are removed in the way we tell the story. So tonight, I want us to look at a few of the people who gathered around the manger.
We should probably start with the most obvious, Jesus’ parents.

Read Luke 1:26-38.

Mary was a young, engaged-to-be-married woman chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah. Young women everywhere prayed that God would give them the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah, but they certainly didn’t expect this—a virgin, not yet married, and pregnant.

The social pressure of the day would have been almost unbearable. It doesn’t take much to remember a day when the stigma of unwed pregnancy here in the United States drove many young girls to unthinkable depths of hopelessness. Mary’s day was not that different. Young, unwed, pregnant girls were looked on with suspicion, and rejected by others in their village.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph knew this pressure all to well. I can only imagine his pain when he learned that his bride-to-be was pregnant, and he knew he had nothing to do with it.

Read Matthew 1:18-25.

Joseph was going to put Mary away, grant her a certificate of divorce, in privacy to help save her as much embarrassment as possible. Granting Mary a private divorce meant Joseph would forfeit all the money given to Mary’s family in exchange for her. This young man, whom Matthew calls a righteous man, was willing to give up his financial claim in order to spare Mary embarrassment.

Following the angelic visit, Matthew tells us that Joseph “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded.” Joseph’s decision to obey God forever tarnished his “righteous man” image. Now he was simply the carpenter who got his fiancĂ© pregnant, and he, along with Mary, bore all the reproach… and the whispers… and the gossip of his community. Joseph finalized his obedience to God and his claim as father of this child when on the eighth day he presented the child for circumcision and named him Jesus.

But Joseph and Mary were not the only ones present that night.

Read Luke 2:8-20.

Shepherds were a necessary part of the Jewish religious and economic culture. Having religious worship that required the sacrifice of sheep, means that the shepherds were necessary. Without shepherds there was not worship. But, here is the problem, shepherds, because of their job, were not welcome in the temple. For the Jewish people, the temple was the one, true place to worship and know God. It was the place to find forgiveness for sins. It was the place to pray. Jesus later drives the merchants and money-changers from the temple not because they were selling within the walls of the church, but because their buying and selling was taking place in the only place the Gentiles could pray in the temple.

So here are these shepherds watching their sheep next to a small fire on a hillside. They smell like sheep. They are a course, bad-joke-telling group living on the hillsides. And they are taking care of the sheep that people will use to sacrifice to a God they are not allowed to worship.
And here comes this angel to tell them that God has sent the Messiah, and they are invited to His birth. Of course they leave the sheep and God. Of course that is Good News! They are not allowed in the temple, but God has invited them to this holy event.

Let’s look at one more group.

Matthew is the only one to include the group we have come to call the Wise Men, but were called Magi. Though, historically they were not present at Jesus’ birth, they are included in our nativity sets, and I will include them here. They probably arrived about the time Jesus was two-years-old or so.

Read Matthew 2:1-12.

The Magi held a special role in their culture. They were a combination astrologer/scientist. They believed that by watching and studying the natural world around them, they could receive wisdom and guidance. They were not astrologer/fortune-tellers like we have today, but they certainly believe that natural occurrences could predict the future. Oh, and they were also Gentile.

Gentiles were outsiders, unwanted by the Jewish people. In the temple courts they were given the area farthest from the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was to be. This is where the merchants and money-changers set up their tables because no one really cared whether the Gentiles were able to worship.

These pagan, Gentile astrologer/scientists came searching for the Messiah, and when they found the infant, they worshipped Him. The Greek word is proskuneo meaning, “to fall down.” These royal, dignified elite members of their society bowed themselves face down, flat out on a dirt floor before a two-year-old child.

This wonderful scene that so many of us put up in our homes is absolutely scandalous to first-century Jews—an unwed, pregnant mother; the father of the illegitimate child; dirty, smelly, unruly shepherds; and pagan, Gentile royalty. Not the group you would invite to the birth of your child.

Just as interesting as the people who showed up to Jesus’ birth are the people who were not there. The good, religious people, the priests, the Jewish royalty, none of them were present. Even at the birth of Jesus, God was saying I am offering grace, hope, and love to those who are on the outside. The Pharisee’s had a name for this group of people. They called them, “tax collectors and sinners.”

Caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien is a major theme throughout the Bible and in Jesus’ preaching and life. He begins His public ministry in His home town of Nazareth with these words, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

And the crazy thing about Jesus’ mission to these losers and outsiders, is that He calls you and me to do the same thing. Leslie Newbigin in his book The Open Secret says, “There is no acceptance of Christ without acceptance of His mission.” Our salvation is not just a one way ticket into heaven, it is not just our escape from hell, our salvation, God’s blessing on our lives, is so that we can be a blessing to others. God transforms us so that we can be part of His mission to transform the world. The glass and ceramic nativity scenes are nice, but they are scandalous. They remind us that God is not after the spiritual elite, but after the brokenhearted, the poor, the hopeless, the lost cause. And He calls us to care for them as well.

December 20, 2005

Purpose Driven

Here is an article about Rick Warren. I can't believe it took 25 years for him (and others) to realize that compassion and loving our neighbors in practical ways is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have read The Purpose Driven Church, and his church's mission statement is "A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission."

My question would be, "What did you think 'love your neighbor' meant? And how were you living that out if you weren't caring for the poor and destitute?"

To be honest, I am just glad that he and other evangelical leaders are doing more for the issues of poverty, disease, and AIDS. I don't understand how it wasn't realized sooner, but at least things are moving in the right direction.

For some practical ways to serve others check out this website www.servantevangelism.com. There is nothing like caring for others in Jesus' name.

Intelligent Design part 2

The Pennsylvania Court ruled that Intelligent Design is simply Creationism in drag (um...I mean, disguise). Here is the article from MSNBC.

I have been thinking a lot about this issue because of this trial, because of reading Brian Mclaren's The Story We Find Ourselves in, because of a discussion with a friend who is a staunch seven-day-literalist, and because this is important theologically.

I went to the Understanding Evolution website. This is an excellent teaching resource from Berkeley. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment and attended a conservative, private Christian school. I was never taught the theory of Evolution, and it was often quickly dismissed by pointing out weak areas of the theory. (And carefully avoiding any weak areas of their own).

I learned some very important things. For instance, evolution does not believe we evolved from chimpanzees, but rather that we share an ancestor. Also, there seems to be more evidence there than my conservative science teachers led us to believe. I also learned that they are not making claims as to the Origin of life (how it all got started) only its evolution since is began. I am sure some scientist are, and some are studying, but the primary emphasis of evolution is not origin, but evolution.

To be honest, I feel rather embarassed at not having studied this earlier. I guess I was just not that concerned with it. I still feel that the primary purpose of Genesis is not science, but theology. I don't think the Bible's stories have to all be completely, factually true for the Bible to be true. It is first and foremost a theological book. It has history and science within its pages, but it is not a text book.

I think this goes back to my understanding of salvation and my thinking on what the Bible is. It is not an answer book. It is not a text book. It is God's words to us. It is meant to lead us into a relationship with God.

I am still studying and trying to learn. I struggle with the inner voice that screams, "You are going to hell for even thinking this way!" I know, intellectually, the voice is wrong, but it is still hard. I was impressed, however, with the website, and with the explanation of evolution.

I guess however I land on this issue, I do believe that God got it all started, and I do recognize that there are evolutionary principles at work in our world. I think Genesis provides us with great theological insight into God's relationship with humanity, and his desires for us.

December 18, 2005

Thinking About Salvation

I finished reading Brian Mclaren's book A New Kind of Christian, and I have started Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis.

I have been thinking about the nature of salvation. What does it mean to be "saved"?

When I think about salvation, I often think of Peter and Andrew along the shore of the lake repairing their net. Jesus didn't say, "If you were to die tonight..." He simply said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

For me this calling has two components. First, it means that salvation is following Jesus. It means He is the ultimate example of how we should live our lives. His way is the best way. Second, it means that this call to follow will result in comission to a mission. Leslie Newbingin quoted another source when he said, "There is no acceptance of Christ without acceptance of His mission."

Conservative evangelicals have often thought of salvation as the finish line. That may not be the official theological stance, but is certainly the practiced one. The "holiness" movement simply pushed the finish line a little further down the road to the point of "entire sanctification." The way this has played out in the church is that people "get saved" or "get sanctified" and they have achieved the lowest common denominator to get them into heaven. All they have to do is maintain what they have received by fulfilling the proper spiritual requirements: Church three times per week, x minutes of Bible reading and prayer, and defending the "truth" of the Gospel. Occaisionally it means telling a friend or loved one about God, but not if they can help it.

It seems to me that "salvation" is less about saying a sinner's prayer or accepting the right doctrinal truths, and more about following Jesus Christ and through that participating in His mission to save the world. This seems more radical and difficult than simply saying a prayer. Deciding to follow a person is saying, "This person's ideas and concept of reality will become my own. I will allow this person's ideas to be the central framework for my understanding of the world around me. I will accept their mission as my own." The other way of salvation is simply signing on the dotted line, and rejoicing in the fact that now you don't have to go to hell and you get to go to heaven.

Rather than the finish line, salvation is only the beginning. I think there are stages to this following. God calls a person to follow, they are able to explore what it means to truly follow Christ, and then they decide whether or not to continue following. But part of the following is the doing. Doing, not to earn salvation, but doing because it is part of the following.

Salvation is more than just the act of accepting this call to follow, it is all that God does in the person's life to lead them to Himself. For Wesleyans, we call this prevenient grace, but it is really just saving grace. God is working to bring this person to a place of salvation. It should not surprise us to find God working in some very strange places. Strange by the standards of conservative evangelicals.

It is a gross mistake to think of salvation as escape from hell or entrance into heaven. Though I think these are part of it, they are not the point of salvation. The point of salvation is that God wants to re-establish a relationship with humanity, transform them into His likeness, and dispatch them to transform the world. (All of these seem to happen simultaneously. We cannot become more Christlike if we are not serving, and in the process, our relationship with God is being re-established.) By transform the world, I do not necessarily mean evangelism as we know it, and I definitely do not mean most of the "take a stand" mentality found in the evangelical churches today.

The way to transform the world is by living according to the principles Jesus set out: love God with your whole heart, love your neighbor as yourself, be generous, be filled with hope, pray always, etc.

Imagine what a difference it makes in a greedy, consumeristic society to live generously.

Imagine what it means to live in a war-torn, left vs. right, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist world with a love your neighbor mentality.

Imagining may be hard, but I at least want to try.

December 17, 2005

What Is Sin?

This morning I was reading some of Brian Mclaren's book A New Kind of Christian. In it Brian brings up a discussion concerning sin.

Having grown up in a conservative, "holiness" church, the fear of sin was instilled in me from an early age. We knew sin separated us from God, and we knew that "without holiness, no man will see God." Sin sends a person to hell, and no one, in their right mind, wants to go to hell; at least not the one described by my childhood pastors. (Picture fire, brimestone, and assorted suffering and torment.)

I don't think they taught this stuff to make us paranoid. I do want to believe they had the best of intentions (though I know some did not). I think they had a sincere desire to know God, and wanted others to know Him as well. I think sin DOES separate us from God, but they focused on the "separating" aspect of sin rather than the keeping, grace-full nature of God.

Unfortunately this upbringing forces me to constantly question, "What is sin?" We were taught that movies, television, drinking alcohol, smoking, and dancing were sins. We were also taught that greed, pride, and coveting were sins. But the drinking, dancing, and smoking were easier to see. However, I can't recall a single sermon on helping the poor, widow, or orphan, or a sermon on spiritual pride and judging others.

Sin was always black and white. Many would still say it is black and white. John Wesley said that sin is a willful act of disobedience to God. Arminians set this against John Calvin who indicated that sin is hard to get away from; we sin every day in word, thought, and deed. They teach these as though they are mutually exclusive; that, in order to believe one, you have to disregard the other. Is that really so? I don't think so.

I think they are both right. But I also think sin is much more than these two definitions as well.

Sin is serious business. It separates us from God, but defining sin is difficult. John the Baptist came into the world denying himself all "worldly" pleasure. Jesus came eating and drinking. Both were condemned; Jesus for being a glutton and drunkard and John for being too strict.

We often focus on the visible sins; sins we can see someone doing. But we often neglect sins that, though they may not be readily seen, are probably worse. A New Kind of Christian points out the story of the Pharisees who drag the woman caught in adultery before Jesus. Who is more in the wrong? Who is the sinner in this story? The woman who commits adultery? Or, the Pharisees who are filled with spiritual pride?

We want to place things, theology, in neat little boxes that explain and quantify everything. What we call grey may actually be mystery. It would be nice if the Bible simply had a book of rules. This would make it so much easier. We could look at something and say, "Yup! That is wrong!" Instead we get stories, principles, and questions.

As a pastor, I don't want to be guilty of leading my people away from God either by being too lenient or being too harsh. I realize that I am not God; I will not be asked to help judge those standing in front of His royal throne. Yet, I know that those who desire to teach are held to a higher standard.

Leonard Sweet once said, "I would rather be known as being too forgiving than too judgmental."

December 15, 2005

It Doesn't Take An Elite

I grew up in an inner-city, single-parent, welfare home. Yes, my mother made some bad choices, but when she actually attempted to get a job the government removed all financial support and medical benefits. With two young children, my mother made the best decision she could.

This article from Newsweek is interesting for two reasons. First, it places the "poor" families at $35,000 a year. My mother could only dream of $35,000 a year. Daniel Spangenburger, the prospective college student, has both parents, and both of them work. Second, it assumes that college students from "Elite" schools are somehow better off. I admit there is prestige in attending an elite college, but who really cares.

Almost fifteen years removed from my high school graduation, two degrees, a family, and career later, I realize that an education is what matters, and not where you get the education. There are schools that are tougher, require more, and do produce top students, but the key to an education is the students drive and passion.

Daniel Spangenburger would do well to find a "good" school, and excel there. But I also know that if you want something bad enough, you should do whatever you can to make it happen. Daniel has not even talked or e-mailed the school admissions counselors. He talks to a "friend of a friend." This is not really trying.

When looking at college, my first option was a pretty prestigious, private, Catholic university. I applied, was accepted, but couldn't make it financially. I quickly transferred to a local university, and the next year to another university. I worked hard to get myself into and through school. You have to work harder if you are from the "underprivileged" class.

Not only do you have to "impress" the people in charge; making sure they realize you are not some street thug or loser, but you are battling the inner demons that tell you you don't deserve to be where you are. Add to that those students who, because of their parent's wealth, look down on you because your background obviously makes you worthy of their disapproval.

These can become excuses, but they must become the motivation for reaching higher. "I am from a poor family," "My mother was on welfare," "I grew up in a bad neighborhood," etc. etc. etc. These are excuses. A person's decisions are a major factor in where they end up; not whether they go to an "elite" school.

December 14, 2005

Tookie

Where is the line between just punishment for crimes (or sins) and redemption?

This week the infamous founder of the Crips, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, was executed for the death of four people. Though maintaining his innocence, Tookie's conviction was upheld by numerous lower and Supreme courts, and clemency was ultimately denied by Governor Schwarzenegger.

I, personally, am torn on the issue of the death sentence. Do some crimes deserve the ultimate price? Yes, I believe. Is the prison system really concerned with rehabilitation? No. Is someone on death row ever worthy of redemption? Possibly in human terms, definitely in spiritual terms.

I think part of the problem is that the death sentence has become "what the family deserves" rather than just punishment for a crime.

The scene described by Newsweek journalist Karen Breslau is that of a capitalist circus. People renting their driveways to news crews, people smoking marijuana, rallies bashing the political leaders. It sounded more like a circus than a protest.

I am torn on the issue, as I said earlier, but I do know one thing, I could not pull the switch or push the button. I guess that says enough.

December 12, 2005

Putting It All to Good Use

I am sure that much of the publicity Bill and Melinda Gates receives is simply because of his wealth and success. But it is good to see that he is not hoarding all that money simply to buy a bigger house with more computer stuff.

Read this article.

Imagine what the church could do if it cared less about building and more about people. Imagine what could happen if ministry was not simply teaching a Sunday school class, but changing the coarse of someone's life.

When The Simple Life first came on I watched the first two minutes of one episode. Actually it was little more than the opening sequence. I saw Paris Hilton drop $50,000 on handbag and a pair of shoes. I couldn't believe it. That is more than I make in one year, and she is able to buy ONLY a handbag and a pair of shoes with it. And she didn't even bat an eye. I was horrified by the kind of person it would take to do that without thinking about it.

I find it interesting that a person doesn't have to have any where near the wealth of Paris Hilton, and still be as stingy and uncharitable. I heard a pastor a few weeks ago (he was on TV) telling a group to stop lying to themselves about their money. Stop lying about the fact that they "would give if they had more money." The amount of money makes no difference--it is the generosity of the heart.

December 10, 2005

Honey, Where Is My Halloween Costume?

You go to the store. The large rack of lottery tickets is just sitting there. You have the extra dollar in your pocket. "One lottery ticket could not possibly be a sin," you think. "I am not casting lots over Christ's garments, just scratching one ticket." And then...

Man searches fields, trash bins for lottery ticket. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on Him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else," he said.

In this story there is this weird combination of a loving God that is somehow vindictive in His punishment.

If he keeps playing and winning, at least the pastor knows he will tithe on his winnings.

December 9, 2005

What's the Point Again?

It would be nice if someone, anyone, (Please God, send someone!) who at least has a clue about the true message of the Christian faith. I don't remember a passage in the Bible that says, "Though shalt only wish they neighbor 'Merry Christmas!' All generic holiday greetings of your neighbors are to be abhored. They are detestable in my sight!"

I think it is just a case of so many Christians being uncomfortable finding a new role in society. One that does not involve power and domination of all the pagans. "They martyred us--we can treat them as inferior and abuse their civil rights."

Here is yet another article, though the first on this blog, to talk about the "Christians" who are fighting about the phrase "Happy Holidays." I think they are fighting the wrong battle.

But...

Dear Media, could we at least get some attention on the many thousands of dinners, clothing, and good will the church does give to the poor during this time of year. Could you at least point out that not all of us are like this?

December 7, 2005

Keeping Katrina

Here is an article from Slate.com by Blake Bailey. He and his family are currently in Gainesville, Florida as Katrina refugees.

Here are some things I saw in this article:

1. It is apalling that the Presbyterian Church (who should be representing God) is offering a house in such poor condition. And, that they are not attempting to help the Katrina victims by forgoing the rent. Maybe they can't do that financially, but at least they could do something.

2. The man from California who offered to pay their rent for a year and build them a house. How amazing is that?! He said it was to help restore Blake's faith in humanity and God. He is attempting to do more than just do social good, he is attempting to demonstrate a godly lifestyle.

3. Where is our government? They were late getting to New Orleans, and they are now taking their time helping people get back on their feet. I knew John Kerry wasn't the right person for the job, and now I know George Bush wasn't either. I know it is not completely his fault, but it seems that we did more, faster for tsunami. Do they have a party of "the lesser of two evils"?

December 6, 2005

Velvet Elvis

Here is an article taken from Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis. Rob has such a way of teaching that is both deep and inspiring. He really can tell a story well.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Here is an interesting article from Britain's Guardian Unlimited.

December 5, 2005

My Response...

David commented on my previous post about Ecclesiology.

My view of corporate worship is a little more simple and stripped down. I think we should stick to the basics (singing, preaching, sacraments), and do so to the best of our ability. However, our worship and our service to the world do seem to go hand in hand. Worship seems more genuine in a congregation that is committed to reaching and serving lost and broken people.

Worship is not necessarily about form. Besides, the ritualistic style found in liturgical churches was only formed when Constantine converted to Christianity and made it legal. The church had to have liturgies and ritual that was suitable for an Emporer. I think that many different styles are okay, and that even in really bad churches, worship can still take place.

But image a place where you can worship in a community like that described in Acts 2. A community that is dedicated to the Word of God, cares for the needs of others, reaches lost people, celebrates the Lord's presence with them, and works miracles on behalf of God.

I think we have focused too much on "excellence" in worship, and focused too little on authenticity in worship. But who can actually create authenticity and authentic worship--only the people worshipping. A lead worshipper can be authentic, the pastor can preach and lead with authenticity, but worship is also a corporate thing.

The Church has been worshipping together since its beginning. There is a very important place for worship, but I do believe we have turned it into something it was never intended to be. Is it wrong to worship in the styles that we do? I don't think so. But I don't think it is really worship is we are neglecting the poor and downtrodden. I don't think it is worship if we are doing our own thing and then pretending to be spiritual. I think every single prophet had something to say about this issue.