March 31, 2006
I needed to hear this. I am in the midst of selling my house, packing, and preparing to move across country. I have no place to live and no job to support my family. But I believe it is God calling me.
We have an opportunity to intern with the pastor of another church in preparation for planting a church in an area I have desired to minister since I first accepted the call to ministry. I never expected it to happen, and I certainly didn't expect it to happen this way.
I know I am a worry-er. I manage to think of the worst possible outcome and fret over that happening. We have an offer on our house, and all I can see it falling through because of the inspection or the buyer doesn't sell their home. This is happening quicker than I expected. All I want is for something to go smoothly, but it doesn't seem to be happening.
I keep telling myself, "God is in control. If it doesn't work out then God has something else in mind." Until then, I am trying to keep my mind from focusing on all the "What ifs."
Architecting an Outward Focused Church Service: Music: "My discovery is this: When the Holy Spirit is present, you can play about any kind of worship music – you can hums songs on a comb with wax paper and something wonderful will likely happen. The real bugaboo isn’t ultimately the style of music – it’s the lack of God’s presence. When people are aware of the immediate presence of God, all of the styles of worship are up for discussion."
I love the rock-sound worship style. I worship best when I am leading from the guitar, but I also know how hard it is to worship on the other side.
The reality is that "revival" is not going to happen every Sunday. Some days are going to be ho-hum, and other are going to be fabulous. The hard part is appreciating the times when God makes His Spirit known, and stying engaged in the waiting times. We cannot possibly live on a constant high. One of the dangers of living on a constant high is that it soon is not enough. Sunday morning worship becomes a crazed attempt to re-create the "experience" instead of accept what God is giving.
Worship is more than style, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit moving and working. It does not always have a rock beat, but it is true worship.
March 30, 2006
Here is a good article from Guy Kawasaki: Bona tempora volvantur--by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Driving Your Competition Crazy
I think if we see other churches as inspiring to do better, if know ourselves, know our "customers," and focus on the customers (not in a materialistic way) we could inspire each other to bigger better things.
The problem that often happens is that we feel beat up. We feel demoralized because we are not this or that person. We have a false view of what "success" is in the ministry. I think this often stems from not knowing who you are as a church and as a pastor.
One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout the early years of the church plant, was that I needed to know who I was theologically and practically before I could lead the church anywhere. Then, as the lead pastor, I needed to help the church create an identity that I could find myself in.
One of the biggest problems is that a pastor assumes the leadership of an existing church, and then tries to recreate it into something it was never meant to be. I think the direction of the church has to be part God-inspired vision in the pastor born from an understanding of the local church and what it is called to do. I think this is partly done in community. Sometimes God is specific about the particulars of a vision, but often God simply says, "Find a way to care for the poor." "Find a way to make my word relevant" "Help people worship me."
We do a great disservice as pastors when we attempt to mold a church into our image or into someone else's image. If you discover that you cannot "find" yourself in the church you are working, you are probably in the wrong church. Someone once told me, "Plant the church that you would attend." I think that is good advice.
March 29, 2006
Here is the slippery slope as quoted from the article:
"Let’s take a look at the idea of the slippery slope. It goes something like this: One person makes a case for doing or thinking something we shall call A. Another person, one who is against A for one reason or another, argues that once you allow A, it is either inevitable or likely that you will also allow B, C, D, and E. And since any or all of B through E are wrong or unwise or dangerous, it is best to avoid A as a precaution. It’s basically the story of Pandora’s Box repackaged and offered to the discussion at hand.
The reason that A leads to B and so on is usually not mentioned, which disappoints me. If you use the slippery slope argument, I feel you should also be ready to explain why it is a valid concern in a given situation."Christians use this all the time. "If you say the Creation story isn't literal what is to stop you from saying that everything in the Bible is not literal?" "If you say that drinking an alcoholic beverage is not a sin, what is to stop a person from becoming an alcoholic?"
Another variation, that is equally unpopular to me, is the "logical conclusion" argument. It is usually always begins with the statement, "If you take that to its logical conclusion, though,..."
Here are the problematic assumption:
1. People have no self-control. True, some do not. But one or two people who lack self-control does not make it a sin for everyone else.
2. People are unfit to make their own decisions. Yes, there needs to be counsel and submission to the Scripture, but that submission should take place in community. There are too many people setting themselves up as Scriptural Interpretation Police.
3. Not everything goes to its "logical" conclusion. I think there is a big difference between reason and logic (at least as I define it). Reason is the ability to think things through, explore the options, and take counsel in the process of making a decision. Human beings have reason, but they are not purely logical.
Logic is always moving from A to B to C. The movement is necessary and required.
Here is an example of the difference. Computers are logical. They always do things in the way of logic. If they are looking for a specific file, they start from the top and search through every file and folder looking for the item. This becomes times consuming. In fact, it is the logic of the computer that makes them infuriating to their human users.
Humans have reason. If they are looking for something, they think about the last place they had it, what color was it, and they ask (accuse?) their spouse of moving it. They do not start in the attic and open every door and closet searching for it. They begin where they believe it most likely to be.
As humans we can read one part of the Bible as literal and another part of the Bible as a theologically-informative story and never contradict ourselves. That is reason as opposed to logic.
Here is an article from Out Of Ur: Kingdom Confusion: Is the quest for political power destroying the church?
I find it amazing that this author lost 1,000 people because he refused to side with a right-wing, Republican agenda. I believe we should stand up for what we believe, but we need to make sure that we approach the politcal system as a secular system, and not God's intended way to change the world.
What is sad is that millions of American Christians will picket and march concerning abortion and homosexuality, but remain silent as it regards the homeless, the poor, the oppressed, and bringing justice to our world.
I can see how some would see this as being wishy-washy. "You are not taking a stand." But like the author of this article states, the point is not that I do or do not take a stand on these issues, it is a matter of where my allegience ultimately lies and where my hope is placed.
If the majority of these people would place as much energy into being missionally-driven Christians rather than being a political supporter, the world could actually be changed. You have to work from the ground up not from the top down.
What if instead of protesting abortion clinics we worked to provide alternatives? What if we sought to live in loving, connected relationships with these women? What if instead of condemning the homosexual, we lived the life of Jesus Christ in front of them? What if we showed them the full extent of God's love?
We believe in the salvation and hope provided in the Kingdom of God; not in the power of political prowess.
March 28, 2006
Andy Stanley says there is nothing inherently spiritual about leadership in the church. Jim Collins says that leadership within the church is fundamentally different than leadership in a business context. The writer of the article seems suprised and sets them up as being in contention with each other.
What we are lacking in the article is context of the remarks and the fuller explanation. Why can't they both be right? Why do we always want something to be black-and-white and contain no tension?
Yes, leadership is leadership. The same skills that make a person a leader outside the church can be used inside the church. Good leadership practices outside the church are most often good leadership practices inside the church. There are some that are not, and yes, the church is different organizationally; which requires a difference in leadership.
Leadership in the church is also spiritual. While Eric Reed, the writer, says that he heard an "opposite view from an unexpected quarter," he does not quote Jim Collins as saying anything opposite. All Jim Collins notes is that the context of leadership is different. While a business leader can act like a dictator, the church leader should not. But we all know of some who do.
I think Andy Stanley would readily agree that the leadership context is very different. But leadership skills are still very similar.
Another issue, brought up in a comments section concerning this article, is the fact of spiritual gifts. As I have seen them, spiritual gifts are often abilities empowered by the Holy Spirit. I do believe there to be a long list of spiritual gifts that are outside the realm of natural ability.
But there are many outside the church who's leadership level and ability far surpasses most leaders in the church. So I do agree that the task is more than just about skill, but skill is also required.
Galileo said that he could not imagine that a God who gave his creation intelligence, reason, and insight would expect them not to use it. The Bible is a book about God's interaction with His creation. It is not, however, and instruction manual for leadership. It has leadership principles and our leadership styles and principles must be subject to the truths we receive from the Bible. But it does not contain all we need to know about leadership.
I don't understand the desire to be bound by such stringent laws whether in the Muslim or the Christian faith. I guess there is safety in the law, but I think is a good example that law is illogical. Logic requires a person to move from A to B to C. We don't naturally function like that. A to B to C is a good guide, but it does not always work. God has given us reason, intuition, compassion, and thoughtfulness to help understand and find solutions when A does not lead to B or C.
March 27, 2006
I am sure Mark Driscoll took a great deal of flack, not so much for his stance, as much as for the tone of his response. I, for one, would like to have seen an intelligent, well-thought out response to the issue. Instead, Mark spoke out of anger.
I guess if the measure of Brian McLaren was his gentleness of response, it would be of equal measure to value Mark Driscoll by his apology: Apology | Resurgence
It takes a great deal of humility to admit failure in an area.
Mark says, "A godly friend once asked me an important question: “What do you want to be known for?” I responded that solid theology and effective church planting were the things that I cared most about and wanted to be known for. He kindly said that my reputation was growing as a guy with good theology, a bad temper, and a foul mouth. This is not what I want to be known for. And after listening to the concerns of the board members of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network that I lead, and of some of the elders and deacons at Mars Hill Church that I pastor, I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste. Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement. I pray that you will accept this posting as a genuine act of repentance for my sin."
Thanks Mark for leading the way in demonstrating how to apologize after a very public failure.
It is also very American/Western. Americans have one of the few Christian populations that is not suffering tribulation. Abdul Rahman is only a glimpse into the plight of Christians around the World.
ABC news.com gives this very brief article: ABC News: Secret World of Afghan Christians
Brave men and woman face the possibility of torture and death to worship God. I am able to freely walk into any Chrsitian church in America without fear of persecutions. When I was a teenager, I read and re-read the book God's Smuggler. I recognized the faith of Brother Andrew and the power of God. But I was not a Christian. I knew that I had yet to see God work in similarly powerful ways in America or in the church I attended.
Brother Andrew's organization gives aid and resources to persecuted churches around the world. Here is a link to his website: Open Doors USA.
Here is the link to the Persecuted Church Website.
During this Lenten season, while we are able to worship comfortable and imagine the suffering of Christ, lets pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are living the sufferings of Christ.
To contact the Embassy of Afghanistan, the address is:
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washingtong, DC 20008
Their fax number is 202-483-6488 and their e-mail address is info@embassyof afghanistan.org.
I realized that I remembered very little of my two years of high school French. I was able to say "Hello" and say "Excuse me." I tried escargot. It was okay. I would not, however, eat a plate-full of it.
One of the things I noticed was lack of contemporary forms of ministry. They seem stuck doing church as in a traditional or liturgical style. I attended a youth-led worship event on Saturday night. Its purpose was to unify the local churches. My thought, though, was what if a church adopted this as its dominant style of worship, and had a pastor that led in a contemporary form of mission-driven ministry. I don't know if it would work (I am not part of that culture), but it was exciting to think of the possibilities because it is so different from what typically happens in the churches up there. There are a lot of challenges though.
I think in terms of postmodern culture Canada is 10-15 years ahead of the United States. They are much more culturally diverse. In a traditional church service on Sunday morning, the Pastor called all the children to the front to pray. His children were the only Anglos. The other children were Haitian, African, Quebecua, Philipino, Korean, and more. It is a place of exciting opportunities and challenges.
March 23, 2006
"When everyone is against you, it means that you are absolutely wrong-- or absolutely right."
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missles and misguided men."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."
March 22, 2006
The Take Home
As you know, this is my last sermon here. Most pastors preach the Gospel, but each has a different angle or emphasis because who has influenced them and what books they have read. So I thought I would sum up some of the things I really hope you got from me about the Christian faith.
I. We should radically live out the Great Commandment.
a. Matthew 22:34-40, “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV
b. This love is an action. If you really love someone or something, you take action. I love pizza, so I eat pizza. I love to read, so I buy books and read them; sometimes. I love my family so I spend time with them and buy them things and do things with them.
If we truly love God, we will take action toward Him. We will worship Him. We will learn more about Him. We will want to grow in our relationship with Him. We will go out into the world and serve Him.
If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will take action toward them. We will do good for them with no expectation of return or reward. We will care for the lost, the broken, the hurting. We will serve them. It is a fallacy to think that we love our neighbor as long as we don’t do anything bad to them.
Love is active. Love sees a need and meets the need.
c. I have said it before, and I will say it till I die, this passage is the basis for all we do as Christians. This is the expectation of God rolled in a nice little statement. This is like His vision statement for us. To love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
d. If you want to see how this is lived out, we come to my second point:
II. We should model our lives after Jesus.
a. Jesus’ life and teaching is what we have to wrestle with. The Gospels present Jesus’ life and teaching, and the rest of the New Testament is simply the new Church attempting to live out the life of Jesus in the world where they have been placed.
b. We in the Christian faith assert that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. We can’t explain how that happens, but we affirm that it is true. The problem is that we often over-emphasize one of those aspects. We look at all the things Jesus did and say, “I can’t do that I am not God.” Jesus resisted temptation, healed people, lived a holy life not because He was God, but because He was “abiding” in the Father.
c. Abiding is the word the Gospel of John uses to describe a life intimately connected to God the Father. Jesus depended upon God for everything. Jesus promised His they too could share in this connection, and on the day of Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and they were able to do incredible things in God’s name.
d. I was talking with a friend on Friday, and I told him that one of the biggest connections I have made in the past few months is that we are called to bring Glory and Honor and to do the will of God the Father. We see how that is lived out in everyday life by looking to Jesus Christ. And, we are given the power to do it through the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us.
e. Caring for the poor, defending the weak and the helpless, loving our neighbors and enemies (sometimes one in the same), all of these things are difficult if not impossible without Holy Spirit helping us live the life we see in Jesus Christ.
f. This week I heard a story about one of our preteens that I need to share. I asked for permission to share this story because I feel it demonstrates the risk of living life like Jesus, but also illustrates a very practical example.
Nicole rides the bus to school each day, and has noticed the bus driver picking on one boy in particular. He is a first grader. This past week, the bus driver pushed the boy into the seat, and Nicole stepped up to defend the boy. She risked being mistreated. She risked being laughed at for defending a first-grader. She risked a lot, but she was living out the life of Jesus by defending someone who is unable to defend themselves.
g. When we take seriously our call to live life like Jesus, we will surprise ourselves at what happens. If we radically living out the Great Commandment in the way of Jesus, we can’t help but:
III. We should take the Great Commission seriously.
a. We are called to transform the world through God’s power. We can’t do it on our own. But as we live life like Jesus lived, and we do this through the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, we can transform the world. If the Great Commandment is God’s mission statement for our lives, the Great Commission is God’s
b. Matthew 28:16-20, “Then the eleven disciples went to
c. It may be hard for you to believe, but God can use you to transform the world. They may not write books about you. You may not do anything really spectacular, but you can change the world.
d. After serving more than 50,000 people at her clinic, Mother Theresa was asked, “What is the most significant thing about serving 50,000 people?” She replied, “I had to help the first person before I could help the 50,000th person.”
e. Some of you have openly expressed worry about whether they will close down the church once I am gone. I understand why you feel this way. But I want to tell you two things. First, I have only been the pastor/leader here. This church does not revolve around me. In fact, this church does not revolve around any one of you. You will find a new pastor, and he or she will probably be very different from me. In fact, I am pretty sure there is only one me, and most everybody I know is very happy about that fact.
The moment a church begins to revolve around any one of us is the moment it starts to die. The Church must revolve around Jesus and His call to reach the least, the lost, and the lonely. If you focus on “we have never done church that way before,” or “I don’t want to be part of a growing church,” or you start promoting a personal agenda and start bickering over little things, or you stop inviting your unchurched friends that is the moment the church is dead whether or not you are still meeting together on Sundays. Second, the way to alleviate those fears is to take seriously the call to reach the lost, the broken, and the hurting people. Invite your unchurched friends, care for broken and hurting people, become close to one another, serve each other and those around you.
f. Whether or not you continue to meet together on Sunday with this group is not the issue. The issue is whether or not as a church you are focused on changing your world; starting with
IV. I am not saying this to scare anyone about the future; I am saying it as a challenge. Live out the Great Commandment by actively loving God and your neighbor. Hold Jesus up as the model for all of life and live that life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Fulfill the Great Commission by reaching the lost, the broken, and the hurting people.
I hope I have emphasized these in my life and preaching while I was with you, and I hope that this is the legacy I have left behind.
TIME.com: Being Christian in Afghanistan
Abdul Rahman is on trial in Afghanistan simply because he is Christian. He has been a Christian for 16 years, and was indicted in the midst of a custody battle.
The United States has given a rather muted response. The author seems to indicate that the sacrifice of one man is probably best so that a tenuous alliance between the US and Afghanistan can remain.
I don't see the United States refusal to intervene as an afront to Christianity because they have not intervened in Sudan, Darfur, or Rwanda. They only seem to intervene when it is "convenient."
My problem is that the tone of this article is equally muted. Whether this man is Christian or not, this is a violation of human rights, and a violation of the UN and Afghanistan constitution. And yet, we will remain silent because it is only one man.
It always starts with one person.
It is hard to watch a church dive head-first toward schism. One person interviewed for this article blamed it on the "conservatives," but we all know that neither side is going to budge because they both feel they are right.
Personally, I try to hold to a pastoral understanding of this issue. It is not my place to exact judgment on a person's sin; that is God's. Everyone struggles with temptation, and I am not willing to reject someone because they happen to struggle with a particular temptation. I will always to lead with love.
I do believe that homosexuality is not a part of God's design for the world. But I think the Fall has altered all of human life, and that homosexuality can be a trait someone is born with. That, however, does not make it okay to pursue.
There was a time when homosexuality was considered nothing more than a "chosen" lifestyle. In some cases, it is chosen, but in others, the temptation is very real. And I certainly don't believe that temptation is chosen.
This situation is particularly sad because it is happening in the leadership of the church--a church that has declared homosexuality to be incompatible with Scripture. Leave it to us Americans to ignore Lambeth and do our own thing.
March 21, 2006
I especially like the comments from posters who missed the point.
There is an old joke about a man who offers a woman $10,000 to sleep with him. She agrees, and then he offers her $10 to sleep with him. In her disgust, she says, "What kind of woman do you think I am?" To which he responds, "We have already established what kind of woman you are. Now, we are haggling about the price."
The Gospel is not cheap. And, not wanting to sound cliche-ish, Jesus paid with His own life. Jesus also challenged His disciples to go deeper. But, when He met them on the beach by their fishing boat, He did not say, "Come die upside-down on a cross, Peter."
He simply said, "Come, follow me."
I agree that we have created a caricature of Jesus and pimped him out as a simple, quick-fix to complex problems. Are you homosexual? Accept Jesus and everything will be all right. Are you a drug addict? Accept Jesus and everything will be all right.
One commentor, thinking he had read the article correctly, chides the writer by referring to Hosea and saying that Israel was the whore and not God. The writer of this article is saying the same thing. The Church, or more precisely most of pop-Christianity, has created a false image of Jesus and prostituted themselves to that image.
God's grace, love, healing, and forgiveness as found in Jesus is much more profound than the Sinner's prayer. The prayer has only to be the starting point of a more profound experience of life with Jesus. God expects to transform our lives, but that will not all happen overnight.
In the past, I have taken issue with people who shine a light on a problem, but then do little to bring guidance or offer a solution. What I have discovered, though, is that sometimes starting the discussion is the beginning of the answer. As we talk about the issue, dialogue, take in other positions, think and pray for weeks even months, then answers begin to form.
I have come to the conclusion that we should offer a simple Gospel, but not a simplistic one. Jesus said, "Come, follow me." That is our beginning point. His calls us to live in self-sacrificial love and committment to His mission to transform the world. He starts with our lives, and then uses us as agents in the transformation of others.
In my final sermon at my church on Sunday, I said, "We are called to glorify and honor God and live obedient lives to His commands and will. We do that by following the example of Jesus the Son. The life we are to live is found by apprenticing ourselves to Jesus. We are able to do that through the power, guidance, leading, and conviction of God the Holy Spirit."
March 20, 2006
It is interesting that the Early Church saw the necessity to give the Apostles time to teach, preach, study, and pray. They were not expected to "wait" tables, they were to do what they were called to do. There are many pastors who are unable to do the important work of presenting the Gospel and God's vision for their church because they "calling" on everyone (and maybe doing some of the janitorial work. There are too many church planters who are so busy putting out fires, they don't take time to relax.
Everyone needs regular times of relaxation. God created the Sabbath for human beings because we need it.
Yesterday was my last day as the pastor of the church I planted six years ago. The sheer volume of work required took its toll on me emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Not to mention having to work a full-time job to support my family. I finally get a real break. (Who would of thought that working only one full-time job would be considered taking time off?).
Thing is, I am ready to do it all over again. The call of God on my life is so strong that I could not get away from this if I wanted to. The next few months (years) will be a time first to relax, then to re-tool in preparation for another church plant. Next time, I will schedule more time for "doing nothing."
March 17, 2006
I started thinking about prayer. I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately, since I am horrible at it. As hard as I try, I can't seem to focus. So I just keep trying.
I read this statement from Rabbi Gellman, "I attended a rally to stop the killing in Darfur yesterday, and I was moved and deeply saddened and angered by the inability of the so-called civilized world to stop yet another genocide in the Sudan (and also in the Congo). However, I admit that I could not cry for the dead of Darfur the way I cried for Miles. At first I was embarrassed and ashamed at the constrictions of my grief for human beings, and the lavishness of my grief for a dog. Then I slowly came to understand that the reason for the difference was the distance and the invisibility of Darfur compared with the immediate and devastating absence of Miles's head on my feet."
You know we get asked to pray for anything and everything. We are asked to pray for so many things that I am not sure we can even begin to see an answer. Does God really care if your team wins the big game? (Of course we all know that God is an Ohio State fan.) We pray most passionately about those things that are closest to us.
What spurs our prayers on is a connection with the person we are praying for and an attachment to the need. People who have suffered through the lose of a loved one understand the necessary comfort and prayer needed to pray for those in mourning. We find it easier to pray for family members and close friends who are hurting because they are family and close friends. It is easier to pray, when we know the situation, the people, the problems.
For fear of sounding like a prayer heretic; maybe our prayers should be less shotgun and more rifle. What I mean by this is that we pray for anything and everything, but what if we prayed for those things we were intimate with. Not that we don't pray for the people of Darfur (Rabbi Gellman goes on to say, "...I remain convinced that the ability to cry for one tutors the tears for the other.), but we begin to understand that the passion of our prayers follow those things that are most dear to us. We can't pray for every stubbed toe.
I think I am seeing prayer as less a laundry list of things God should do for us or things we want Him to deal with. Prayer is communication with God. It is where God deals with my inner desires; where He asks me to walk humbly with Him. Prayer, as the monastics already know, is all of life. Our entire lives can be prayer. I believe we can take everything to God in prayer. I just know that my passion follows my closeness to an issue.
Maybe this is a call to get closer rather than shift prayer types.
March 16, 2006
Thanks goes to Todd at Monday Morning Insight for the link.
My church plant has given away money at the gas pumps before. We usually do it two to three times a year, but we have never gotten this response. To be quite honest, my first response would be to confront these people or call the police. But my cooler side would hold off because that would have me lowering myself to their standard. Beside it wouldn't be much of a witness to the people protesting or the unchurched who are attending church for the first time to see the pastor of the new church beating some old man to a pulp.
I can't believe that a church would protest another church. (That is more sarcastic, I can believe it.) I think the one lady is right, there are more important things to protest. It sounds like they do protest a lot, though. Just probably not much that matters. This isn't much different from that church in Topeka.
I think these are the kinds of things and people Jesus was most upset about. His harshest criticisms were not toward sinners, but toward religious leaders who hindered sinners from coming to God. They stood in the way.
It is interesting that one of the protesters references the passage about God's house being a house of prayer. The merchants and money-changers were doing business in the Court of the Gentiles. The issue was not whether they were selling goods in the church. The merchandise they were selling was needed for Temple worship. It wasn't necessarily that they were cheating people (though they probably were. Capitalism is not a new concept.) The issue is that the Court of the Gentiles was the only area where Outsiders could come to pray, and the religious leaders put their needs over those of the seekers.
The Temple, with its merchants, did not allow Gentiles a place to pray. That was the issue. It wasn't about Capitalism, it was about providing a place for seekers to find God.
March 15, 2006
Eight Things I’ve Learned in Year One
What I've Learned pt. 2
Give It Away, Give It Away Now - Christianity Today Magazine.
The reviewer takes a similar position to the one I have been thinking about in regards to the Emerging Church Movement. I agree with much that they say. I believe the church's focus has drifted, and we need to return to a mission-focused mindset. I even agree that some of the drift is caused by the Modern mindset and the baggage it carries. I agree that we need to be more loving toward homosexuals, the oppressed, the poor, those of different religions, and to Democrats (that's a joke). I agree that everything should be questioned and requestioned, and different theological voices should be at that dialogue other than just caucasian, Western voices.
What I have an issue with is the emphasis on Postmodernity as the way forward. I believe we need a return to Scripture, to re-learn what tradition and history have taught us, and we need to re-evaluate our theology, our ecclesiology, and our mission. Then we need to approach how these things are displayed or applied in a Postmodern culture. We need to be careful that as we apply them, that the Postmodern culture does not warp the message in the same way as the Modern culture has done.
This may not sound very different from what is going on now. But the emphasis is on a different starting point, different assumptions, different hermeneutic (interpretation guide). If you start by looking at culture, you will always be led astray. If, instead, you ask the question, "What is authentic Christianity? What does it mean to be doing the mission of God?" you can then move to a more appropriate application to the culture.
Here is an example. Many in the Postmodern/Emerging movement are focusing more intently on social justice. Is the emphasis on social justice right because people in the Postmodern/Emerging movement are focusing on it? Or, is it right because God, Scripture, Tradition, and History all tell us that loving our neighbor requires us to participate in bringing justice to our world? The way I phrased the questions should a tipoff to what I believe.
I believe that we should search for authentic Christianity (which is part of the journey and includes cultural influences), before we apply the trappings of culture. Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are all part of the process of discovering true Christianity. I believe we are in the midst of a spiritual climate change. People are searching for depth and purpose in their spiritual life. They are looking for a movement of holiness-they want people to actually live out the message of Jesus in everyday life.
What is the essence of that message? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. When we take up that command, and actively live it out in our communities, the world will be changed! The problem is that many in the Christian faith are more concerned with being right than they are about really making a difference.
How does one answer the question of evil? If there is a loving God, why does He allow bad things to happen? Not just bad things, but horrible things.
Is there really an answer sufficient?
All I know is that God has provided a response. As a Christian, I believe that God in human form participated in the suffering of humanity. This does not tells us the "why" but it certainly tells us that God is not leaving us alone in the pain.
Unfortunately, we do not have a sufficient answer to the why. But I also don't think this should be a roadblock to faith in God. I think it creates problems when we think that God causes the pain and suffering. I also think it causes problems when we blame God for "allowing" it to happen. It assumes a vindictive nature to being God, and accuses God of taking pleasure in the pain of His creation. God would have to be completely vindictive and impersonal to not feel empathy toward human pain.
Somehow, probably on faith, I believe that God loves humanity. I also believe that trials and suffering somehow make us better as people. I don't think He enjoys the pain, but for some reason He allows the world to deal with the consequences of human sin.
I agree with Billy Graham that the root of the problem is the sinfulness of the human heart. Sin makes the human animal capable of some great atrocities. But, then again, so does religion in the hands of the sinful. As I look at the person of Jesus Christ, I see someone who set the example of how to live.
March 11, 2006
Here are the ten distinctives:
- Be unashamedly spiritual. Most postmoderns are open to the spiritual. People are tired of the modern belief that everything can be answered by science and reason. They are open to something mystical and spiritual.
- Promote incarnational ministry. Authenticity is essential. Postmoderns are looking for persons who are genuine and transparent. Too often, postmoderns feel they’re meeting an alien culture when they encounter evangelical Christianity. It is not the job of the unchurched postmodern to enter our culture. It is our job to invade theirs (become incarnate) with the unchanging truth of the gospel.
- Worship experientially. Authenticity is valued above technique in churches reaching postmoderns. A dynamic worshipping community becomes a powerful apologetic to a generation open to the spiritual but not knowing how to connect with the Spirit. Postmoderns want to experience God, not just see a show about him.
- Preach narrative expository messages. Jesus frequently used narratives or stories in his preaching, and often the story was the point. Preaching biblical stories connects to a culture that sees stories as a source of truth.
- Appreciate and participate in ancient patterns. Postmodern leaders are spellbound by the ancient-future faith of the past. There is a new interest in ancient things: Gregorian chants, Celtic Christianity, ancient art, etc. The church can embrace those that promote biblical truth.
- Experience visual worship. Paintings, banners, candles and other imagery can help share the gospel message. In the postmodern age, truth can be expressed in images illuminating biblical truth.
- Engage in service. Churches can connect with postmoderns by offering them an outlet for their passion to serve. Genuine faith always expresses itself in ministry. As postmoderns see that faith produces service, the validity of the faith is proved. A wonderful outlet for this is to engage postmoderns in mission work.
- Connect with technology. “Technology is no longer an option in postmodern culture. It is part of the culture,” he says. Churches trying to reach postmoderns not only will use technology in worship, but they also will promote community through that technology, such as the Internet.
- Live community. Community is a central value in most effective churches reaching postmoderns. This is good news for the church; community is central to its mission. With a culture eager for genuine community, the Church can offer community with people and with God.”
- Promote team-based leadership. Leadership in the postmodern context tends to be dramatically different than it was in other models. In the modern context, the leader was penalized for transparency. Leaders who shared their struggles frequently regretted it later as it became an example in future arguments. In the postmodern era, struggle and consequently transparency is more valued.
Sometimes I think these elements are simply the wishful thinking of Evangelical Christians who discovered liturgy and want to bring some ritualistic (not dead liturgy, just form) to their worship. How much of this is actual observation of what people want, and how much is the vision and direction of the leaders? In reading the atheist's blog at off-the-map.com, I don't always get the impression that these observations are true, at least for some. For instance Hement seems intrigued by the mega-church; which has none of this.
I like some of these. In fact, I like most of them. I just have a passion for reaching the lost, and I wonder how effective this is in reaching the lost. I do think being incarnational, using technology, experiential and visual worship, and live community are important.
I think narrative preaching is in vogue. I don't know how effective it really is; just liked by many within the church. The article says that some believe the point is in the story, I agree, but most people don't get the point. If there is one thing that people complain about most after walkin out of a preaching service, it is that the message didn't have application. Narrative preaching doesn't have to be without application, but it often is. Most people are not biblical scholars so they need help making the connection between the Scriptural text and their every day life.
I also don't think I agree with the team leadership concept, if, by team leadership, they mean shared leadership with no lead pastor. I think the concept of the lead pastor working with a talented, commited team is invaluable. I don't, however, think a group concept of leadership works. Someone has to be the vision caster. Someone has to have final say on direction. This isn't egotistical or dictatorial, it can be, but doesn't have to be.
As always, I absolutely agree with serving. I think this is the biggest way the church is incarnational in the community. I take a different approach than most (Servant Evangelism), but I believe that regular, active service to the community in the name of Jesus is necessary. Even during a time when it was not popular (modernity) that didn't mean we shouldn't have been involved. Every historical, major movement of God in the church has been accompanied by a revival of social concern and outreach.
March 10, 2006
Malcom Gladwell is the author of Blink and Tipping Point. The article is rather long, but definitely worth the read. He discusses how Rick Warren's church while a megachurch is actually a cellular church. The power of his church is not its size, per se, but in its organizational ability to be small.
With a easy-entrance mentality, Saddleback raises the expectation bar through small groups. This is no easy believism or free-ride theology. Members are expected to give of their finances, volunteer to serve, and participate in small groups.
Gladwell points out that Evangelicalism is not your typical movement. Adherents do not have a rote, across-the-board philosophy. They fall all over the political and theological spectrum. For some, this is a weakness, but Gladwell sees it as a sign of the effectiveness of small groups. Within a small group, members are encouraged to think and dialogue. The leader is not a seminary-trained theologian, and the focus is not on abstract theological principles. Small groups focus on practics. They want to know how what they are learning is going to affect the rest of their lives throughout the week.
This incredible influence that Warren has amassed through Pastors.com and his earlier book The Purpose Driven Church will now be aimed at poverty, AIDS, and other social ills. Gladwell quotes a sociologist (I think it was a sociologist) that talks of how the church's output in "good" doing is in the billions of dollars. He also points out that as government welfare has waned, the church has quietly picked up the ball and come to the rescue. Rick Warren has recently announced his focus through his PEACE project.
Gladwell does an excellent job with the article. Rick Warren's church is placed in a very good spotlight, and the power of the church is seen in the article. The article is very positive.
I have found myself disagreeing with many things He has done, but, like the previous post, I realize that as a leader you have to have a vision. And you have to pursue that vision with little thought or concern for the critics. Sometimes the critics have points that need to be considered, but the leader must follow his or her vision.
Leaders do not lead by consensus. They must also be willing to lead in the face of people leaving. That is the reality of life in a church plant (in any church for that matter). People leave because they do not agree with the vision. Sometimes, the leader has to evaluate the vision or the location where the vision is being attempted. The vision may be the wrong vision. Or, it may be the right vision, the church planter is just in the wrong location.
Here is a good article from Steve Sjogren's blog.
Monday Morning Insight Weblog: Do Numbers Really Matter?
Todd at Monday Morning Insights is attempting to keep things civil, but some of the "Christians" make it difficult.
I can't believe a Christian would think it okay to treat other people the way they have in their responses. There is so much misunderstanding, and, to be quite honest, arrogance about the superiority of their thinking ability.
This got me thinking about several things:
1. As a leader, you must seek God's will and vision for what you are to do, and then follow it. Don't listen to naysayers. Don't put it up for debate. Just do it. This does not mean we should avoid good counsel. It certainly doesn't mean we should be autonomous. But we have to be confirmed enough in our own call and vision to ignore those who would make trouble.
2. Naysayers and troublemakers should stay in their own hole. If they are simply going somewhere (be it church or blog) to make trouble, to criticize, or to diagree, they are already dishonoring God. Besides who made them the spokesmen for "orthodox" Christian faith? Most of their ideas have 2,000 years of Christian history that completely disagrees with their views.
3. I agree with Brian McLaren's comments on the difference between discussion and dialogue. Discussion has the same root as concussion. Most "discussion" is little more than debate with the purpose of forcing the other person to see your side. Dialogue values the other person, expects the best of that person, and attempts to hear the heart of what the person has to say. Dialogue is listening and hearing. It is also responding, but only after understanding where the other person is coming from.
4. This reminds me of the Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll thing at the Christianity today blog. If you compare Mark Driscoll's response to Brian McLaren's response, I think it is clear who has the more Christlike response.
Here are the links if you need another look
Brian's Original Post
Mark Driscoll's Response
5. As much as I like the Internet and blogging, I think the anonymity allows Christians to truly reveal the content of their hearts.
6. This also reminds us that communication online is a difficult venture. People are easily misunderstood, something is not said the right way, some people pick slight missteps apart, there is no benefit of the doubt, some post quickly just to respond while others take more time to give thoughtful responses. Take all that and add stupity to the mix and you have a very dangerous situation.
7. Never argue with a fool, because then no one knows who is who!
March 9, 2006
This article from Christianity Today points to something that is going to be interesting to watch. Soulforce is visiting several Christian college campuses to protest their conduct guidelines that prohibit homosexual and pre-marital sexual relationships. The Founder of the organization is the former ghost writer for Jerry Falwell.
What I find interesting is the reaction of the colleges. Some are handling this with a fair amount of grace and trying to respect the dialogue that can be fostered in this interaction. I understand how they might be leery of the intentions of the organization, but they are making an attempt at open dialogue.
Other colleges are preparing for the worst. They are barring Soulforce from its campus and preparing for non-violent acts of civil disobedience.
My thought is, this isn't so much fun when they bring the protest to your door. For years, Christians have been protesting everything they fell they need to "take a stand" against. Rather than foster dialogue, they have fought legal battles and heckled people. They have acted with similar bad intentions as they are expecting from this group.
Maybe before we "take a stand" we should ask ourselves, "Is there a better way to get our message across, and do it in a way that does not dishonor the name of Jesus Christ?"
March 8, 2006
When I was about 27 years old, I faced a life altering crisis. My world crashed around me, and I was forced to discover how to "do" life differently. That is when I discovered that I had ADD and that I was not simply fighting some unknown demon.
Self-leadership was an issue. As a result of the discovery, I made some drastic changes in my life. I began living according to a strict schedule, taking better care of myself physically, and a host of other things. Yesterday, I read this article by Bill Hybels: Self-Leadership.
After reading the article, I realized how far I have come from those days. But I also realized how far I have left to go. I am more disciplined than at any other time in my life (that is both a blessing and a curse). I am also at the best place internally I have ever been in my life.
I agree with Hybel's assessment that self-leadership is the key to "success," professionally, personally, and spiritually. You have to be able to lead yourself. You have to be the one in contronl, ot in a domineering, anti-God sort of way. You just have to live a disciplined life surrendered to God. I am convinced that a lack of self-discipline keeps many of us from becoming all that God desires of us. Unfortunately, we have hidden our lack of self-discipline behind a the disguise of "God loves me as I am" (which is true) and behind "I am on a journey" (which again is true). These are both true, but they cannot be used as excuses to hide from a self-disciplined, rigorous pursuit of God.
March 6, 2006
The religious leader in this story sought to justify himself by asking Jesus to clarify who his neighbor was. When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he knew he was challenging acultural standard in the Jewish community. Jesus not only made the Samaritan the neighbor, but also made the Samaritan the better example of demonstrating God's love to people. The priest and the Levite, people who should have been demonstrating God's love, did not even stop to care for the man. Jesus' story lifts the Samaritan to the role of being the example of what the Jewish people should do. That would surely have ruffled feathers.
If Jesus were to enter a modern church today, I think he would tell a similarly challenging story. He would tell the story of the Good Muslim or of the Good Homosexual, and set them up as the example of the person who demonstrated God's love better than some in the church. This should serve as a challenge to us in the church to demonstrate God's love by caring for hurting, broken people in the world around us.
March 5, 2006
I am a strong supporter of contemporary music in church. But I also recognize that there is something unique about the hymns. There is not one single contemporary song that seems to have the "staying" power of the hymns.
I think part of the problems is that people feel they have to choose. Either we do contemporary music or we do hymns, but we can do both. I like hymns. I musically rearranged a few hymns. But I also like the classic arrangements.
This also makes me think about the role of inter-generational worship. If there is a "classic" service, and all the older folks go there, are there times when older and younger are interacting? The older generation is less relational, and having another service could encourage their alienation from the younger crowd.
March 4, 2006
Be sure to check out their Atheist Blog. Hement Mehta, an atheist, put himself up for auction on eBay. Off-the-map purchased (if that is the write descriptor) him, and he has been going to different churches in the Chicago area. His reports are very detailed and insightful, and the discussion is interesting.
March 3, 2006
I am not sure what to think. I agree that church, as it is today, is nothing like the original church of Acts, but aren't God's people supposed to develop and change with the times-adaptation and advancement? Agree with Thom Rainer that small house churches, with untrained leaders and no accountability are in danger of theological drift.
John Wesley's genius was not just his theology, but his adaptation and combination of a small, accountability groups with regular large group meetings. This provide accountability of the members and of the leaders of the groups. This also helps the leaders, who were typically untrained as ministers, receive training on-the-job.
I do, however, like the organic nature of this meeting. The money is more easily distributed to the poor; rather than on maintenance, buildings, and staff. The closeness of the group is also a plus.
But this also destroys the "professional" ministerial role. I use professional here with all of its positive ideals. What I mean is that paying a pastor should allow him/her the opportunity to spend time in the presence of God. Each member should be spending time in the presence of God, thinking God's thoughts, and listening to His voice, but the "professional" minister earns a living bringing the Word of God to the people.
I don't think he/she is the only one who can do this. I just recognize in my own life that all I think about is theology and Bible. Very few people could care less about the in-depth stuff I read and study. But God has called me to care about these things, and to assimilate it all into something useable and understandable. To be quite honest, I don't like doing anything else. I like reading, writing, and preaching, but all on theological and Bible issues.
This issue is both good and bad. I like what it brings to the table, but I also recognize the danger. Vineyard Central, in Cincinnati, is a good place to look. They combine house churches with regular weekly gatherings.
The other question I have concerns the spiritual development and growth of their teenagers and children. I assume from the article that teenagers are not an issue, but what about their children? Where do they receive spiritual training? This model requires that the parents take the spiritual formation of their children seriously.
Here is an article from George Barna.
This brings up a good question. What is the connection between nudity and sexuality? Is all nudity sexual? Is all that is sexual nude?
Christianity Today had a cover that prompted much discussion about the same issue. Click here. The cover photo was of the famous statue Pallas-Athena. It stands in front of the Parliament building in Vienna.
This photo prompted some angry e-mails about the use of "nudity" in a Christian magazine. Some cancelled subscriptions, some hid their copy (under their mattress?), and one woman used white-out to strategically add clothing. I found the discussion funny.
But I guess it is a question with a "flexible" boundary line. All that is sexual is not necessarily nude, and all that is nude is not necessarily sexual. This is the long time debate over art vs. pornography. And, for me, it goes back to the intention of the creator of the artwork. Was it to sexually arouse someone? Or, was it to demonstrate the beauty of the human body?
Of course, God obviously created the human body to be attractive to the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, I have been the person who changed the sign on the bus. The problem was that I was a young leader, and I was planting a church. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and I certainly was not the leader I thought I was. (I am still not the leader I think I am.)
All I knew was that I wanted to plant a church, and I had an opportunity to plant a church. I took it, and I have learned a lot in the process. I believe that on this end of the experience (I just resigned two weeks ago), that I am a better leader, I have more insight, and I am more sure of my theological beliefs than ever before. I don't have them all right and there is still much learning to be done, but I am more confident now than before.
From a distance, Steve Sjogren has been a mentor. We all choose mentors. Some mentors are close, and some are through their writing and speaking. I have been privileged to read most of Steve's books and hear him speak a few times at different conferences. His website www.servantevangelism.com is a must read for any church leader.
March 2, 2006
Jesus said, "The world will know you are my disciples by your love for one another."
Then there is this quote from the article: "Obviously they're not God's people if they are going to be acting crazy in church," said neighbor Autoya Bolden
March 1, 2006
But more than that, prayer is about connecting to the Father.
Here are two very good articles on prayer by Philip Yancey
The Word on the Street
For God’s Sake
Jesus said, "Turn the other cheeck," but I don't think He was talking to governments. I think He was speaking of a personal ethics situations. When a person is attacked for their belief in Him. I think He is also warning about the dangers of allowing violence into our lives.
But if we want real peace (more than just lack of conflict, peace is the presence of justice) we have to defend the weak, the innocent, and the helpless. Where grace comes into play, is that we defend the weak without malice toward the oppressor. We defend the weak with respect and love for the one responsible for the violence.
In the article, these men terrorize the people and perform their ethnic cleansing. If left alone, the violence continues, but if fought, there is at least a chance to change things.
But in other circumstances peacful protest is more effective. Take the Civil Rights sit-ins. These acts of peaceful defiance turned the course of a nation. These brave young men and women risked their lives to bring a greater level of equality. Though we are still a long way from where we need to be. If you haven't read The Children by David Halberstam, it is a good read.