Saturday, December 30, 2006

How bad do you want it?

At my age (48) you realize that the preceeding question is the most important one in your life. I want to retire someday comfortably but do I want it bad enough to save money; I want to loose weight but not bad enough to exercise and eat right; etc. How bad do I really want it?

Discipline has never been my strong suite but last year I made a determination to run 3 or 4 times a week a minimum of 1.5 miles each time. And with a few exceptional times of injuries and one week of the flu- I stuck to it. Right now God is pestering my spirit ( know what I mean?) with the thoughts of a renewal stirring. Prophetic gifts have been prophecying since the fire of Brownsville began to die down that there is a new wave coming. I want it.... but how bad?

Most Christians I know are like me in this respect- they want an extraordinary walk with God on a cut rate price. But real sacrifice is called for - demanded, even- if we are going to be in on the extraordinary. Being a radical for Christ demands radical response. What is more radical than spending the first hours of your day seeking God? Or pushing the lastest celebrity news to the back burner while you get some of the Good News in you? Or living a life of love toward strangers around you? This is some crazy stuff here.

So what is it you say you want? Revival? Toronto-type blessings? Renewed fire in your heart? You will have to get off your fat butt and down on your knees: you will have to fast and pray ( you heard right!); you will have to reprioritize your time; you will have to know God and not just about him. Because he is asking you prophetically right now... How bad do you want it?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's Family that Matters

It doesn't take long into the holiday season for me to get sick and tired of being pushed in the mall lines and have my parking place stolen from underneath me by some ignorant punks. I don't really like the addition of tinsel, and lights on my home in December and the thought of taking it all down, well, that is depressing enough. The wife is fussing with the elaborate meal she prepares each Christmas day and the young people are trying on clothes and new gadgets that were purchased for them.

I am sitting in my chair (at my age you get one of your own!) and petting the dog and thinking about what I like best about Christmas and it is simple... family. Family are the people who tick you off the most and yet, for some reason that I cannot explain, the house sure feels good when it is full of them. Yelling and talking at the top of their lungs ( if there is ever a game show we are sure to win for the loudest family in North America) laughing at the stupidest things (its not really a holiday until somebody has drink shoot out their nose in riotous laughter) and arguing about which one of them dressed up like woverine at age 4!

These kids have put me through the ringer! Each one with there insecurities and weird excentricities. With their problems and their joys, it has been exhausting to keep up with the tears, jeers, and laughter. But I am so glad they come back! I love them so...

So now can they go back to their houses!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More, Please!

The American Psyche is a fragile thing. It is growing increasingly so as the half hearted effort to win in Iraq goes on. We are increasingly hearing the drumbeat of a so-called "unwinnable war" and the call to "bring them home". In my never to be humble estimation this will be tragic to the American psyche. It will effect us in the same way that the Afganistan conflict affected the USSR. If a group of thugs and weakly armed insurgents push the army of the most powerful nation in the world out of Iraq, we had better give up any hope of influence in the world and just brace ourselves for an ongoing series of attacks both here and abroad by maniacal terrorist-types. Please, Mr President, don't back down; don't pull out; don't weaken this nation further.

Instead, muster up 60,000 more troops and put them in the most violent places in Iraq. The numbers combined with the determined resolve to spend whatever it cost to win will beat them. They live in the hope that we are weak, and that we are unwilling to invest whatever it cost to defeat them. They live off of the feeling that a little while longer and Speaker Nancy and her boys (the Nancy Boys!) will bring back our troops and leave them to carp out for themselves a new terrorist training ground. Assessing the strength of the US as unfathomable, and the resolve to win as strong (there are a few of us who desire to see the democratic Iraq succeed), why not raise the ante and increase the troop strengths. Violence will drop (as it has before) and the civil unrest will be quelled.

The problem has always been one of strategy. Rummy wanted to weigh the cost of the warfare and lived too close to the margin of error. Overwhelming force (remember shock and awe) needs to be the continuing tactic. Once these insurgents realize that the US is committed to win beyond word but in the spending of capital and investment of blood they will have to crawl into the woodwork again. This will enable the US to leave with a victory- and will save the face of the US Armed forces in the world.

If not, those men who have fought the hardest, sacrificed the most, paid the dearest, and should be the proudest- will forever hang their head in shame and will hide their old uniforms in the back of the closet. All because we sent them to win a war on the meagerest rations and the slightest margin.

Mr President, please ignore the Iraq Study groups report( it is the lowest common denominator of compromise and pessimism), and send more troops please! Let our boys win.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When in Doubt DON"T

This morning I read the story of Abram and Sarai. When the overwhelming promise was made to the Father of our Faith that he would indeed have a son from his own loins. He and Sarai got together to try to figure out how they could "help God" fulfill his promise. The brilliant deduction of these two spiritual giants was that Abram would impregnate Hagar, Sarai's maid servant and this would fulfill the promise. The result of that action was a son named Ishmael who God said would be " a wild donkey of a man" who would "raise his hand against everyone... and live in hostility toward all his brothers" (Gen 15.12).

Now I don't think I need to make any references to the current situation in the Middle East to confirm the truthfulness of the prophetic utterance regarding Ishmael the father of the Arab people. But what strikes me is the insistence that we humans have on cobbling together a fulfillment other than the one that God has has in his mind.

Whenever we do this we screw up the works and leave lasting implications for the "real promise" that God has for us. Perhaps instead of trying to cobble together a blessing we would be better to trust the divine providence that brought us to the place of promise in the first place.

God, help us to respond in faith to what you have promised and to do nothing out of doubt and unbelief- and so to incur the blessing of your hand upon our present and our future. AMEN

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pastor's Appreciation Day

I don't know where the idea came from (okay- it is in scripture Gal. 6.6) but it sure is a blessing to be on the receiving end of it! Often the job of the pastor can be exhausting. I used to talk all the time to men and women who were pastoring in places where congregations didn't show their appreciation for their pastors. It made their job all the more difficult.

Pastors have to listen to garbage, carry out the spiritual trash, administer the dirty details of the church (including hiring and firing), and they are the CFO and the CEO of the church. They are expected to have an exemplary prayer life, character, family, home life, and oratory skills. They are counselors and confidants. They are friends and mentors. They are examples to young children and adults alike. They are lead evangelists in the church. They are the promotion committee, the organization committee and even, sometimes, the janitor. They are the topic of much gossip and condemnation from people over a Sunday lunch yet they are often the first person called when those same people are in the hospital. (And don't think they are ignorant of who is saying what about them!) Yet they marshall a smile and do the work of God without an attitude most of the time.

After 23 years of carrying the torch for Jesus as a pastor I recognize that the job is beyond description. Drug addicts on your porch, screaming couples in your living room, constant phone counseling with those who need to hear your voice, email answermen and wonderwomen. They lead worship, crack jokes, and cry at the hospital bed. And what about the funeral, baptism, child dedication, or wedding. They are dependable even when their paycheck isn't.

I am so grateful for the people who serve alongside me. And, maybe it shouldn't be this way, but the Pastor appreciation day has come to mean something to me. If I am a ego maniac, forgive me- but it is nice to hear that you are appreciated.

My thanks goes out to the pastors who have invested in my life Rev.Walter Pederson-an example to my young eyes of a caring spirit filled shepherd; Rev. Galen Hertweck- a master of exegetic masterpieces who loved people and remembered my baby's name.

Christianity Today put out an article that shows how to bless your pastor. (Though Cash is always appreciated! :') 8 ways to bless you pastor.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I get a little annoyed

Okay,I get a lot annoyed when there are people who want to talk the game but don't put up. You know the ones I am talking about? The guys with all the answers for your life but can't seem to get their lives together! These mellon heads who like to stand in judgment of your best effort but who won't break a sweat to do anything to benefit the kingdom. If I was God I would send them to hell for that kind of judgment! (Thankfully, no need to worry about me being deity- ask my wife- she is certain of it!)

I am a bit troubled over the way that believers in Jesus want to do their own thing. There is a sort of anti-establishment bias in the body of Christ. It is cancerous if you ask me. I don't mean those who want to sin- those boneheads are just plain sinners. I mean the ones who always want you to be a part of their ministry function but they are notoriously absent when it comes to doing something that won't benefit their egos, their ministries, their personal life.

Hmmm- I guess it is just the flesh.

Brennan Manning writes, " The surest sign of union with the crucified Christ is our forgiveness of those who have perpetrated injustices against us." OUCH!

Okay- I forgive them.... but IAM STILL ANNOYED!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Digbats, Forgiveness, and Politics

After viewing the incredible forgiveness of the Amish during the crisis in their community, Diana Bulter posited that we should practice this kind of forgiveness to the perpetrators of 9/11. I can't believe anyone would be that naive, but in fact, that is exactly the kind of nonsense that passes for "Christian thought" these days. You can click here for her blog site, if you must.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool of God that can change lives and eternal destinies. It is amazing in its ability to set people free from crushing guilt and shame (as in the case of Marie Roberts). But is it bilbical to practice forgiveness toward the unrepentant. I would like to posit three reasons why it is not. 1) Forgiveness can only be offered to someone who accepts responsibility for their actions. It is granted upon repentance. 2) Since God forgives us when we repent- if we forgive all who sin against us without demanding repentance- aren't we practicing a higher form of forgiveness than God? Why don't we officially forgive the whole world of its offenses and then they can go to heaven without personally repenting for their evil deeds? 3) What passes for forgiveness is less than altruistic. Therapeutic forgiveness is really selfish at its core. I am forgiving your so that I can get on with my life and cut my life free from the residue of your evil works.
Honestly, I think that there is a terrible oversimplification that Christians perform when they speak of forgiveness. It is hard work to forgive even the penitent. Why do we burden ourselves with unbiblical ideals on forgiveness? Did Jesus call us to let murderers go free in our society? Did he call us to ignore justice? Did he call us to ignore pedophilia in the name of forgiveness?

Seems to me that this is a diabolicaly twisting of a Biblical concept. What do you think?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Church Planter Characteristics

Dr Ridley's 13 Essential Characteristics of a Successful Church Planter

1. Visioning capacity
being a person who projects into the future beyond the present
developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry
persuasively selling the vision to the people
approaching challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles
coping effectively with non-visioning elements
not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously
establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision
believing in God's capacity to do great things

2. Intrinsically motivated
having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence
stick-to-itiveness and persistence
having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations
having a willingness to work long and hard
being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing
having a high energy and vitality level; physical stamina

3. Creates ownership of ministry
helping people to "buy in" and feel responsible for the growth and success of the church
gaining commitment of the people to the vision
establishing a congregational identity
avoiding stereotyping of congregation by imposing unrealistic goals for which it cannot claim ownership

4. Relates to the unchurched
communicating in style that is understood by the unchurched
understanding the "psychology" or mentality of the unchurched
moving and functioning in the "personal space" of the unchurched without fear
quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level
breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched
handling crises faced by the unchurched

5. Spousal cooperation
having an explicit agreement regarding each partner's respective role and involvement in ministry
having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office
evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children
functioning as a team through individual and collective action
having a strategy for dealing with strangers
modeling wholesome family life before church and community
agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision
deliberately planning and protecting private family life

6. Effectively builds relationships
responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people
displaying Godly love and compassion to people
getting to know people on a personal basis
making others feel secure and comfortable in one's presence
not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people
appreciating and accepting a variety of persons
spending quality time with present parishioners without overstepping them for new people

7. Committed to church growth
believing in church growth as a theological principle
appreciating steady and consistent growth without preoccupation with the quick success factor
committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth (more and better disciples)
recognizing that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating
establishing the goal of becoming a financially self-supporting church within a specific period of time
not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance
seeing the church project within the larger context of God's kingdom

8. Responsive to community
understanding the culture of the community
identifying and assessing community needs
responding to community needs on a priority basis such that resources are most efficiently used
determining successes and failures of other organized religious attempts to respond to community needs
not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer
acquiring and understanding of the character and "pulse" of the community
adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community

9. Utilizes giftedness of others
releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry
discerning of spiritual gifts in others
matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities
delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation
avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively
not prematurely assigning ministry assignments before people are adequately equipped
not placing unwarranted restrictions on other's spiritual giftedness

10. Flexible and adaptable
coping effectively with ambiguity
coping effectively with constant and abrupt change
adapting oneself and one's methods to the uniqueness of the particular church planting project
shifting priorities and emphasis during various stages of church growth
doing "whatever" is necessary "whenever" necessary

11. Builds group cohesiveness
developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation
quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships
engaging others in meaningful church activity
monitoring the morale of people
utilizing groups effectively
dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully

12. Resilience
experiencing setbacks without defeat
riding the ups and downs (i.e. attendance)
expecting the unexpected
rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure

13. Exercises faith
possessing a conviction regarding one's call to church planting ministry
believing in God's action
having expectation and hope
having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests

Dr. Charles Ridley (A leading pioneer in church planting assessment), Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Serious Servants

Why don't people want to serve in the local church? It seems to be a pretty big problem, from the pastors I talk to. The ones that do work always seem like they are doing double duty. What is with that? I have spent the last 20 years or so collecting excuses. Some are mere excuses, others are a reflection in the way we think.

I'M REALLY BUSY LATELY. People often say that because they think it lets them off the hook. But in reality it often points out the everything else takes priority over obedience to the Lord.

THE LORD DIDN'T SPEAK TO ME ABOUT THAT PARTICULAR MINISTRY. I completely agree that we should be submissive to the leading of the Lord. But there are verses written in the Scripture that make it pretty clear we are supposed to be reaching out, extending the love of God, and helping those in need. Sometime I find folks who, in effect, declare the written Word of God is not enough- they are demanding a sign or a "rhema word" or some subjective feeling regarding the specific way.

I AM GOING TO PRAY ABOUT IT. But they don't. They often have no intent to. They don't want to ask God because it would cramp their style.

I NEED TO GET MINISTERED TO. This is the ridiculous thinking that we can only receive when we are sitting in the sanctuary hearing the word. Giving, serving is an amazing growth opportunity.

THAT MINISTRY? OH GOD WOULDN'T PUT A PERSON WITH MY TALENT IN THAT PLACE. The thinking is that the "lime light ministries" are more deserving of my talent.

Too often the local church limps along while people who could strengthen it, don't. If God has called them- how can they fail to respond? Often these are the same people who recieved so much help from the church! Is it selfish? I look at my life- I have worked the nursery, taught sunday school for nearly every age child, cleaned the church, repaired things, moved people, fed the homeless, etc. In everything that I have done- I have become a better Christian believer and a more mature person. Perhaps the problem is that they were never serious about being servants of Christ- period.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

20 ways Assembly of God Pastors can avoid Church Planting

Though this list is not original with me it speaks volumes to the issue.!

1. Call yourself an apostle. Have some business cards printed. Hand them around.
2. Throw lots of money at subsidizing unhealthy, declining churches.
3. Throw money at “experimental missional initiatives” and never evaluate their effectiveness.
4. Set goals for multiplying new churches but don’t make it clear who is responsible to accomplish the goals.
5. Make someone responsible but don’t give them any real authority, discretionary time, or funding. Change the appointment every two years. After ten years, save money by retiring the position and making everyone else responsible.
6. Appoint a committee to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
7. Hire a consultant to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
8. Appoint the wrong people to plant churches. When they fail conclude that church planting doesn’t work.
9. When you see a healthy church plant say, “Yes it’s growing but it’s not really a (choose one) Reformed/Baptist/Assemblies of God/Presbyterian/Methodist/New Vine/etc. church.”
10. Require pioneering leaders to be theologically trained before they can plant a church.
11. Throw your best leaders at your biggest problems, not at your greatest opportunities.
12. Watch pioneering leaders exit your movement and then comment on their lack of commitment.
13. Reward pioneering leaders with promotions. Get them away from the front line. Harness their drive to keep the institutional wheels turning.
14. In the 1960’s change the word “missions” to “mission.” To usher in the new millennium change “mission” to “missional.” Around 2010 plan to change “missional” to “postmissional.”
15. Agree to plant new churches when: (a) You’re large enough (b) You’re healthy enough (c) You have the leaders to give away (d) You have the money to spare (e) God has clearly shown you it’s time (f) When the cow jumps over the moon.
16. Run workshops on church planting. Hold conferences on church planting. Offer a course at your theological college on church planting. Do nothing to follow up with the people who show an interest. Make sure only experts get to teach. Keep the practitioners away from the students. Keep the students in the classroom.
17. Grow your church, facilities, staff, and budget as BIG as you can. Let your vision stop at your car park. Let church history end with you. Let the Kingdom dream die.
18. Set ridiculous but catchy sounding goals like “500 in 5 years,” or “2,000 by 2,000.” Three years after the target date expires set new goals. Don’t forget to change the dates!
19. Modernize your theology, then postmodernize your theology. Remove evangelism and church planting from the centre of God’s mission in the world. When decline hits make sure the paid professionals are the last to feel the pinch.
20. Lastly, set up a blog on church planting. Link to other bloggers on church planting. Be sure they link to you. Add smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Salvation and Follow through

One of the problems we have winning the lost in our world is our concept of salvation. It is wrong! When I say that I know that it is provocative but we have concentrated so much on the legal aspects of salvation and so little on the relational aspects of salvation that we often twist our terminology into unbiblical meanings. For instance, we hear people say things like, "He is saved, he's just not living for the Lord!" Well this is to be interpreted "he walked an aisle, raised a hand, prayed a prayer once a while ago to get his rear out of hell but he doesn't love God enough to be a disciple and love God with follow through!" Well of course, who ever lead this friend in a prayer did him a great disservice by asking him if he wanted to go to hell (those who do are very few). And then by decieving him into thinking that getting your butt out of hell is a seperate decision from the one where you live for Christ.

Declaring Jesus as the Lord is not some theological abstract that needs intellectual assent- it is a personal declaration. I fear that many will be surprised at their lost-ness on the judgment day. They will say 'but the pastor said if I repeat that prayer then I was IN!' God help us to be intentional and determined to preach and teach salvation as the beginning of a lifestyle of following Jesus. Where we spend eternity was not nearly as important to the early disciples as whether we live for the new king- Jesus- in our daily lives! He demands right living in my relationships, in my fellowship, in my marriage, in my home, etc. Knowing and loving Jesus- studying his nature and character- changes me out of the relationship with him. That prayer, that walk down the aisle, that raised hand... was the beginning not the end.

Am I glad that I am going to live with Christ forever? SURE! But that is only a small fringe benefit of the Kingdom of God and salvation. To say that salvation is the culmination of a small and ill defined prayer that is devoid of any lifestyle affects- you gotta be kiddin'!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hard Drive Crash

Wow- my hard drive crashed and I suddenly realized that I am really dependent upon my computer for ministry. REALLY DEPENDANT! I hate the fact that I am so dependant but think of it. A Blog, Email Newsletters, inter office email, finances, sermon notes, communication with parishoners, we ain't in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

And when the whole thing poops out - it is never convenient. How often is too often to back up your data... Can we live in the realm of paranoia? I guess the most bothersome thing I lost was my 18 page report for a class in my Masters Program. I have a few days to try and retrieve it but pretty much I have given up hope. I did pray. I did lay hands on it. I did throw a rather controlled but meaningful fit. I did give up my belt and shoe laces because I was so distraught. Oh well... we pick ourselves up, dust our drives off, and start all over again

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rude Service in Restaurants

While I was gone on vacation I came to eat with my family at a restaurant with a waiter who was obviously gay and irritated. (There was a time when it was impossible to be gay and irritated at the same time- but that is a different rant!) So this guy actually says to us " hurry up " when we are ordering! My son orders a shake- gay guy lets out big sigh!- as if we are pain in the butt. When giving us the check he tries to play it all down as part of his "routine". I can't tell you how preturbed I was. I wanted to rip his face off! But I refused to tip him- which caused a problem with my wife who is under the delusion that all wait staff is to be tipped regardless. I have always believed TIP meant "To Improve Service".

People who are in the service industry have forgotten something these days- SERVICE!

I'll give you my criteria- you can tell me if it is too strict.

Excellent Service - 20% tip - makes me feel like I am the most important customer in the place.
Good Service - 15% tip- made me feel like I was one of many important customers.
Fair Service - 10% tip - made me think that you forgot that customers are pretty important to your business- perhaps having a bad day!
Poor Service- 0 % - (often I leave a quarter to let them know I didn't forget!) Made me uncomfortable to have to ask for everything myself (Ketchup, Mustard, etc).

Am I being unreasonable? Is it unchristian not to tip?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shut off the !@#$%^ phone

Today I did a funeral/memorial service. It was interrupted by 5 cell phone rings. Come on people! Out of respect for the church service don't you think that there should be a mandated cell phone scrambler in churches? YOU THINK I'M KIDDIN'? believe me if the technology was affordable I'd scramble... your darn right I'd scramble!

But since the technology is not cheap enough for us to afford in the house of the Lord I thought I would publish some cell phone etiquette for the masses of people who are so important that memorializing dead relatives or talking to the King of Creation is merely brushed aside so that JR. could call and tell us that he is leaving the stop and shop and spent money on a slurpy!

Never take a personal mobile call during a business meeting. This includes interviews and meetings with co-workers or subordinates.
Maintain at least a 10-foot zone from anyone while talking.
Never talk in elevators, libraries, museums, restaurants, cemeteries, theaters, dentist or doctor waiting rooms, places of worship, auditoriums or other enclosed public spaces, such as hospital emergency rooms or buses. And don't have any emotional conversations in public — ever.
Don't use loud and annoying ring tones that destroy concentration and eardrums. Grow up!
Never "multi-task" by making calls while shopping, banking, waiting in line or conducting other personal business.
Keep all cellular congress brief and to the point.
Use an earpiece in high-traffic or noisy locations. That lets you hear the amplification, or how loud you sound at the other end, so you can modulate your voice.
Tell callers when you're talking on a mobile, so they can anticipate distractions or disconnections.
Demand "quiet zones" and "phone-free areas" at work and in public venues, like the quiet cars on the Amtrak Metroliner.
Inform everyone in your mobile address book that you've just adopted the new rules for mobile manners. Ask them to do likewise. Please.

take the cell phone quiz

PreVacation Vacation

I think we all have faced this before. It is the vacation that your brain takes before your vacation. I know that you want to work hard the week before you leave on vacation but your brain says something in brainese that sounds like "hrmp.. hrmpp... work hard.. hrmp all the time... not any more...hrmp" and that is the end. So you fake it when the boss walks by, shuffling papers from the left side of the desk to the right side... you walk around a lot and hold up your phone to your ear and say things like... GET BACK TO ME ON THAT ASAP!... loud enough for everyone to hear. What is up with that?!

Really the one week vacation is about 13 and a half days if you count the three days before and three days after the vacation. So relax.. your getting more time off than your thought!

Friday, July 07, 2006

What I Hate About ME!

While there are a number of strong runners up- what I hate most about myself is my temper. I mean I have a mean streak that is unbecoming a christian man. I can usually (though certainly not always) keep my stuff together in public but it doesn't take much when I am tired and fatigued to send me over the rail -especially if I am alone. And I am almost always alone when I am driving!
Drivers rage is an amazing bit of psychological mellodrama. I wonder if others are like me. I rant, pound, and get worked up over stuff that I have absolutely no control over. How foolish! And what about the other luncaies that I rave about in my quiet times? I find myself pacing, or loosing sleep or even just breathing out deep sighs while watching TV because I am so frustrated.
While by societal standards I don't have a filthy mouth- I do have a sharp tongue. And anger is the trigger for that edgy tongue. Ripping the idiots! Cutting on the morons! And jabbing the jerks! I'm not too proud of that aspect of my personality.
The sad thing is I don't see too much change in the last few years. I used to hold out hope of a shining uncynical day. Now I am pretty much convinced that I will never be completely set free from being a hot head. And if you are set free and your world is always calm... that really ticks me off!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Global Dim Wits

The World is getting dimmer! That is what we are being sold... er, told! ( ) Any one talking to an environmentalist these days will tell you that is the case! Supposedly the garbage that we spew into the atmosphere is protecting us from the "real effects" of global warming. So we are being naively seduced into thinking that the planet is not ready for a meltdown of all the artic caps. Come on?!

I can't get over the hysteria that these green freaks have to tout. They are always on the edge of extinction! Al Gore's latest movie gets a scathing review in the Canadian Free Press. Questioning the science- indeed, calling it junk science!- and presenting fairly logical opposing views. If the world was ever really in danger we would never be able to tell because the reactionary junk-science community has cried wolf too many times.

Funny how they used to make fun of the evangelicals saying "The End is Near!"

Friday, June 09, 2006

Effective Evangelism

Today I am thinking about the topic of evangelism. What really is it? How is it measured? And what is it's relationship to culture?

I think my original thought was that evangelism is the act of leading people to Christ. But I think I am wrong on this part. I think evangelism is simply proclaiming Christ as King in a culturally relevant way. Where the "seed" lands and what kind of "soil" it finds is not the job of the sower, right?

There is no doubt that there are methods of evangelism that are more effective at making disciples ( our call according to Matthew 28) but does all evangelism get measured by the number of souls in the kingdom? Isn't some of the measurement of evangelism simply a measure of our faithful proclamation? Has evangelism fallen prey to the pragmatism that has effected other areas of the church?

Undoubtedly there are methods of speaking to people that are more effective. Relational evangelism seems to carry the most weight in our culture. But what about the person who has no relationship with a christian? Can we just write them off as damned? Shouldn't there be a kind of urgency to our thinking?

When Jesus instructs his disciples to go in the whole world did he intend that there be efficiency? If there is anything that we learn from the parable of the soils it is that evangelism is a messy, half baked and ineffecient business. God help us to "teach and preach" as we go (Mat.11.1)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Spiritual Leadership and the Corporate Model

Jim Collins the author of the Good to Great phenomena recently published an addendum to his book to show churches and non profits how to evaluate the effectiveness of their ministry. He explained that the Non-Profit group obviously has a different bottom line than the corporate model. Duh! At the same time Andy Stanley said in an interview (Leadership Spring 06) that "there is nothing distinctly spiritual about his leadership" at North Point church. The 20,000 member church must be warmed and excited about that comment!

The issue is how do we evaluate the effectiveness of ministry? bodies in the pews? bucks in the Basket? Buildings? I think that biblical model of evaluating effectiveness is the number of people being moved toward ministry. If we take Eph 4.11f seriously (and I am not sure Stanley does) we need to be bring people into the kingdom, maturing them and equipping them and moving them into some form of service to Christ.

Seems to me the problem with the Megachurch concept is that it is consolidating alot of smaller churches and filling the leadership roles with very competent individuals but moving a smaller and smaller number of people into ministry. Getting more done with less. In corporate america that is efficiency. In the Kingdom of God it is disobedience!

While there is much to be learned from a corporate mindset there is much difference. Megachurches tend to do Jack Squat in the poor areas of the city. There the people, because of the complexity of their problems, demand more than a fine "howdy do" at the doorway of the church. I would guess that Andy Stanley has not sat with a crack addict on the curb at 11:30 pm for a little while. His take on the difference is that some are called to leadership. That is why he thinks the concept of 'pastoring' is a "first century concept". And proposes that we stop talking about pastors as shepherds. He feels more comfortable with the terms CEO or director. Stanley says the difference, according to his thinking, is that of leadership. Shepherds are "non-leaders". But Jesus talked about the difference between the shepherd and the hirling (Jn. 10) and declares a difference in the quality of love delivered. The irony here is that while the public eschews the corporate models, and with the Enrons and Worldcom debacles still on the front page- the church is increasingly abandoning the biblical call to ministry in the terms Jesus used and embracing those that are despised even by the secular world.

Hmmm - the reason I think that more people than ever are drawn to the Megachurch is that there is little for them to do- and fewer to get in their face and point out their hypocrisy and laziness. What percentage of North Point is involved in ministry leadership? Are they raising people to full time ministry? I'd sure like to know.

Maybe the idea is that since God is a shepherd (Ps 23) he wants his leaders to be shepherds? Or maybe he just wants us all to be CEO's- what do you think?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Summer in the City

Went for a drive into the City of Chicago this morning. The Sun was shining along the lakefront and the beauty of the city was just radiant. As I drove north from the museum I found myself thankful for the proximity of the museums, the embedded culture in the city, the art galleries and the beach and the many other things that create the city ambiance. I suppose that there are better places but I love Chicago.

Alongside all the amenities are the people. They are walking their dogs, running along the lakefront, riding bikes, eating at restaurants, and attending shows. So many of them need spiritual help. They are seeking satisfaction but often from the wrong source. Who knows what kind of hurt and pain they are experiencing or what kind of inner struggles they are masking with their exteriors.

How do we reach them? Preoccupied with their externals, having disguarded Christianity as ineffective and unproductive (primarily because it was untried!) they are facing a Christless eternity. Each person MUST be the kind of person who shares his faith with his friends and acquaintences this summer if we are to reach the city.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

real beauty

Stop and think for a moment - what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life. Can you think of it? I can think of beautiful moments. I distinctly remember sitting on the western side of a very small island in the middle of the canadian wilderness. The water had laid down like glass, the sky was bright orange, lit up from behind the clouds with the fading sun set, I was drinking a cup of black coffee and my sons were sitting around me watching the day end and the night begin.

Another beautiful think is the way my wife looks when she sleeps on vacation. When we are sleeping on vacation she seems to sleep better than at home. I remember one day while we were sleeping in the camper I awakened to see the sun rise and the light reflecting off her rested and beautiful face. I was like a symbol of peace.

I also think a beautiful moment was a time when our family was sitting around the table and somebody was acting up and we all started to laugh so hard that we had to push away from the table. laughing so hard that it got messy! I think that is kind of beautiful.

What is your moment of beauty?

Friday, May 19, 2006


Assembly of God General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask was recently asked, "Brother Trask, some may be hearing about the Vision for Transformation for the first time, so can you give an explanation of what it is and what it hopes to accomplish?"Trask responsed, "The Vision for Transformation was launched in order for the Assemblies of God to take a serious look at its internal and external operation and ministry. Externally, we were created as a fellowship. There are many who call us a denomination, but there is a world of difference. A denomination, as it ages, becomes more restrictive. It puts in place policies, practices and procedures.A fellowship is a releasing agency. We are 91 years old. However, over this period, we have put into place practices, procedures, and policies that have become more restrictive. I believe, for the 21st century, the church needs to be a releasing agency.But, ultimately, this isn’t about whether the Assemblies of God is a denomination or fellowship. It is about the kingdom of God. This church was raised up by God to serve the kingdom of God. Not to serve a fellowship. Not to serve a denomination.Internally, everything is up for evaluation except, of course, our doctrine. Over the past two years we’ve made some hard decisions. Some of those decisions were made so that we would remain a new wineskin."

What happens when the system is restrictive and doesn't move people into ministry but keeps them away from ministry? Does it need to be scrapped?


It is really rough being a model. Standing straight all the time, mastering the turns, having all that good will for world peace! Good God it is exhausting! As I sit here typing, with my hand on my hip!, I am trying to contemplate why would anyone want to be a model?

In my devotions this am I read 2 Thess 3.9 where Paul says that he made himself a model to be followed. Why does God choose to use broken and fallable human beings as models of godliness? Wasn't Jesus' incarnational life enough? or is it that there needs to be an incarnation into the life of every person who longs to be molded into Christ's image? And if so, why does anyone want to be in ministry? Isn't it just setting yourself up for frustration and failure?

I mean - when was that last time YOU felt up to the task of being a model?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Uncooperative Spirit

I really ticks me off that people in the church say they want to "serve the Lord" but then spend most of their time belly aching about the way that we "who direct the affairs of the assembly" (1 Tim 5.17) try to do our job. Now don't get me wrong- I have never claimed infallability- but I am available! Many of God's uncooperative kids don't care enough to make a call to tell you what they think. (Maybe they don't think!) But do you think that stops them from complaining? NO WAY! If you ask them to do the task they volunteered for when they signed on they look at you like your spitting when you talk! The real problem is they don't want to take orders from someone- well guess what?- everyone takes orders from somebody and these malcontents are no different from anyone else! If they would ask (but they don't) their questions could be answered and maybe they could learn how to Serve the Lord with Gladness! (Ps 100.2) Or maybe their suggestion would benefit the rest of the brethren in the church. But they would rather sit and stew in their own damned rebellion. (1 Sam 15.23) No wonder we are embarrassed when our friends visit the church and see the slip-shod manner in which some of these people serve Christ! The joy is gone, the ideas are half baked, thier giving is stingy, and whatever blessing God could give them for their sacrifice is discounted because there is no spirit of cooperation, instead- only foot draggers, tongue waggers and back stabbers.

If we want to make a difference we had better learn how to serve without complaint (Phil 2.14)

Starting off

Don't ask me why- but I decided to start a blog. Perhaps its a place for my vitriole and disgust to be vented? I don't know. But I am launching today. I don't even know if anyone will care what I am writing but I need a place to put down my thoughts. I want them to be cutting and critical but at the same time uplifting, thought provoking, and perhaps a germicide to the boredom and inanity we call the christian life here in america.