I am convinced that if we are not growing we are dying in a spiritual sense. John Ortberg once said that one of the greatest scandals in the church are people who have been participants for years, but whose lives are no different than they were when they started. The command of scripture is that we become molded into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29; 12:2) as a consequence of following Him. That means we must change. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: November 2011
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:17-19
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in America. This distinctively north American holiday is one in which we engage this week. Families gather, a moment of gratitude is shared and the feasting begins. In the midst of uncertain economic times there may be a damper on some of our feasting. We may spend a little time complaining how the price of the meal has gone up this year. But what we really need is a solid dose of what this celebration was about from the beginning, gratitude to God.
Drawing a Line in the Sand
I have just finished reading Dietrich Bonheoffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. This biography is a significant volume that is both insightful and troubling. I highly recommend it. It is informative in that it gives the reader an insight into history and the things that led to World War II. Metaxas does a masterful job of helping the reader understand how the German church became so affected by the rise of the Third Reich. Continue reading
I want to suggest we do not know what the word ‘love means. Love is an easy word to throw around. Love is one of those things we talk about a lot in Christian circles. Jesus says, “Love one another.” We let ‘love’ easily slip off our tongues. I talk with young couples preparing to be married who would be incensed to think that anyone might challenge that they love one another. I can’t remember who said it, but I remember a definition of love that took me up short: “True love means giving something to someone they don’t deserve at a cost to you.” It is a thought-provoking definition that eliminates a lot of what we call ‘love.’ It would suggest that we rally don’t love someone until it costs us something—something maybe we didn’t even intend to give. Did I really love my wife when I was breathless and eager to be with her, full of all kinds of emotions or was that infatuation? You may have seen the story of a 41-year-old single mom, Stacie Crimm. She had come to believe that she never would be able to have children. But surprisingly she learned she was pregnant and shortly after learned she also had cancer. She had a chance at beating the cancer, but the chemotherapy would put her baby at risk—probably kill the fetus. She skipped the treatment and the aggressive cancer raged through her body. Stacie collapsed and Dottie, her daughter was born early. Stacie had three days with her daughter before dying. The article asks Stacie’s brother, “When Dottie Mae grows up, how will you explain Stacie’s ultimate sacrifice?” He replies, “I don’t think I’ll have to tell her anything,” he told Lauer. “I think she’ll kind of figure it out on her own.” Jesus’ model of love cost Him dearly. He told us that real love is like that: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 Taken like that, I don’t love much. I have a hard time giving up something (or having it taken from me) for or by a person who does not deserve it. Maybe we really don’t love our spouses or families until we intentionally sacrifice for them even when they don’t deserve it. Maybe we don’t love our community until it costs us something. But I have a suspicion that like little Dottie Mae Crimm, I think folks will figure it out on their own. Maybe that will be the image of Jesus in us.
I have just been referred to a book on congregational structures by the general presbyter here in Presbytery of Eastern Virginia. The book, Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser already seems to be something rather revolutionary for those in the Presbyterian Church. In the introduction, Tom Bandy writes, “The organizations of the established church today are anything but ‘effective.’ Originally designed to produce mission results, they have gradually become so complicated and cumbersome as to only produce reports, maintain salaries, and preserve properties. Organizations start out as a means to an end; but unless they adapt to the context of mission, they soon become an end in themselves.” Paul Borden writes in the forward, “Structure does not dominate, but rather it enhances and allows ministry to grow and flourish. The structure in our congregations allows leaders to lead, staff to manage, boards to govern, and congregations to be involved in significant outward-focused ministries.” The executive summary supplied to me by our presbytery resonates with much of my experience and observation.
I am embarking on the reading of this book and would relish an opportunity to discuss its ideas with any interested. One of the questions I’m asking is if this structural change is possible within the presbyterian family. Another is how difficult is it to transition to this model for effective ministry? Email me at email@example.com if you’d be interested in engaging in this conversation!
This is the poem I spoke about this morning. It is a moving commitment to being ‘in search mode.’
The Big Three
I’ve been told that all messages in the church, all preaching and teaching ought to answer one of three questions. Interesting idea. Just three? That seems to be a challenge. Yet, after consideration, I think there is incredible merit to the idea. Maybe we try to over-engineer (forgive me Tech grads) the gospel. It is and was simple enough for the least educated to understand. It is also profound enough to occupy the greatest minds for centuries. So what are the big three? Continue reading