Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Dawn of A New Year

Tonight I take a break from the usual to say thank you to all who have taken the time to read the blog. I hope and pray you all have both enjoyed and been challenged by the content. I am looking forward to all that lies ahead for 2009. I plan to continue this blog as well as a new blog in association with the Cortland UMC. We are journeying through the New Testament together and each day I will be offering my commentary on the chapter of the day at I hope you all will join in the journey of both blogs.

Thanks again for you participation, may the Lord bless and keep you as we welcome the dawn of the new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Keep The Questions Coming

I have been asked recently why I ask so many questions. My response is, I have to keep asking questions until the answers satisfy the longing in my soul. Yesterday I watched the movie/documentary Expelled by Ben Stine where he takes on the conflict between evolution and Intelligent Design. First and foremost, Ben Stine is a brilliant man. The movie exposes a deeper truth which is more than just evolution and Intelligent design.

That deeper truth is how philosophy and questions of God are at the heart of everything. We as humanity push against anything which causes us to confront false beliefs, or long held certainties. I have seen and experienced this as I have asked questions about the life of the church. More specifically as I have challenged the structure and drive of the church. Most of my questions have been poised within the United Methodist Church, but I think they are universal questions.

When I ask questions about our purpose for existence and such there are several responses. First, dismissed as a young person without a developed understanding of life. Second, dismissed as a person who is anti-UMC, or at least working for its division. Third, flat out told I am wrong and should just go along with the established pattern. Challenging the established thoughts and patterns is never easy but it must be done.

How is it that the establishment is challenged? Protest? Not really? Boycott? Not really. Asking questions. If more people keep asking important questions, at some point new answers have to be entertained. Once we open our minds to the possibilities of the world, there is not telling what God can do with us as a people. We must keep asking questions.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What About Truth?

I can remember the days in my faith when almost everything was pretty cut and dry. I had a clear understanding of what was of God and what was outside of God. If there was a doubt on how to think or believe in a particular situation, all I had to do was listen to the 'company' line and I had my doubt resolved.

I live in a different place now. Yes my physical address has changed several times since that thought pattern, however, the place of my faith is very different. I have come to find the place of black and white, clear right and wrong, of God or outside of God, is actually a pretty shallow place, which requires little faith or belief. It is not that there are no absolutes. There are things which are clearly outside of the will of God. Yet, the ability of us as humans to get that judgment right every time is fairly low.

So are we left to live as relativists? Your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth? By no means. There is an objective, absolute truth. There is a right and wrong. The challenge is found in our incomplete knowing of such things. It is not the failings of God, or Truth, it is the failings of us, humanity. The other side of that coin is not helpful either. To boil faith down to a prescribed set of rules and regulations, hello religious leaders of Jesus day. Jesus did not have much complimentary towards those folks.

What are we to do? I guess we are to engage our faith journey with brains in gear, and an understanding of a God that is so much greater than any one person, church, denomination or creed can hold.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best Kept Secret

As I pray and prepare for the Christmas Eve festivities I find great irony in the fact my Bible reading plan has brought me to the Passion account as John shares it. Here we are about to celebrate the coming of Christ, and I am reading, interacting, with the fulfillment of that coming. As I was reading the person of Joseph of Arimathea, struck my interest. John comments he was a secret follower of Jesus because he was afraid of the religious leaders. After claiming the body of Christ, Joe is joined by another infamous secret follower Nicodemus. Two people who were too afraid to stand up to the religious leaders, possibly they felt they had too much to lose, are now the ones caring for the lifeless body of Christ.

This caused further reflection. I wonder how many people are secret followers of Jesus? Is it possible to be a secret follower of Jesus? I understand many through the years for various reasons have been secret followers of Jesus, but I wonder if that is truly following Jesus. There was not much about Jesus ministry which was done in secret. From the moment of His birth Jesus was sought after, and did very little without being noticed.

Further this caused me to look to the church. There are many churches being lead by secret followers of Jesus. They are not real sure they want everyone to know how deeply they follow Jesus. It could be fear of the ramifications. It could be fear of the changes in their own lives. It could be a whole host of things. The rest is the same. Secret followers of Jesus end up caring for the lifeless body of Christ.

Interestingly, the non-secret followers of Jesus were in fear as well, locked in the upper room. Once Jesus appears to them and gives them instructions they are off and moving. Soon we have the sending of the Holy Spirit and the followers are tending the living body of Christ, the church on mission.

This Christmas, will Christ be your best kept secret?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Are We Looking For?

I am always amazed how this time of year impacts the day-to-day rituals of life. What appears to be an all of a sudden shift to chaos causes many to lose their grip on the important. Additionally, this is the time of year when I hear my least favorite phrase in all of creation with a higher frequency, "This is how we have always done it."

That single phrase, or the several variations of it drive me nuts. Christmas seems to bring this phrase into full force. There are certain songs people feel must be sung, there are certain activities people feel must take place, and certain decorations people feel must be displayed. Why? What is it people are trying to capture or recapture? More often than not people are trying to recapture a feeling they had in years past. I will argue what people are looking for is precisely what Christmas is about, but they are looking to the wrong things.

It should not matter if row, row, row your boat or Hark The Herald Angel is sung, it should not matter if there is a Christmas tree or an empty space, it should not matter where everything is placed. What is it that matters, Christ. In our striving for hope, peace, love and joy we strive to find them using traditions of the past, rather than looking to the living present. Songs, decorations, and activities will never bring us what we are looking for. The present we are all looking for is found in one place and one place alone, in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The way we have always done it is only good if it brings to the feet of Jesus. If it is to recapture a feeling or moment from the past, it will leave us still wanting more. Jesus offers us water that we may never thirst again.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Church Canceled?

Twas the Monday before Christmas and all through the countryside, people were shoveling and grumbling from the fresh winters blanket. I know there are a few people who see the snow falling and get really excited, however, most greet a snowy morning with a grunt. Yesterday, Sunday, morning the weather was even more frightful. As the snow fell my hopes of church attendance numbers were being diminished, proving how deeply the numbers game is ingrained in my system. The phone began to ring, "A we having church?" was the question on the other end of the line.

As I thought about the question, it became a more and more ridiculous question. First, church is not something we have, it is something we are. I know what people mean when they ask the question, are we having our worship gathering, yet the call it church. I wonder if the people who called were really not planning on coming, yet when they called feel like they got credit for the day, with the bad weather and all. As you might be able to tell the idea of canceling a Sunday gathering has never entered my mind.

At the risk of being overly dramatic, what if Jesus would had decided the way of the cross was too dangerous or difficult? What if Jesus would have said, it's too cold out there and I really do not want to leave the comfortable convenience of my home? Our relationship with God, and the church of Christ has become so driven by comfort and joy, that when the times comes for things to require effort and risk we shy away. The church of Jesus Christ is always open, even if the roads are not clear, one might have to get out of bed earlier. We are taught by Jesus, that not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church, the weather doesn't stand a chance.

I will say this, those who did come for worship, experienced the presence of the Lord. The spirit at our gathering was sweet, and connection with God profound. I wonder if our experience of God is in fact sweeter when we have to fight for it?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Way With Words

Jesus had a special way with words. The information from his mouth had the capacity to lift someone up, humble them, or have them walk away scratching their head. Rarely do we find Jesus saying the things he is expected to say, or doing the things he is expected to do. According to the first century religious establishment, Jesus was at best controversial, and more likely a heretic. It intrigues me how fine the line between the two is. At the heart of Jesus' words was an invitation. Yes to eternal life, more importantly to a new pattern of life all together.

Jesus was not simply using words so people would be amazed at his teaching and oratory adeptness. He was using words to engage people in the journey of transformation. The religious establishment of the the day had boiled everything down to do's and don'ts. For the person to be religious all they must do is follow the correct regulations, and make the correct contributions to the temple. Living a transformed life had long fallen off the radar screen.

One of the many reasons I am deeply challenged by the words of Christ is because of their relevance no matter the age. Jesus spoke words of truth in the first century, and those words are truth today. Contrary to what most churches try to "sell" the world, Jesus is not about converting people to a religion. If He was I am not sure he would be converting people to modern day Christianity. Jesus is still inviting people on the journey of transformation. This means living lives very different than before. Not simply going through the motions, not simply saying the right words and the right times. Transformation means fundamentally changing the way we function.

Religion and transformation, words are at the foundation of both. Jesus used words to challenge religion, and invite people into transformation. Are we using words to further a religion?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Honoring Sarah

Today I am taking a break from the usual interplay and complaining. I want to take a few moments and celebrate the most important relationship I have with a person here on earth. My wife celebrates her birthday today, and on this day there are a few things which need to be made real clear.

First, I cannot do this ministry thing without her, and I don't ever want to. God has placed the two of us together as a team for the Kingdom of God. She is my softer edge, my compassion reminder.

Second, she provided unending support for me, and the work God has called me to. The schedule I keep gets out of hand from time to time, and that means an extra load for her with the kids and the household. While not easy, she does this with grace and love making possible the things I do.

Third, I honor her level of sacrifice. There are many things she does without for the sake of the kingdom of God. She is an amazingly talented women who could have a more impressive career than me, but has made the choice to work as a full-time mom. She has to watch others live the lives with more of the stuff of this world while she figures out how to get by. She flexes to meet everyone's schedule and demands at cost to her own.

Finally, I celebrate the love we share. Even when I am a blockhead, and that is more often than I like, she continues to love me.

I cannot put into words all I need when it comes to celebrating my wife, but these are a few to get started. I pray she has a blessed and wonderful birthday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Bright Spot

One of our family rituals is some TV watching as we end the night all together. The airwaves have been filled with all forms of holiday greetings. Very few reverting to the classic Merry Christmas. Either I am being worn down, or it really isn't that important, but this year I have not been as troubled by the message. From Macy's thank you for Santa, to Santa being used to sell beer, which was removed, commercial Christmas is alive and well.

Last night as we flipped through the channels, I saw that the Charlie Brown Christmas special was on. My girls love the Charlie Brown specials. Before I knew it, right there on primetime, commercial Christmas was being attacked by a dead cartoonist. I had forgotten the whole drive and point to the Charlie Brown special was to remind us the real importance of Christmas. The assault on Christmas began long ago, but there are still some bright spots. As the program ended, before my eyes and ears was the classic song of faith about the day Christ the savior was born.

It is easy to dismiss the media as ungodly. Even easier to throw stones at the networks for leaning to secular humanism, or out and out pluralistic relativism. God is bigger. As Christ was finishing his earthly journey, he told the religious leaders that if people did not declare the praise of God, the rocks would do it. The message of Christ will get to the people, even if humanity does not think it to be politically correct. Go Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Failure to Dream

At some point in every persons life there is a dream. Not necessarily the dreams that come when we sleep. I am talking about the dream of what could be. I am thankful to have grown up in a home which not only allowed for such dreaming, but encouraged it. My whole life has been guided by the dream of what could be. In my younger years, before making the transition of a believer of Christ to a follower of Christ, my dreams were of worldly greatness. Putting all the cards of the table, that craving for worldly acclaim still sneaks in. Now, most of my time is spent dreaming about what God could do, if we as humanity was willing to jump in.

There have been times when I have felt my ability to dream slip away. A natural process as we age is our move toward stability and comfort. Dreaming rarely affords stability and comfort. Another factor which causes us to lose the ability to dream is having dreamed and lost. As a younger pastor I talk with more experienced pastors all the time who once had a dream. Over time that dream was either shutdown, or the individual simply lost the desire to pursue that dream. A clear sign the ability to dream has set in can e found in the ways we respond to risk, and opportunity which draws us beyond the status quo. If another person presents a dream, and it is met with an uneasy laugh or sigh, the ability to dream has been lost.

The ability to dream is the birthing bed of innovation. Without innovation, we will always do what we have always done, hoping that just maybe this time it will be different, cue Einstein. The writer of Proverbs shares with us a thought which is often translated, where there is no vision the people perish. An aside joke, I have interacted with many places with no vision which are called a parish. Before the can be vision, there needs to be a dream. The dream of what God could do, or is calling us toward. This dream then gets placed in the mind and hand, the result is a vision of what could be. Where there is no dreaming, people perish.

The church of Jesus Christ should be a hot bed of dreamers. Our God is a the most creative being to ever present itself. Have you seen creation. Have you seen the ways God works. Jesus did thinks other thought was impossible. Walking on water, who say that coming. Raising from the dead, now that is a creative way to connect humanity with eternity. Instead, the church suffers. Dreams are laughed off, dreamers are dismissed and told they will someday give up on dreaming. No wonder people love God, but not the church.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where's The Fruit?

In the book of James we are reminded in several different ways that belief in God is not what matters. James instructs, even the demons believe in God. No what matters is the way we live out that belief everyday. In no way shape or form are we saved by our good works. Salvation comes from grace, and grace alone. Yet, is our salvation so we can hang a certificate on our wall noting that we are part of the saved. Or, is our salvation a true commencement.

No matter how the day or time arrived there comes a point in the life of every Christ Follower when there is a realization of need, the need of the atonement of Christ. That time is not a destination, rather it is a new beginning. The time when we realize the work of Christ on the cross was on our behalf, as the time we begin to realize we do not live for ourselves. There are no two ways around it, if we have belief in God, great, so me the fruit of that belief.

This morning I had an experience which made me so proud of the church I pastor. Over the last week, our church of about 100 people collected 70 presents to be shared with children living in poverty this Christmas through our local Headstart. As I was dropping off the gift I heard one of the works say, "That church is so generous." Followed by another staff person, "I know they are so willing to give of themselves."

I realize there is not a one to one with generosity and living our faith, but they are deeply connected. I cannot determine the motives of all the people who gave gifts. I cannot even judge where their heart is in relation to Christ. I can tell you that I could see the fruits of their labors as I dropped off those gifts.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It Is Not Complicated

Why is it we make Following Jesus so complicated. When I say we I mean all of us, in particular I mean those of us who are clergy or pastors of the church. I believe some classical training is hard at work here. All through seminary we are taught it is difficult to balance all the pieces of ministry. And it is. We are taught there are many ways to approach a situation, and there are. We are even taught there are different ways of approaching a section of Scripture, and there are. In the midst of all the training, and ecclesial indoctrination, the journey of faith is made out to be much more difficult that it really is.

In Hebrews 11, some would call the hall of Faith, we find recounts of the faithful. The title hall of faith is problematic to me. It makes it seem like only a select few people, who have a special dispensation from God can live a life of faith so noted it is recounted in Scripture. Yet again we are making it more difficult. The simple joy of Hebrews 11 is found in the understanding of who these people were. They were not some religious superhero, they did not have all their stuff together. They were average everyday people. What sets them as different? They displayed simple faith.

We have been trained for years to see nothing simple about the faith of those listed in Heb. 11. Yet the truth is, faith in God is what got their mention. When you research the individuals more fully you find they had some pretty mess up lives. However, at some point they chose to Follow God in spite of the circumstances. Faith as we see in Heb. 11 is available to all, not just super-Christians. It is not complicated. It is a matter of trusting God, for what we cannot see.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Mountain Top

Though I do not do this as often as I once did, I love to climb mountains. There is just something about the struggle of the climb, rewarded by the view from the top. Like many who have gone before me, I seem to communicate with God more clearly at the top of the mountain. It might be due to the fact I am out of breath and cannot speak, but I hear from God on the top of the mountain. One big problem, I cannot live on the top of the mountain. The same thing happens in our spiritual journey. We love those mountain top experiences. Those times when we are so sure of God's presence and direction we can almost taste it. The times in our lives when we are convinced and convicted by the Holy Spirit of what life is all about. We cannot live in that place forever. We were never intended to.

The measure of our faith is not found at the mountain top. It is found in what we do in the valley. How do we live the day-to-day? In fact the day-to-day is what we are called to by God, not the top of the mountain. We must visit those places from time to time where our spirit sings in tune with the Spirit of God. However, our work as Followers of Christ is to be done in the valley. We are sent from the top of the mountain into the valley. At the very end of the book of Matthew we find the great commission. Note where the commission takes place, on the mountain top. Note the command, go!

I love the mountain top. But for the mountain top I was not created, I was created to go into the valley, and live and life of transformation, showing others the path of transformation through Jesus Christ, right to the heart of God.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Church of Reckless Abandon

Many have said the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God. The more I live the more I am convinced these people have never experienced the center of the will of God. Why would I say such a thing? Because the center of the will of God is anything but safe.

Safety and comfort have become the two highest values in American society, and they have held many churches hostage. The image of God is one of this God who is orderly, who is predicable, who is easily defined and controlled. Big problem, that is not the God I read about in Scriptures. I see a God who calls people out to the deep water, a God who calls people out of the boat and into the choppy waters, I see a God who shakes the foundations of a culture. Yet we reduce this God to a nice person who is a societal do gooder.

Most churches in America have abandoned the heart of God in some reckless ways. I wonder what would happen if churches began to live with reckless abandon with the heart of God? Jesus tells us we should count the cost, but he does not say stay home if the cost is too high. Jesus merely wants us to know the journey will not be easy, it will involve struggle and pain, but we are not told to avoid the journey.

Much has been made about the decline of men in the church today. I think the decline is due to the fact that we have made the church a non-dangerous place. The sense of adventure and risk have been lost. We play it safe, and do not extend ourselves to the brink of death. A phrase that comes out of my mouth more than I like, and that drives me crazy is something like this. Once this and that happen, then we will go and do this. Chris Shook in the book One Month To Live called this the someday syndrome. Those living with the someday syndrome are not living with reckless abandon.

So let's get dangerous. Let's put out into deep water. What is it in your life that you are not doing, because it would disrupt your comfort and safety?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Land of Both And

Before I launch into today's thoughts, I want to tell you about a new blog that will be launched on Jan 1. It is up and running now, but I will not be doing entries until Jan 1. Visit on this blog I will be entering my thoughts as I along with the congregation, and all others who would like, read through the New Testament in a year.

As for today. I have written in the past on this very topic, but I continue to wrestle with it. I grew up in a world of faith which was deeply connected with either/or thinking. The journey of faith was in fact not a journey, rather it was a list of truths and facts to be memorized and regurgitated when demanded. I am now experiencing a faith journey where essential truths are still held to, yet they are held in a different way. There was a time in my life when questioning was off limits. If I had doubts I could not have faith. If I read something that caused me to have doubts, whatever I read was dismissed as ungodly. At the present time all I have are questions. If there is something to read and it causes questions about God, I say read away. A truth I hold deeply is that God is big enough to handle all my doubts, questions, and challenges.

A few years ago not everyone was up in arms about The DaVinci Code. Many people were concerned about the movie teaching things contrary to the Scriptures. Indeed there were several aspects of the movie that were inconsistent with the Scriptures, but we must remember what section of the bookstore the book is housed, fiction. The other point to remember is that is God is not big enough to deal with a little questioning and challenging, then I am not sure that is a God I want part of. That is to say I think you can read or watch the DaVinci Code and still be a Christ Follower. It is possible you might be a better Christ Follower.

There is a lot of talk about how our world has changed to become a more both/and culture. I disagree. It has always been a both/and world, simply many were just too brazen to realize it. Those who bought hook, line and sinker into the Enlightenment actually thought given enough time all the mysteries of life could be figured out. The church embraced and furthered this thought pattern. Today there are thousands of books written by people of faith trying to convince people through scientific evidence God is real. They are great scholars, but their work will always come up short. If God could be detailed in a nice little treatise, don't you think God would have used that much before this time to draw people into relationship?

The reality is this. God is full of mystery. Significant understandings of God have been made known, Jesus Christ for example. Still we as the created will never fully understand the creator. Life is mystery, mixed with questions, seasoned with some paradox, topped with more questions. I hope we all can enjoy the journey.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Put Down The Model

For most of my life I have been trying to make existing models work. I have spend countless hours and dollars buy books, attending conferences, watching videos and listening to podcasts. Learning about the newest model for developing the church, or how to be an effective pastor, or whatever the topic of the month is. Constantly I find myself adapting these models, and still coming up short in feeling like they are meeting the need I see. I am tired of models. I am tired of using the same thought process and hoping to get a different outcome, see Einstein for definition. We in the church world are really good at putting a new coat of paint on something and trying to call it new and different, yet the core is still the same. Instead of getting new wineskins we insist on dressing up the old ones hoping they will work. It is time for a different way of being the church.

This is not a new wrestling for me, but I believe it has come to a head so to speak. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back came last week. I lead a meeting on clergy effectiveness. Now our original charge was to develop a list of characteristics which indicate a effective clergy person. Additionally, we were to think about how we would measure these characteristics. The group took a courageous step and decided that was not what was most needed. That clergy effectiveness can be developed in other ways. I invited the group to read, learn and glean from all the models we were shown. Then I offered the freedom to go off the map, and try a whole new process of getting at clergy effectiveness.

The group finished up the meeting with great excitement, and passion about the course we had laid out. Then came the note, the institution was looking for a checklist, so there could be an evaluation developed, just like we have always done. But this time it will be different, we will have the right checklist, and the right tool for evaluation. It seems our task was to rework an existing model, and not step beyond that. It is time to stop putting our trust in models, especially ones which have brought us to death's door.

No longer can I play the institutional game. It is time to lead the church in a new way. The direction has always been the same, the kingdom of God, but the ways we work to get there need to change. The time has come to forge ahead with something new. The existing structures, models and thoughts will not move us forward in the quest to follow the heart of Christ.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Striving for Peace

I have been reading Paul's letter to the Philippians this morning and was caught by a passage. Paul reminds us if we are concerned or worried about anything to take it to God in prayer. Some translations say be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and petition take everything before the Lord. I think the American implied response from God is everything will be made better. Our tendency is treat God in our consumer mindset which says I have made my needs known, now God will meet them.

Now there are some passages that seem to imply that God will give us what we ask for if we ask for it with enough faith, love and perseverance. The next part of the Philippians passage offers and answer which I have experienced more than receiving what I have asked form God. Paul reminds us we will receive peace. Isn't that interesting. Not that we will have all our concerns and worries cared for. Not that we will get all the stuff we are asking for, rather that God will give us peace.

Peace is a funny thing due to the fact we often associate peace with having all that we need and the absence of concern and worry. That is not really what peace is. Peace is having a living understanding of God's presence and power at work in every aspect of our lives. More than having all we want, or not having worry or concern, peace is being settled in our souls about what God is doing in and with our lives.

Concern and worry are not in and of themselves the problem. When concern and worry, or anything else for that matter, override our ability to trust what God is doing in any given situation the problem arrives. Peace is one of those things we strive to experience in our lives but cannot achieve on our own. The settled soul in the face of adversity, peace, is something which can only come from the heart of God, and our connection with it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Right Numbers

I cannot think of the number of church growth seminars, books and teaching videos I have partaken in. I have taught on the area of church growth and am well versed in all the methods, programs and mindsets which allow a church to grow numerically. The challenge is I am now seeing that all of the information I have amassed will do no good if the growth in the church is the wrong kind of growth.

So what is the right kind of growth? The right kind of growth is not directly growth, it is more of a transformation. If church growth is about adding numbers to the attendance registry and expanding the budget bottom line, that is quite easy. I have joked in seminars that I can pack the church from noon till 11pm every Sunday, and count it as worship. Every gets real interested in how. I tell them, ten cent wings and 50 cent drafts, and football on the big screen. I am sure we would pack the place out, there would indeed be worship. but would it be the church? There is nothing wrong with ten cent wings, in fact I think there should be more ten cent wings. There is nothing wrong with football on the big screen. There is even nothing wrong with 50 cent drafts. However, they will not bring about transformation of life. They might be a great connecting point for transformation, but they will not transform a persons life.

Church growth is about numbers, the wrong numbers can mislead us. We should be measuring the number of people who are responding to the radical call of Christ, and radically devoting their life to following Him. I use to dream about pastoring the church of tens of thousands of people. Now the only way I want to do that is if it has tens of thousands of people who are committed to following Jesus with their whole life. People who are committed to be everyday missionaries. I am learning, or unLearnign as Slaughter states it, this will mean smaller numbers in the seats at first, but greater impact for the sake of Christ.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

UnLearning Church

I began reading the book UnLearning Church by Michael Slaughter this morning. Mike is the chief dreamer and lead pastor at Ginghamsburg church in Tipp City Ohio. I have only read the first chapter, but already I am ready to clear the calendar and finish the book. Slaughter puts words to many of the thoughts I have held. So over the next few days I am going to share the insights and challenges I am experiencing as I read the book.

The first challenge is one I was doing some writing about in another context. The megachurch model has run its course and is not longer a fitting model of church. I have known this for a while, yet was reluctant to embrace the thought. The megachurch model is one where the product of Jesus is displayed and people are processed through religion. As long as we buy the right merchandise, a person can be considered Christian, and a new person. The problem is, where is the transformation.

An unintentional consequence of the megachurch model is churches creating God in their image, or seeking to have Jesus fit their understanding of life. This is completely backwards to what we are taught in scriptures. Jesus is not the one who needs to be transformed to our way of living. We need to be transformed to Jesus was a living. Considering our current culture, this is not small or easy task. However, that is quite simply the task of the church, the transformation of lives for the transformation of the world for the sake of Jesus Christ.

I find the church, local and denominationally, spends all kinds of energy, effort and money on propping up the church, when in reality we are not functioning anything like what the church is. It might be time to throw out all the trappings of the modern church and return to the heart of the matter. This is not about worship style. This is not about bricks and mortar, this is about transformation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Blame Game

One of the unique qualities of almost every human being I have come into contact with is our desire to have problems be another persons fault. While we are more than ready to accept all the accolades individually, we want to share blame, or totally remove blame from ourselves. Few and far between are the people I meet who their default setting is to own there faults.

That is not to say we cannot learn to do this, I think however, we still battle wanting to blame someone else. There are situations when we can place the cause onto another person or organization. The freak car accident, the deceptive business practices, an many other situations are times when our problems might be rooted in another persons doings. Yet, there are just as many times when we need to own our stuff. More than once I have created situations in my life where I wanted, and attempted to blame another person for a situation. As I journey more with God I find this is not acceptable.

In fact, I now find I tend to error more on the other side. I tend to take responsibility which is not mine. Don't get me wrong I still try to blame others for my problems. Still I am trying to not play the blame game. When we play the blame game we cannot grow. If nothing is ever our fault, we cannot grow. If we are never wrong, we cannot grow. the condition of our heart must be open and willing to be taught by God, if not we cannot grow. When we do not grow we become stagnant and bitter. Words that can describe living water that has gone bad.