Thursday, June 30, 2005

Scientology is NOT compatible with Christianity...

Tom Cruise has been in the news quite a bit, and Scientology has gotten quite a bit of free press lately because of it. The church of Oprah has only been worsening this confusion. $cientology is NOT compatible with Christianity. CRI has a great breakdown as to why true Christians cannot be $cientologist and how it is misleading many people (especially celebrities in Hollywood).

The Feminist Mistake

Murdock at the A-Team blog has an interesting post with an interview with Mary Kassin. They discuss Evangelical Feminism from her viewpoint (she's not for it). Mary Kassin is the author of The Feminist Mistake.

What happens when you abandon inerrancy...

Below is an example of what happens when you (or your church or denomination) abandons the inerrancy of scripture. (HT Albert Mohler)

Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ [UCC] said the following
Here is what I believe: I believe that the General Synod should affirm the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to have their covenanted relationships recognized by the state as marriages equal in name, privileges, and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples. I believe our local churches, as they are able, should move toward the development of marriage equality policies so that the same liturgical and pastoral blessing and discipline may be offered all entering into covenanted relationships.
This is the same denomination that is currently debating the lordship and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is not a Christian church, it is a social club, and I really wish they would drop the name of "Christ" from their denomination. They are a mess, and I am glad I am not part of it. The unfortunate thing is that the unsaved world often is not able or willing to differentiate between groups like this and true Biblical churches and people.

Snoring in the pews?

(HT Brenton Balvin)
What keeps people awake and engaged during a message
Tony Morgan from Granger Community Church recently posted this on his blog.

1. Be real. Let people see the actual human inside you. Most times that will occur through your personal stories.
2. Talk like normal people talk. I didn’t grow up in the church, so I don’t understand when you talk with a Christian accent.
3. Use humor. If you don’t make me laugh, I’m probably going to tune you out. By the way, the best humor is revealed through your everyday life.
4. Don’t tell me what to think. Lead me on the journey toward truth, but let me reach my own conclusions. In other words, don’t try to sell it.
5. Be honest. If I think you’re credible, there’s a better chance I’ll think your message is credible.
6. Avoid being too polished. In fact, I love it when you leave your prepared statements and share anything off the cuff.
7. Reveal your weaknesses. As silly as it may seem, it makes me smile when I hear about your mistakes. It helps me to respect the areas where you are gifted.
8. Be brief. Shorter is better. I’m probably only going to remember one or, at the most, two things that you say.
9. Make me smart. I don’t care how smart you are, but I like it when you make me feel smart. That’s easier when you use small words and make it easy for me to apply what you’re teaching.
10. Tell me why I should care. Help me understand why I should listen. If you don’t help me understand why it’s relevant to my life, I’ll to be thinking about my next blog post or my next tee time or my favorite 80s slow dance songs.
-------

I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts, as I'm sure there are more things we could add to this list.

I am the bell curve...

(HT Sharper Iron Blog)

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

A survey for bloggers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Just for fun: Napoleon Dynamite...

We used Napoleon Dynamite video clips as discussion starters and in the context of messages to illustrate points with our Jr. and Sr. High student ministries this past school year. The students loved it. Prior to using the clips, I was only distantly familiar with the movie. After a couple of weeks of clips, I had to the buy the movie. This link is to a collection of some of the most quoteable lines from the movie.

My personal favorite:
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Worship...

Today on the Sharper Iron blog, there is a terrific post about worship. It is a must read in my opinion, if nothing else, just for the great quotes. I'll whet your appetite with one from John Piper:

Missions in not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t . . . Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.
The idea of an eternity of worship is more than I can imagine. I realize we are to live a life of worship, but there is just something about a time in corporate worship that gives me a peace I can rarely find elsewhere. I know I can find it elsewhere, but no where else does it come as easily or frequently for me than during corporate worship.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Challenges to the Church - Open Theism...

Today Tim Challies has a great post on Open Theism on his blog. Open theism is abberant theology, and we need to make that clear every chance we get.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I think therefore I blog...

Jollyblogger is offering t-shirts. I have mine on order. Black is so slimming.

Anglican line in the sand?

Dr. Albert Mohler just posted some thoughts on news that the Angilcan Consultative Council's decision to exclude US and Canadian churches from it's decision making process for the next three years. A key thought Dr. Mohler shares is:
Can we separate a "theological orientation" from a "sexual orientation?" I think not. What we believe about God and what we believe [and practice] about sex are fundamentally and inextricably related. One cannot accommodate homosexual behavior or homosexual relationships without denying the inerrancy and infalibility of the Bible as the Word of God. The authority of the Scripture is directly assaulted by arguments for the normalization of homosexuality. Likewise, the sufficiency of Scripture is denied by those who claim that the Bible must be corrected or supplemented by contemporary ideologies of sexual orientation.
Amen brother.

Church Membership...

Garrett Pendergraft of the A-Team Blog has an interesting post making the case for church membership. I too think church membership is Biblical and important.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Gallup: Strengths Finder Themes...

One componet of my seminary training has been to take the Gallup Organziation's StrengthsFinder Test. I have actually had the chance to take it twice, and get two readings, one by Greg Meland, and one by Brian Schubring, both of whom are staff members of Bethel Seminary. This test is simply amzaing in it's ability to get to the core of who you are. Below are the results of my test(s) with the detailed info of what it means to be those themes for my first testing. The order is of limited importance (though it does matter) but it should be stated that I work out of my Significance and Command (even though Command doesn't show on my second test, it was #6). You can also find out more on this in Marcus Buckingham's Now, Discover Your Strengths. You can also learn about this in Donald Clifton's book Soar with Your Strength. Clifton wrote the Strengths Quest book I have worked with also.

Activator

"When can we start?" This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that "there are still some things we don't know," but this doesn't seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can't. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

Learner
You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered-this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences-yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the "getting there."

Context
You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven't seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.

Command
Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life's unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest. You push them to take risks. You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction. Therefore, people will be drawn to you. You have presence. You have Command.

Significance
You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people. In the truest sense of the word you want to be recognized. You want to be heard. You want to stand out. You want to be known. In particular, you want to be known and appreciated for the unique strengths you bring. You feel a need to be admired as credible, professional, and successful. Likewise, you want to associate with others who are credible, professional, and successful. And if they aren't, you will push them to achieve until they are. Or you will move on. An independent spirit, you want your work to be a way of life rather than a job, and in that work you want to be given free rein, the leeway to do things your way. Your yearnings feel intense to you, and you honor those yearnings. And so your life is filled with goals, achievements, or qualifications that you crave. Whatever your focus-and each person is distinct-your Significance theme will keep pulling you upward, away from the mediocre toward the exceptional. It is the theme that keeps you reaching.

The other time (second time) I took the StrengthsFinder test my results changed only a little bit. I took it roughly 6 months later. My Signature Themes then were: 1. Activator 2. Learner 3. Achiever 4. Context 5. Significance

Achiever was #6 on my first test (above) so it wasn't a surprize to have that show up on the second testing.

Achiever
Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by "every day" you mean every single day--workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Biblical Inerrancy: a short review

Chicago Statment on Biblical Inerrancy

A SHORT STATEMENT

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Am I a Firestarter?!?

No, this isn't a post about Phil Johnson's great blog.

Instead it's a comment on a fire I might have inadvertently started at my church today. Of course, not a literal fire (though combining church and fire might be a way to get more men to go to church...).

After our church staff meeting, we all went out for lunch at Chipotle. While standing in line waiting to order, John Piper's name came up. I know our Sr. Pastor reads Piper, but doesn't always agree with him, and he restated those feelings. Our new Youth Pastor said much the same, and commentented on how he would ditch chapel whenever Piper would speak. This too a turn when our part time children's ministry staff person (she's not a "Pastor", and corrects you if you call her such) commented on how Bethlehem Baptist Church is looking for a Children's Minister for thier North Campus. She referred to how the requirements specifically refer to "he" over and over again in reference to the future Pastor for this position. She started asking me about Piper's views and women pastoring, and I gave her a brief overview of complementarinaism (see HERE for more info). I know she doesn't share Dr. Piper's thinking (mine too) in this area, but it wasn't the appropriate time and place for that deep of a discussion. So rather than go the next step, I told her I had some materials back at the church that would help her understand complimentarinaism if she was interested. I gave her a copy of an article written by Dr. Wayne Grudem in a recent copy of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (JBMW: Spring 04) titled: Is Evangelical Feminism the New Path to Liberalism? Some Disturbing Warning Signs. I asked her to read it with an open mind and heart, and to see how God might speak to her through it before I handed her my copy. I also warned her that it might challenge her thinking, and welcomed her to dialog with me if/when she has questions about it.

I had originally planned on giving this copy to our Sr. Pastor. He has recently moved toward egalitarianism, though not fully embraced it from what I have seen. I think in large part as a result of his neice (I think?) graduating from Seminary and having begun a ministry.

So we'll see where this takes us. I hope it opens a genuine dialog among our staff. I pray for God's wisdom and the right words to say with grace when we do talk about it. I believe scripture supports complimentarianism. So maybe I started a fire today...

Biology and homosexuality

Albert Mohler's personal blog

Today on his personal blog, Dr. Mohler comments on some recent news relating to biology and homosexuality. As he usually does, Dr. Mohler distills this to a simple yet clear Biblical view. Check it out. Sin corrupts all.

If you don't know where you stand, or what to do, start in prayer. Pray for God's wisdom and guidance, both for you, and for those lured into this lifestyle.

The most important hour in a pastor's week...

(I posted this a week ago, and wanted to see if it could generate a bit more discussion, so I'm moving it to the top of my blog again.)

For those who read this blog, I'd like you to give me your input on this subject. Let me set a few parameters for this though - Prayer, reading the Bible, and all things related to personal development of the pastor are not what I am talking about. I am talking about his function as a pastor, sheparding the flock. What is most important? I suspect there are a variety of opinions on this subject, and that there are possibly more than one "right" answer depending on the context and season of the particular church.

My thoughts currently are split between the half hour before and after church, and the weekly staff meeting. The time before and after church is where a lot of connections are made in most churches. This is probably more true in smaller churches though I suppose.

The staff meeting is where the pastor can put his vision into action through the staff of the church. While a pastor in a small church can keep his hands on each ministry, in larger churches that is simply not possible.

I'd like to spend more time fleshing these thoughts out, but I would first like some feedback (if anyone is reading and feels inclined to do so that is...) on what others think.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

President Bush's Tax Cuts...

Today Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds blog has a great post on the economic impact of President Bush's tax cuts over the past few years. Check it out and see if you agree.

Digital camera shopping fun

I have been shopping for a digital camera for the past few weeks for my fiancee and I. It's been a lot of fun learning about the different options and trying to prioritize features to select the best camera for our needs, and one that fits our pocketbooks. We are taking a trip to Seattle over the 4th of July weekend and following week for a wedding for a college pal of Banana (my fiancee). We do both own APS 35mm cameras for when we want to use film.

My parameters for this search have been:
1) 4-6 Megapixels, no less than 4, 5-6 is preferred
2) 8x Optical Zoom. Optical Zoom is where it's at. Digital Zoom is a waste of money.
3) Photo Quality. After all, if the photos don't look good, what was the point?
4) Video Recording. This was one of Banana's requests. She uses this function on the Canon A95 she uses at school and wants this functionality. I could live without it, but I have no problems having it either.
5) Cost. If it doesn't fit the price range, it doesn't matter how good of a camera it is.

I have come up with a couple of good cameras. Two of them are pushing the amount we would like to spend. I had hoped to stay under $500 overall (including memory, bag, and batteries), and two of the ones I really like retail for $499 for only the camera.

My first choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20. This is at the top of the class for optics/photo quality. The body of the camera is small and light, but still sturdy. The drawback, only drawback I have found, is the video recording. It only records at 320X240, and apparently doesn't record sound with the video. But wow does it take nice pictures, and I really like the lithium ion rechargable battery system.

My second choice is the Canon Powershot S2. This is a new to market camera, so that concerns me a bit, as there are not as many reviews, but I've had great luck with the Canon digita camera line. The Powershot S2 seems to be a very small step down in optics/photo quality, but picks up the video options Banana wants. This is likely the camera I would buy if I was at the store today (actually I was earlier), but the problem is nobody has them. Only display models. Canon apparently hasn't shipped them yet to most places. We NEED our camera before July 1st when we head to Seattle. They quoted me a few weeks at the store I looked at this afternoon. I was offered the floor model, but I've never thought owning a floor model was a good idea, especially for electronics. Who know how many times it's been dropped, had goo spilt on it, been licked by a rouge child and so on.

My third choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5. This is the brother to the FZ20 listed above, with a few less user options, and a little less cost. If I'm not mistaken, the FZ20 is last year's model, and FZ5 is a 2005 model. FZ5 has the same pros and cons of the FZ20.

My fourth choice is one that probably best fits our price range, and that is the Olympus Camedia C-765. The price is right coming in at as low as $225. It is the only 4 megapixel camera in this bunch. It takes great pictures and has very nice optics. It is also the smallest camera of this bunch, so it'll fit into a purse, where the Canon above is pretty big. The Camedia also is very light, almost to the point I am concerned about durability. While I don't expect a camera to be childproof, I do want something that will last for years.

Others that are on the outside, but are still being considered are the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 and the Kodak EasyShare DX7590. Mr. Bill, Banana's father, has an older model of the DX7590, and it takes pretty nice pictures. They used it when they went to the Presidential Inaugaration earlier this year, and those photos turned out great.

I love buying electronics. Perhaps it's because I'm a man. Perhaps it's because I love having new toys to play with. No matter which camera we go with, I'm going to have a lot of fun with it!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Another goofy quiz...

OK, I think I opened pandora's box. Here's another quiz I took (HT: Paul Shafer).



You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the
medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to
render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ
and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm


93%

John Calvin


80%

Karl Barth


80%

Jonathan Edwards


80%

Martin Luther


73%

Friedrich Schleiermacher


60%

Augustine


47%

Paul Tillich


47%

Charles Finney


40%

J├╝rgen Moltmann


33%

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Theological Worldview Quiz

(HT: Tall Skinny Kiwi)
You can take the test HERE.


You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical.
You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most
likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can
do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical


79%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


75%

Neo orthodox


75%

Fundamentalist


68%

Emergent/Postmodern


50%

Classical Liberal


39%

Charismatic/Pentecostal


39%

Modern Liberal


21%

Roman Catholic


4%

Do-It-Yourself Impressive Theological Constructs

This made me laugh. (HT: Phil Johnson @ Pyromanic). Phil is on staff at Grace Church, John MacArthur's church.

Conspiracy Among Friends...

...I thought that I was the greatest debtor to Divine grace, and would sing the loudest to its praise; but when I came down out of the pulpit, there was a venerable woman who said to me, "You made a blunder in your sermon this evening." I said, "I daresay I made a dozen, good soul, but what was that particular one?" "Why, you said that you would sing the loudest because you owed most to Divine grace; you are but a lad, you do not owe half as much to grace as I do at eighty years of age! I owe more to grace than you, and I will not let you sing the loudest." I found that there was a general conspiracy among the friends that night to put me in the background, and that is where I meant to be, and wished to me; that is where those who sing the loudest long to be, to take the lowest place, and praise most the grace of God in so doing.
- C.H. Spurgeon

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Vision Leaks

I had the opportunity to hear Andy Stanley present on this a couple of years ago, and much of what he said has stuck with me. Part of leading others is casting a vision they can follow, and casting it often. I've been part of a number of organizations where we made a concentrated effort on being vision focused, and it definately works.

The article below was taken from Christianity Today.

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How do you keep the church's passion for ministry from deflating?
Andy Stanley

Vision doesn't stick; it doesn't have natural adhesive. Instead, vision leaks. You've repeated the vision for your church a hundred times. Then someone will ask a question that makes you think, What happened? Didn't they hear what we've said over and over? Don't they know what this church is all about?

You can spot leakage by listening for three things:

1. Prayer requests. What people pray for will tell you more than anything else whether they are locked into the vision and priorities of the church. When you are in a leadership meeting, are the only prayer requests for sick people? When I'm in such a meeting, I say, "Whoa, is anybody in this group burdened for an unchurched or unsaved friend? Yes, let's pray for the sick people. Now, what else can we pray for?"

2. Stories of great things happening in people's lives. If there are no stories, then maybe the vision for life transformation has leaked.

3. What people complain about. If people are complaining about the wrong stuff, then vision is leaking. When they complain about the music, or the parking, or that the church is too big, or there are too many people they don't know, you can respond, "I know. God is blessing us." But it's a sign of vision leakage.

I am often tempted to get frustrated with the people who don't understand the vision, but I have to ask myself some important questions. What do I need to do to assure that we have a compelling vision as an organization, and what must I do to make sure it doesn't leak? If the vision is not communicated in a compelling way, then the organization is going to be unfocused. Wherever focus is lacking, only random activity is left. That's when you wake up and find you don't like the organization you're leading.

It's our job as leaders to get everyone oriented and focused on our main purpose.

What causes leaks?
There are three reasons vision seeps away: success, failure, and everything in between.

Success means your options multiply. Size increases complexity, and complexity can confuse vision.

Our church was at its most efficient when there were just six of us sitting around the table. Everybody knew and understood everything. It was as smart and efficient as the organization has ever been. This efficiency leads to success, and success gives birth to complexity, the enemy of efficiency and vision. Many churches become successful organizations where everyone is busy, but they've lost connection with the vision.

Failure will also knock a hole in your vision, if you let it. When a plan or strategy fails, people are tempted to assume it was the wrong vision. Plans and strategies can always be changed and improved. But vision doesn't change. Visions are simply refined with time.

Our first fundraising campaign was a total failure. No money came in, and I didn't follow up or follow through. One day a wonderful lady in our church came up and asked, "Andy, how's it going with the fundraising?" I answered, "It's not going very well at all." She said, "Do you think God's trying to tell us something?"

She clearly was implying that since the plan wasn't working, then the vision for this church must be wrong.

But I knew the vision was right, so I said, "Yes, I think God is trying to tell us something. He's trying to tell us it was a terrible fundraising idea."

We don't have to change the vision because a plan doesn't work out.

You know what else is tough on vision? Life. Every single day of my life works against the vision. Vision is about what could be and should be; life is about right-this-minute. Life is about the kids and the laundry and the doctor and the house payment.

No wonder vision leaks. Monday comes along and rips it off the wall. The urgent and legitimate needs of today can cause us to lose our vision.

In church life, nothing unfocuses us faster than haphazard, "y'all come" programing. Everybody has a favorite program. But adding too many programs to the church schedule will de-focus your church like nothing else.

Read the rest of the article on Christianity Today's website HERE.

Andy Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Christians and Sex

Christians and Sex: Sexual Issues in the Church

An article in Leadership magazine tipped me to this resource and these stats.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 pastors are counseling a parishioner on sexual issues once a year or more.
  • 71% of pastors and 49% of laity are "very satisfied" with their marriage.
  • 55% of pastors and 64% of laity would like their sexual intimacy to be more frequent.
  • 5% of pastors and 14% of laity have committed adultery. The primary reason was marital dissatisfaction.
  • Laity respondents are more likely than pastors to confess adultery to their spouses (45% to 20%).
  • Very few churches have established policies to protect pastors from sexual temptation. The most frequent policy is to have a window in the pastor's office door (27%).
  • Almost three-fourths of pastors told us they have been propositioned while in ministry (72%), with 8 percent reporting enticements a few times per year.
That last statistic was perhaps the most eye-opening for me personally.

Warped...

Man Gets Life in Prison

A 19-year-old Texas man, Gerardo Flores, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the death of his girlfriend's unborn twins. Erica Basoria, 17, acknowledged asking Flores to help end her pregnancy by stepping on her stomach. She had earlier started jogging and hitting herself to induce a miscarriage. When her efforts failed, she asked her boyfriend to help.

The conviction under the Texas fetal-protection law could not be extended to the mother because she had a legal right to an abortion.

-----

And to think these children could have been adopted and spared all of this mess.

If you are up for it, please keep Justin Taylor and his wife (and hopefully new son!) in your prayers. Justin hasn't been blogging because they rushed off to Florida. To hear more about it (and to contribute to his adoption fund!) go HERE.

Updates...

My father has taken the job with the State Penitentiary, he starts Monday. I have one more finals related item - gasp - a Greek test. I have one more Greek course (next Fall) assuming I pass the enterence exam September 2nd. I am going to do a dance when I am done with Greek. I will be spending the weekend helping my fiancee move so I may not be posting much until next week.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Minnesota Twins and Johan Santana

Tonight the Twins put a spanking on the Arizona Diamondbacks in interleague play, winning 10-0. Johan Santana once again pitched a magnificant game, giving up only 4 hits (getting one hit himself) and no runs in a complete game shut out. Johan Santana is a stud. The Cy Young last year was just the tip of the iceberg for his career I think. It's hard not to like the guy, he works hard, isn't a glory hound, and simply plays and pitches in a way that honors the tradition of the game. I've been a lukewarm Twins fan since my first Twins game in 1985 at the Metrodome (Twins lost to the Brewers that day, Teddy Higuara (sp?) pitched for the Brewers). The current lineup of the Twins is very interesting to me. They work hard, do the small things, and regularly win games. I do hope they get a new stadium though. I don't go to their games, because I hate the Dome. Instead I go to St. Paul Saints games at Midway stadium, for much lower prices, more fun, and an enormously better atmosphere. Sure the Saints are low level minor leaguers, but I love them nonetheless. I've mentioned the Saints in previous blog posts, and anybody who wants to check it out, let me know and we'll catch a game.

Now back to my regularly scheduled blogging...

For those so inclined, I would appreciate your prayers for my father. He lost his job unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, and is considering a few options. One of which is returning to the South Dakota State Penitentiary where he worked years ago. I got news tonight that a friend of mine, actually a former roommate, now has the job my father was terminated from. There are good and bad things to the State job, and it's a tough time in life to have lost his job. Pray for wisdom on his part, and God's guidance on the process.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Job search and present ministry

Just a few ruminations from me today. I've been rolling over in my mind some job openings. There is one in particular that might be a good fit, but I have a few concerns I'll have to address with them before I decide if I might fit. I'll get back to that in a second though. What's really on my mind is the process (and integrity) of how do I handle this with my current church. I have a good relationship there, but it's not where I feel I need to be to continue to gain ministry skills. I've been there for 2.5 years as a non-paid staff person. I preach occassional, I've done college, Sr. High, and Jr. High ministry there, as well as some adult teaching. I've worked on developing leadership and vision with the staff, and many other things as needed. Basically I've filled in the cracks when and where needed. I plan on being open about it, but I'm not sure at what point in the process I should be involving them. I have applied for some other positions and been open about it, but those things probably wouldn't have kept me from my ministry there.

Ideally I would like to find an associate pastoral position in a Baptist General Conference church. I'm pretty OK with the Covenant churches and the E-Free churches as well, and possibly a Southern Baptist church as well. I suppose there are some other groups out there that I would fit with without compromising what I believe in, and I'll deal with that as it comes I guess. I am passionate about the lost sheep of the pews, those marginal and apathetic pew potatoes. I want to find ways to reach and excite them for the glory of Jesus. I'd love to find a ministry position where I can teach people how to lead, do some teaching and preaching, and improve church processes. I'm not gifted to lead worship, and while I have quite a bit of experience in youth ministry, I'm not necessarily gifted in that area. I'd love to work with young adults (18+), small groups, singles and a handful of other areas.

My added dillema is I'm somewhat limited in where I can live (though I'd make something work for the right position), so that I can finish school. Of course the implied component of that is a church that is willing to allow me to keep working on my education over the next year. I have 4 semsters left of schooling. Plus, I'm getting married in December, so that will further complicate things for me.

If you are so inclined, I'd appreciate your prayers for guidance from God in this area. I've been praying for quite some time, but no clarity yet.

Friday, June 03, 2005

An Emergent Apology?

Don't know what you all think about the Emergent Church movement, but there is an interesting thing going on at the moment. I thought I would point this out for those who may be interested either from a positive, negative, or sheer intellectual standpoint.

I have had the opportunity to interact personally with a good number of people who consider themselves part of the Emergent movement. Doug Pagitt actually went to my seminary a few years back, and of course his church is not too far away from where I live (11.4 miles according to Mapquest.com). A number of other students at school with me would openly consider themselves part of the Emergent movement (Jeff and Mark are two good examples), so I get to interact with this group of Christians on a limited, but regular basis.

My general experience has been positive. I've discussed this on a few other places on the net, and I feel that we as the non-Emergent church can learn quite a bit from them. I don't think I've studied all of their ideas fully enough to have a complete opinion, but there are a few points theologically that I do not completely mesh with the EC. That being said, I think I have much more in common with them than I do with say a Catholic Christian for instance. What I do think we should get from them (if nothing else) is the way in which they are meeting people's needs and interacting with the world. They are making connections in ways, place, and in people groups that the traditional church models do not do a good job of reaching. They are sharing the Gospel of Christ with people who need it. Joel Osteen is a much greater problem than the EC in my opinion. I think we do need to hold the EC movement accountable, and press them to remain orthodox in their views, but within the range of orthodoxy I think we need to let them have some leash and see where they take things. I know some who may read my blog will be surprized I am not taking a hard (or harder) stance against the EC, sorry to disappoint you. But I also don't think we (the church) give them free reign either. I am of the opinion it's more of a fad than anything, and 10 years from now we'll look back and wonder why we wasted bandwidth and brain power on the subject. Let's share the Gospel. Let's keep talking with the Emergent Church. I'm not saying join, agree, or embrace, but let's keep channels of communication open with them, as they might have something to teach the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Book Review: Sex and the Supremecy of Christ

A week or so ago, Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds put out a call for bloggers to review a book he had a part in - Sex and the Supremecy of Christ. I was one of the lucky few who got in early enough to be blessed with the opportunity, and below entails my thoughts on the book. I suspect I will come back to this book again from time to time, and will post additional thoughts and comments as I let it percolate in my brain.

First, I would like to comment on how appropriate the subject for the book is for Christians today. As Christians, we are called to glorify God in all that we do, and within that fall our sexuality. This is often directly opposed by how the world that surrounds us views sex and sexuality. As yet to be perfected Christians we are impacted by the graphicness and pervasiveness of the inappropriate and negative message that society showers us with on a daily basis. This book serves to begin to balance that out by giving us a clear explanation on God’s design for sex.

What I liked best in the book:
First, I greatly appreciate the readability of this book. With authors like John Piper and Albert Mohler, there is always the chance that it could quickly become very heady, making it a difficult read for the entry level reader. This is a book that I think most high school students could read, and I would recommend it for that application.

I suspect this book will be challenging to those who have been taught to be ashamed of sex and sexuality. It is a tragedy that some in the body of Christ have perverted one of God’s greatest gifts to us in this way. This book takes great steps to undoing some of that harm, and is a great reference for developing a biblically informed view of sexuality. While it is not specifically written as an apologetic against this, it nonetheless would serve ministries well that are helping people overcome those feelings of shame.

The part I enjoyed reading the most was the section on Martin Luther and his wife. It added a needed lightness to what can sometimes be a heavy subject. It also was great to get a window into the life of one of the most influential Christians of all time.

The section I initially felt I would not find very interesting was Dr. Mohler’s segment on homosexuality. I was pleasantly surprised by what he had to say. I almost always find Dr. Mohler interesting, but the past two years I have been filled to the top with data, opinions, and stories about homosexuals and Christians. Dr. Mohler made it interesting, and informative, and I suspect I will read the section again. He did not present anything new to me, but he always has a way of saying things that makes me say “I wish I could have said it that way.”

I grew up in the church, and I can honestly say I did not hear much regarding any of the topics covered in this book spoken about at church. Sex was something people talked about in private. Sex was something that jokes were made about. Sex was everybody’s dirty little secret. I think this book serves to shine a light in an area of much darkness for Christians throughout the world. I highly recommend the book, front to back, without any hesitation. I suspect I will be buying a few copies to share with some important people in my life who might greatly benefit from it.

What I would do different/like to see changed or added:
My criticisms are very limited. I would love to see this offered as a 3 part paperback series, with a Bible study guide to go with it. That way churches could utilize different segments with different groups or at different times. I honestly don’t know if something like that is in the works, but I would suggest it if not.

Piggybacking on my previous idea, a section (or perhaps a separate tool) with sermon outlines would another great blessing for the church. Providing a framework for pastors to introduce these subjects to their congregations would be a wonderful gift. While we all know we should be hearing these kinds of things from our pulpits, all too often we are not, and we can see where that has been getting the church. Anything to enable and encourage pastors to utilize this material in their churches would add to it’s impact.

I would also like to see an online resource with current info and articles pertaining the subjects discussed. There is a very nice list of references, but they are to print materials. The world is changing, and while I see the humor in asking for electronic info from a paper book, I still think it would be a nice addition for those seeking to grow deeper in these subject areas.

Final Analysis:
I give it 5 of 5 stars, with a hearty reccommendation. I suspect this will be an award winning book, topping many book lists and must read lists in the next few years.