Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Recovery of the Southern Baptists...

Today (Tuesday, May 31), Dr. Albert Mohler has an excellent article reviewing the transformation of the Southern Baptist Conference from the mid to late 70's to present. It's an excellent read if you are interested in the history and development of the SBC.

Some Essentials to Building a Great and Growing Church

Some Essentials to Building a Great and Growing Church

1. A steadily increasing number of LEADERS.
2. A steadily increasing number of GIVERS.
3. A steadily increasing number of SERVANTS who have identified their God-given spiritual gifts, temperament, and ministry passion and are being fruitful and fulfilled in their unique contribution.
4. A steadily increasing number of GROUPS where significant relationships can be developed.
5. A clear and compelling MISSION that everyone can articulate and that permeates and drives everything that is done.
6. An effective means of OUTREACH.
9. HIGH VISIBILITY in the community.
10. Adequate PARKING.
11. Adequate FACILITIES.
12. An effective means of DEVELOPING BELIEVERS INTO "5 G's (grace, growth, group, gifts, giving) PEOPLE".
13. An effective means of HELPING HURTING PEOPLE.
14. A strong feeling and reality of COMMUNITY.
15. An effective means of QUICKLY ASSIMILATING NEW PEOPLE into the "vital" life of the church.
16. An emphasis on and modeling of the true LIFE-TRANSFORMATION that God does in human lives.

- From New Life Bible Church, Norman, OK

Sunday, May 29, 2005

What Leaders Do...

Taken from SmartLeadership.com


L- Learn. All leaders are learners. When you cease to learn, you cease to lead. "The one who has ceased to learn ought not to be allowed to wander around loose in these dangers days." -- M. M. Coady.

E- Engage. A leader will be able to influence followers only in proportion to how much she engages them on an emotional level. SmartLeaders engage people in four ways (see The Rules of Engagement): a consistent ethic, a contagious enthusiasm, a course of excellence, and continual empowerment.

A- Anticipate. Leaders are always asking two questions: "What happens next?" and "What happens after what happens next?" Although no one can predict THE future, effective leaders constantly anticipate possible futures.

D- Demonstrate. Leaders model for followers the qualities required for success, when SmartLeaders demonstrate integrity, innovation and intelligence. You attract what you reflect, but you reproduce what you are.

E- Evolve. Leaders never stop growing. SmartLeaders realize that they are on a journey that requires the conquering of ever-steepening mountains. Yesterday's approaches, attitudes and attributes do not always help in today's climate. The heights that a leader obtains are directly proportional to the level to which they evolve. Stop changing and you die.

R- Reproduce. Leaders reproduce other leaders. The ultimate action of SmartLeaders is that they reproduce other SmartLeaders. A leader's successors determine his success.

S- Solve. One of the great works of leadership is problem solving. While problem solving is not the sole work of leadership, it is a defining characteristic. Your ability to successfully solve problems will determine
your stability. Your ability to influence others will determine your success.

H- Hope. A SmartLeader's actions will inspire hope in her followers. She has the unique ability to communicate hope in all that she does. Napoleon rightly quipped, "A leader is a dealer in hope." But remember, the SmartLeader must have a vision in which all hope is focused. Hope without
vision is aimless wandering.

I- Initiate. Leaders take action, they initiate, invent, adapt and improvise. An indecisive person will never lead. One mantra for leaders is Napoleon Hill's famous avowal "Do It Now!"

P- Persevere. When seized by a vision, SmartLeaders never give up! They persevere until completion. Samuel Johnson writes, "Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance."

In thinking about leadership, take time to ponder the acts of leaders. Thinking precedes action and action precedes feelings. SmartLeaders determine the actions of leadership and then act as leaders.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Memorial Day and such...

As I sit here prepairing to preach tomorrow on Genesis 1:1, my mind keeps wondering onto the subject of Memorial Day. My sermon is written, so I can afford a bit of time and thought at this point.

My generation has escaped war. We were too young by a few years to be part of the Desert Storm action, and for the most part, we are too old to join in for the Iraq war. Without doubt there are people of my generation who chose a military career (or in the reserves) who are part of Iraq, but those who signed up after High School would have fulfilled thier duties on their initial plan.

I am neither pro-war nor a pacifist. I prefer to avoid war when possible, but that's not always possible. There is evil in the world, and at times we have to stand up to that evil in a physical way.

I greatly appreciate all that has been sacrificed to afford me the luxery I experience by living in the United States of America. The millions of lives lost and altered. I cannot fathom how these lives and families were changed, and will not devalue their sacrifice by trying to so. All I can do is say thanks. To all the Vets I say thank you for doing your duty. Thank you for going above and beyond your duty. I pray you feel valued this year on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

An opportunity I'm looking forward to...

Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds blog is offering the opportunity to review the new book "Sex and the Supremecy of Christ. I have taken him up on that offer and am really looking forward to reading this book. I previewed it a bit today, and am really excited for what it brings - a single resource covering many of the issues relating to Christianity and sexuality. There are a number of authors in on the writing of this, many of whom fall into my "favorites" category.

In a rather strange twist, I have received a couple of other books in the mail this past week, one a pre-release that wanted me to preview it and consider using it in my ministry and sharing it with others, and the other is a new Bible type by NLT. I primarily use the ESV Bible, but I do enjoy reading the NLT for times where I want to cover large chunks of scripture rather than deep theological reflection and scholarly study. I do usually preach from the NIV because that is the Bible the church I am at has chosen to use (most people have that version, the pew Bibles are that version). Before this last week I had never gotten books like this. It's interesting, and something I would enjoy if it kept happening in the future. I love books, and I love reading books. I don't know if I would want to do this as a profession, but would love to do a few a year in the years to come.

I will be blogging my thoughts on the forthcoming Sex and the Supremecy of Christ as a condition of my getting to review the book. I have high expectations for the book, and I expect it will meet or exceed those expectations.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Biblical Preaching Is About Life Change, Not Sermon Form

Biblical preaching is not about structure. It occurs when people listen, are enabled to hear that God is addressing them as God addressed the world of the Scriptures, and are enabled to respond.
An article by John Ortberg

The core value of preaching that changes lives is it's biblical. You and I don't change lives; God changes lives. For 2,000 years, God has used the power of this Word to convict stubborn hearts of sin, to move cold spirits to repentance, and to lift faltering lives to hope.

The question that causes a fair amount of controversy is what makes preaching biblical.

It's not about form. Often people think what makes preaching biblical is a particular style or structure. Where I grew up, people talked about three categories for preaching: topical, which was often regarded as not very biblical, textual, where the main point comes from a Scripture verse, which was considered more biblical, and expository, which is difficult to get a clear definition of. Expository is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Some people think of it as verse-by-verse preaching, or where points and sub-points are from one text in Scripture.

There are a number of problems with thinking one particular style or structure of preaching is the only kind that's biblical.

One problem is Jesus didn't do that kind of expository preaching. Mostly he told stories and the implications for listeners' lives. The apostles didn't do that kind of expository preaching. In the New Testament you don't see any sermon that goes verse by verse through an Old Testament text. I'm not saying that kind of preaching is a bad thing. It's important that people become biblically literate. But what makes preaching biblical is not its structure. To be biblical does not mean the preacher follows a particular form that, after all, human beings created.

It's about relevance, application, and enablement. William D. Thompson, author of "Preaching Biblically," writes: "Biblical preaching is when listeners are enabled to see how their world, like the biblical world, is addressed by the Word of God." It is important not to be superficial when it comes to what makes preaching biblical. How many Bible verses a sermon has does not determine whether or not it's biblical. You can have a hundred verses in a sermon and misinterpret every one of them. It is not the structure. Biblical preaching occurs when people listen, are enabled to hear that God is addressing them as God addressed the world of the Scriptures, and are enabled to respond.

Far too many sermons have lots of information about the Bible but are not really biblical preaching because they do not call and enable people to respond to the Word. There is lots of information about the Bible--exegetical, historical or theological--with maybe a few applications tacked on the end.

It's about working the soap of the Word deeply through the stained fibers of hearers' hearts. What happens when the Word addresses people? In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul has a wonderful metaphor. He says, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word."

The church is to be made holy by being cleansed with the washing of the water of the Word. Why do you wash something? Because it's dirty. What happens when you wash something? Soap and water move through the fibers and lift out impurities from the fabric.

When we and our congregations come before God, our hearts are like that. They are cluttered with false beliefs, attitudes, misguided intentions, wrong perceptions.

I could tell you what a few of mine are. I'm walking down the street. Somebody wants money. I find myself looking away from him because I don't even want to be reminded of that need, and I don't want to feel guilty by not giving him something. Or I'm at a convenience store in a line of people, and the person behind the counter doesn't speak English well, and my reflexive thoughts are, I'm in a hurry. Why can't they get somebody that speaks English well around here? Or another time I'm in church standing next to somebody who's important and the thoughts that run through my mind are, This is an important person. I wonder what I might be able to say to make a connection because he or she is important.

Those are just a few thoughts in my mind that are dirty. They equip me for bad works. They make bad feelings and behaviors almost inevitable. Imagine having a mind cleansed of all that. Imagine when you're with somebody, your first thought is to pray for them and bless them. Imagine that if you're challenged, your first thought is to look to God for strength.

That's what it would be like to have a mind washed by the Word, and that's your goal for the people to whom you speak. That's the goal of biblical preaching. The goal is not to get vast amounts of exegetical information into people.

My goal is not to get people all the way through the Bible. My goal is to get the Bible all the way through people.

Biblical preaching answers three questions: What must hearers know, feel, do? To do that I ask three questions. What do I want people to know? What do I want people to feel? What do I want people to do? I think about these questions for every message I do because if I don't address the mind and heart and will--if I can't answer those questions--then I need not deliver this message because it's not going to wash their minds in the Word.

Your goal is to wash the minds of your people in the Word so that Christ is formed in them. That's biblical preaching.

John Ortberg is teaching pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Long and the Short of it...

Whew. It's been a long past week. Many a moment I've thought of posting something, but so much else needed to be done. With that said, how about an update on my exciting superheroesque life.

Today I began the process of registering for classes for 05-06 at Bethel Seminary. I discovered that if I really wanted to punish myself, that I could in theory graduate next spring. At this point I don't think that is reasonable though. I would have to take 4 courses each semester, an extra course in September, plus work my job to pay bills, and then get married in December, and learn how to live the married life while all this goes on. I don't think that is the type of foundation I want to lay for my marriage. It's important that I get done with school, so if nothing else I can start paying back my student loans, but I won't do that at the expense of my marriage. My fiancee is chomping at the bit for me to be done with school, but I think when we discuss what I discovered this afternoon she'll agree with my assessment of things.

I'm really feeling the need to move into a paid ministry position. I'm going to have to be a bit more focused on my search. I intend to put a few calls into some of my contacts and see what they might know of or have in their churches. I've been pretty selective in what I would consider, but I might have to lower the bar a bit to get my foot in the door. We'll see what God brings. I am at a place in life where I think I am ready, and the timing couldn't be much better. My obligations at my current church are minimal with our Jr. High ministry having just ended last week. I do have to preach Memorial Day weekend, and have a few other odds and ends duties at church, but nothing really after June 10th. Memorial Day weekend I'm preaching on Genesis 1:1. Good stuff. I'm excited for it.

I had an interesting weekend. Friday Banana (my finacee) planned a date for me, which started with me getting a hair cut at a sports barber. They have TV's everywhere with sports on, foosball tables, video games, and tons of sports memorabilia everywhere. I'm quite pleased with the hair cut, though it cost 30% more than my normal guys at the local barber shop. We then grabbed burritos at Chipotle. The final component of our evening was taking in opening night for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League. The Saints lost to the Schaumburg Flyers, but it was fun anyhow. The Saints won the Northern League championship last year defeating Schaumburg 3 games to 2, on a walk off home run in the 9th inning with 2 outs and 2 on base. Great drama. The Saints experience is more than just baseball though, they know how to spice things up and have a good time. I caught a tee-shirt (which we gave to one of Banana's students who were at the game), almost caught a foul ball, ate some yummy cheese curds, and got to enjoy a beautiful evening with Banana and her dad. It's a beautiful outdoor stadium, halfway between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis. We concluded the evening watching the first third of the movie "The Sound of Music" which is Banana's favorite.

Then yesterday Banana and I went to church together, and hung out relaxing until mid-afternoon. We then went over to her house and did some work, after a nice hour long trip to HOME DEPOT!!!! I removed all the wall paper from the upstairs bathroom (it's a pretty good sized bathroom), which took the better part of 4 hours. It was one of the ugliest wall papers I have seen, so it's nice to see it go. Taking wall paper off is a huge mess though. Especially when it covers the top half of the wall, so the glue remove gets to run down your arm all night long, into your arm pit, onto your shirt, across your face etc.

I will try to keep posting more regularly, but until this semester is over I can't make any promises. Praise God in all that you do, for He is worthy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Understanding Church Systems - Church Leadership

Last week I began a post on a church I had visited in the North Metro area. Yesterday we took another trip, this time to Faith Covenant Church, Burnsville, MN. Faith Covenant is pastored by Dr. David Clark, who was previously a Dean and Professor at Bethel Seminary, and is currently still working as an adjuct professor teach one course per semester. Dr. Clark is one of the best professors I have had, and that is a pretty high compliment. He is incredibly smart, yet is gifted in putting that into terms that the average person can grasp. Dr. Clark has been at Faith for a little over 8 months. In that time, he has given some great direction to the church, and helped them begin on a new course with a clear vision of who they are and where they are going. I'll include my notes from yesterday below. Most are self explanitory. If it doesn't make sense, drop me a comment and I'll try to clarify. A few of the notes are from Dr. John Cionca as well (mostly the end of the notes)


David Clark:
- trying to make sure all the things they do have connecting points
so they stick together (Velcro hooks) so there is a cohesive ministry
-need to think through ways people transition from one ministry to
another – junior high students into sr. high programming etc. – no
gaps, no seams, pass the baton onto the next program – avoid overlap
and avoid gaps

5 purposes of the church
-worship – an upward focus
-community – relations and connecting with other people
-service – inside and outside the church
-mission – reaching people for Christ – geographically non-specific
-apprenticeship (discipleship) – information vs. transformation
Community and apprenticeship are inward directed, service and mission
are outward focused
-churches that are growing are tenacious on service and mission
-look at the budget to see where $$ is allocated
Grade each area to see where you are weak
-most churches are (or think they are) A-/B+ in worship, community and
discipleship. Most churches aren't above a C-/D+ on service and
mission in spite of what they think
-Genesis 12:1-3 Abrahamic covenant
-Jewish nation did great at first half (1-2) and poor on the second half (3)
-worship-->community-->service (where people often can come to faith)
-->mission-->apprenticeship-->worship (endless circle)

Invest time, talent, and treasure in vision
Spirit always trumps structure, but you have to have the structure in
place to keep things going day to day.
Plumber analogy – pipes are structure and water is the Spirit. We
want the best flowing pipes possible (remove unecessary kinks), but
without water there is no purpose for the pipes.
-mission happens everywhere
-need to take people to the point of the need to change
-two things lead people to change – a great vision and a burning platform.
-"that's a great idea, how do you see it fitting into our vision…"
-every member is a witness, but not every member is an evangelist
-we can share our story even when we aren't smooth evangelists
-invest and invite – invest in your friends/relationships and then
invite them to hear about Jesus
-requires high quality product @ church for when you invite people
-in our culture excellence is a requirement
-not requiring perfection this week, but improvement
-excellence with intimacy

Create entry points for people other than the worship service
-pre-evangelistic events
-patterned to groom them into the church

-contemporary worship trying to move toward progressive
-drama, dance, art etc.
-Piano led for the most part (guitar othewise)
2 services same style

750-800 in worship +200 children for 1000 on weekend
-don't assess success by attendance
-faith steps for success

-will you give your heart to this vision?
-what are the things that stand in the way of us realizing this vision

-assessing what church needs, then teaching it on the individual level
-EQ – emotionally unhealthy church, but preaching on personal emotional health
-avoiding "you" and using "we"

-Need to have exit interviews for people who leave church
-gives you a good picture of what needs to be looked at

People give to vision, not to paying lights bills.

Average per capita giving is roughly $1100 per attendee (Faith is
over this)
60% of budget for staff is a good rule of thumb (building loans can
skew this for a period)
Pay for staff then program then facilities when possible
Opt for open ended surveys over number/rank order surveys
Focus groups of 15 people max X's number needed to get feedback and to
roll out Vision.
-they did 15 or so of these meetings when DC began making his changes.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It's all about the weekend

From Preaching.com

In a recent edition of his Leadership Uncensored newsletter, Ed Young, Jr., reminded pastors: "At Fellowship, our favorite saying is, 'It's all about the weekend.' Why? Because throughout scripture, the value of corporate worship is hammered home again and again — that's huge. Also, the weekend is the biggest port of entry into your church. That's where most of the guests and visitors show up. So, to make an indelible impression on the most people, you've got to have the weekend hitting on all cylinders.

"Here are some of the ways we've stayed weekend-focused at Fellowship Church:

"1. Put weekend preparation at the top of your day. Personally, I keep the weekend the main thing by making it the first thing of my day. The most difficult thing that I do is thinking about, researching, and praying for the messages — it's very taxing. If I don't jump on that in the morning, I won't have the energy I need to do it justice.

"2. Make the weekend a priority in your spending. If you really want to know what is the most important thing in your church, look at where you're spending the resources. If you are spending more money on stuff that has nothing to do with the weekend, then you're off balance and you're not focused on what's most important. The majority, I think, of funding, resources, and staffing should go towards the weekend.

"3. Give the weekend serious attention during staff meetings. During our weekly Executive Team meetings, what are we spending most of our time talking about? The weekend. We talk about it, we critique last weekend, we compare numbers, and discuss what went well, and what didn't go well. Then we look at the next weekend and target what we can do to make it a better weekend. Of course we talk about other stuff that's happening in the church but we keep our top staff people focused on the weekend." (For more from Ed, visit www.creativepastors.com. And don't miss Ed's article on "Communicating with Creativity" in the May-June issue of Preaching magazine (www.preaching.com).)

While we would all love to say that our church isn't a church where people only come on weekends, the truth be told, most people are only in our churches on weekends. Certainly in smaller churches this is less the norm, but bigger churches definately have a large group that come once a week, only for an hour or two. Ed's model works well for growing churches that are regularly bringing in new people. Churches that have stagnated tend to spend less time/money/effort on the Sunday/weekend services. I do think many churches would be well served to examine their priorities and to give more thought/time/money to their efforts on the weekends, mine included.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Can we do theology in a vacuum? NO!

Over on Leslie's blog I posted the following comment when she expressed her concern over a previous comment someone made saying "Don't get so caught up in the theology that you miss the point..."

I think an often overlooked key to this is the dining alone principle. Few people enjoy dining alone, especially not on a regular basis. The same goes for theology. It's all good to study theology on your own, to read books and think deep thoughts, but rare is the person who can take it to the next level in this context. We need community, interaction, and most importantly push-back. We need to bouce ideas off of others, learn from them, have them challenge things we say. This stirs the coals of the soul, making both people grow. I think blogs can do this in a limited sense. I don't think we can replace face to face time though. Going to lectures is good, but still not on par with sitting down with a couple of people and forcing your brains to grow. I have had a number of opportunities for this type of dialog, and it's not hard to create these situations if they are not going on around you. Seminary has been fantastic for this. Whether it is grabbing a Prof and having lunch, or standing in the halls during a break in class, many great discussions take place.

It's funny how random things get my mind working. It's especially funny how this frequently happens when I should be using my creative powers on papers that are due (or past due..gulp...).

Back to my point, which would be that we cannot do theology in a vacuum, or if we do it suffers. I think it to be dangerous to practice theology outside of the context of community. Heresy can enter in unchecked. We were created by God to operate in community, in reflection of the community of the Trinity. My periods of personal growth in my faith (and depth of knowledge in theology) have always come at times when I am most deeply committed to others in community. I love the wide open format of blogging, but for me at least I really need that face to face to really push me. I can choose to ignore something posted, or I can just dismiss it and move on. I cannot do this if you are sitting across the table from me (well, I suppose technically I could...). I do think this might be the nugget of wisdom the person who commented on Leslie's blog might actually have been after. We can all sit in ivory towers thinking whatever we like, but when the rubber meets the road is the true test. I'm not talking pragmatism, but living our faith instead of just thinking our faith. We do need to have that background of theology, the time spent in digging through scripture, reading other's thoughts etc. though. Balance of course is the key to this. Either one without the other leads to problems.

I think next time I'll give more thought to this subject before writing so it's more cohesive in it's final product. I suppose that's the danger of blogging whatever is on my mind, and then random rabbit trails that might take me down.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Church Governance and Leadership in a Free Church

I spent the afternoon in a Northern Minneapolis suburb (Andover) listening to and interacting with the 3 lead pastors of a quickly growing church (Evangelical Free Church). Got some good stuff, and some interesting rubber meets the road level insight. I also picked up some good process ideas they employ. A beautiful church, with a real vision for the future, and a real vision for meeting their community where they are at. It's really late so I will try to blog with better detail tomorrow some time.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Same-sex unions lose support

Below is an article from today's Star Tribune. The Trib is generally on the liberal side of everything, so it's nice that this even gets mentioned by them. I have blogged on this issue previously. Minnesotans need their day in the polling booth to decide this issue. This also shows the disparity between the metro area politics and the rest of the state. The metro area is enormously more liberal than the rest of the state, and the bulk of the population lives in the metro area, so it does come strongly into play on this issue. Let us vote!

Minnesota Poll: Same-sex unions lose support


A new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows that 52 percent of adults in the state oppose gay and lesbian legal unions while 38 percent favor them. The opposition is an increase of 10 percentage points over last year.

Overall, 51 percent of those polled also agree that a constitutional amendment is needed in Minnesota. Forty-six percent agree strongly.

The increase in the opposition to legal unions, which would give same-sex partners many of the same rights as married couples, comes from a 10-percentage-point rise in those who say they are strongly opposed to the idea. The trend, critics say, reflects a nationwide marketing effort by conservatives and religious groups to sway opinions on what has become one of the most divisive issues of the day.

"The way the conversation is being framed is not a good way for our democracy to make decisions. It polarizes the issue to such a degree that the conversation becomes really stilted," said Ann DeGroot, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, which represents the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. (I disagree with DeGroot here. The conversation is very democratic if we get to vote on it. If only a small minority of the population (GLBT) wag the rest of the dog, that is very un-democratic. She uses this inflammatory rhetoric speak because she is in the weak position. Rather than objectively look at it, she strikes out to paint her opponents as the “bad guys”.)

The increase in opposition to gay and lesbian legal unions is "phenomenal," said Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, who has been a leader in pushing to put the amendment on the state ballot.

She said the increase in strong opposition shows that people are thinking about the personal impact of the issue as states such as California and Massachusetts and countries such as Canada and Belgium wrestle with the status of gay and lesbian couples.

"I think this tells us that people are recognizing that this has an impact on our children, our workplace, our places of worship, our schools," Bachmann said. "This is more than an issue affecting a small percentage of the population. This has the potential for affecting everyone."

One man's view

Poll respondent Rick Schwantes of Willmar is a husband, a father of two children and a "not overly religious" Catholic. He considers himself a Republican but prides himself on not toeing any ideological line. He tells his children that this is a free country and they need to be respectful of other beliefs. Schwantes says all these enter in his decisions on social issues.

But when it comes to same- sex marriage, the 46-year-old Schwantes, a finance manager for Jennie-O Turkey Store, says there is no flexibility. He is adamantly opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into any legal unions. He also strongly supports a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

"It's a man-and-woman deal. There is a moral issue there," he said "This country is founded on choice. They've made their choice; that's the lifestyle they want to lead. But don't push it any further than that."

Like Schwantes, 46 percent of poll respondents say they are strongly opposed to the idea of legal unions.

Outstate residents broadly oppose same-sex legal unions (62 percent) as do people identifying themselves as Republican (73 percent). Sixty-two percent of those 65 years old or older oppose it.

Minnesotans between 18 and 24 years old are more likely to support legal unions (57 percent).

Monika Irwin, of Zimmerman, says her opposition to legal unions for gays and lesbians has nothing to do with morality but with economics.

"It's difficult enough for males and females who get married nowadays to gain benefits from an employer. You add lesbian and gay couples, and an employer is going to say, 'Forget it. I'm not going to pay health insurance at all. It's just too much,' " said Irwin, 58, a retired psychologist who describes herself as a political moderate with many gay and lesbian friends.

Positions hardening

Much as the Roe vs. Wade court decision crystallized positions on abortion, there seems to be less middle ground as the same-sex marriage debate continues to mix religious beliefs with politics, said Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood. Slawik has spoken on the House floor about her opposition to gay marriage but her belief that a constitutional amendment is not needed.

"This is a struggle because supporting a constitutional amendment is now defined as a 'Christian' issue even though I might think that saying it's OK to hate somebody is a very un-Christian position to take," she said. "I wish their were a gray button to push."

The results come late in a legislative session as the constitutional amendment debate languishes in the Senate. While the House approved the measure in April, it remains unclear whether the proposal will be heard this year in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, has indicated that there is no need for a vote this year because the amendment would not be on the ballot until 2006.

During the most recent House races, billboards and targeted ads focused on previous votes on the gay marriage issue. The issue is likely to play a role in 2006, when seats are up in the House and Senate.

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, which supports an amendment opposing same-sex marriage, suggested that opposition to same-sex marriage will be an important factor among strong believers going to the polls.

In a statewide survey conducted for the council in February, 49 percent of those questioned said they would be less likely to reelect a state senator if he or she didn't allow a vote on the amendment, while 10 percent said they would be more likely to vote to reelect such a senator.

"The pro-marriage side is definitely becoming stronger as there is more discussion about it," Prichard said.

Friday, May 06, 2005

In the beginning God created...

Yesterday I spent 5 hours working on a sermon I have to give this coming Monday as well as a sermon for Memorial Day weekend Sunday. Monday I will be preaching from Genesis 1:1, and Memorial Day weekend will be Ephesians 2:1-10. I was pretty burned out on writing by 4:00pm yesterday afternoon, but the great thing is that I was in such an amazing mood from my time spent writing/studying/thinking. Writing sermons is (at least for me) something that I have to work at. I find it both draining and energizing. Draining because of the importance of what I am writing and thinking about. The need for word smithing and phrase crafting can become a point I loose focus. I go in streaks it seems, sometimes things come very naturally, other times it fights me the whole way. Sermon writing is energizing in that I get to dig deep into the Word. I get to imagine how God's will might be served through this message. I get a peek into the work of the Spirit in my life as well as others through this process.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Group Blog member

As of today I am a member of a Group Blog called Glorioius Gospel of Christ Group. I made my very first post today. My personal blog will be my priority, but I hope to contribute to the group blog with regularity as well. The next four weeks I might not be posting as much as the past two weeks though. The crush of the end of semester obligations call for my attention.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Light for the lost...

The follow was inspired by RC Sproul.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

God’s Word (the Bible) keeps us from crashing off the path God has intended, which always results in us flat on our faces. It is of critical importance as to whether we find our being on our faces as a time to reflect on what got us there. If you have ever tried to walk in unfamiliar territory in the dark, you know how dangerous (and potentially shin bruising) that can be.

Having a working flashlight keeps us safely on the path. God’s Word is exactly that – intended to keep us on the path He intended for us. Without our flashlight we are sure to get lost and in trouble.

But unlike a flashlight, God’s Word gets more powerful with use. It is up to us to decide how bright we want our light to shine, and the source of our light is God. Do we want to be a small ember of faith, barely enough to singe the fingers of the world, or do we want to be an enormous blaze, that the world cannot help but see? Each of us who have saving faith start as an ember, and it is up to us to tend that ember and make it glow.

Are you using your flashlight? Can others see your glow?

Quote - Pray

"Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you yourself shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God." (Phillips Brooks)

Leadership Article - Developing a Vision

I am working with the senior pastor of my church on a number of leadership fronts, one key one being developing a Vision for the church and within that a new mission statement that covers our values and vision. I found the below article on the Christianity Today website earlier today. I thought that those of you with an interest of leadership might enjoy the article.

Developing a Vision
What kind of church would we like to be?
By Aubrey Malphurs

Vision is essential to a church. However, unlike the values, mission, and purpose, the vision is more subject to change. It is dynamic, not static. Over time, the vision must be renewed, adapted, and adjusted to the cultural context in which the congregation lives. The change takes place only at the margins of the vision, not at its core. The core—the Great Commission—does not change. The details of the vision and the words used to convey them will change. The vision provides us with a picture of what the mission will look like as it is realized in the community.

The vision concept is not new to the Scriptures. You will find visions sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments. For example, God caught Abraham's attention with his vision for him in Genesis 12:1–3 (the Abrahamic covenant). God used Moses to communicate his vision for his people, Israel, in Exodus 3:7–8 and Deuteronomy 8:7–10. It is possible that the "joy" that Jesus looked forward to while enduring the cross was the vision of his return to the presence of his Father in heaven (Heb. 12:2).

The Importance of a Vision
The limited information that is available indicates that pastors and congregations are struggling with the vision concept. For example, in commenting on pastors and their visions, George Barna writes, "But when we asked these pastors, 'Can you articulate God's vision for the ministry of your church?' we found that roughly 90 percent of them could articulate a basic definition of ministry. But only 2 percent could articulate the vision for their church." David Goetz writes, "In Leadership's study, however, pastors indicated that conflicting visions for the church was their greatest source of tension and the top reason they were terminated or forced to resign." Clearly, vision is of utmost importance to leaders and their ministry. Here are seven reasons why.

A Vision Encourages Unity
In a ministry a shared vision changes people's relationship to one another. When a leader casts a vision in a church, it is no longer "their church," it becomes "our church." The ministry's vision encourages and allows people to come together and work together. It creates a common identity in two ways. First, it signals to all where the ministry is going. It says that if you want to go where we are going, then climb on board—let us go together. Second, it fosters the retention of congregants and staff. A common vision says that we are working together toward the same goals. We need each other if anything significant is going to happen for Christ. This, in effect, mirrors such passages as 1 Corinthians 12:20–22 and Ephesians 4:15–16.

A Vision Creates Energy
Not much happens without an inspiring, compelling vision. Not much was happening in Nehemiah's day. The people had no vision. Jerusalem lay in ruins, and no one was motivated to do anything about it (Neh.1: 3). Then along came Nehemiah with a vision from God to rebuild the gates and walls of the city. Visions are exciting and they energize people. They strike a spark—the excitement that lifts a ministry organization out of the mundane. They supply the fuel that lights the fire under a congregation—leaders are able to stop putting out fires and start igniting a few. A vision from God has the potential to turn a maintenance mentality into a ministry mentality. And when your vision resonates with your values and mission, it generates the energy that fuels the accomplishment of the ministry task.

A Vision Provides Purpose
The right vision creates meaning in people's lives. It gives them a sense of divine purpose in life. They are a part of something great that God is accomplishing at this time and place in history. With a shared vision, people see themselves not just as another congregant or a "pew warmer," but as a vital part of a church that is having a powerful impact on a lost and dying world. They are not simply in a church; they are on a mission. They are part of a revolution that has the potential to change this world, to have a wonderful impact for Christ. For example, a wide gap exists in terms of commitment and dedication to God and a sense of personal significance between one member who, when asked what he or she does, replies, "I am a teacher" and another, who may have the same ministry, but answers, "I am changing the life course of a class of adolescents who will someday accomplish great things for Christ."

A Vision Fosters Risk Taking
A shared vision fosters risk-taking by a congregation. This is especially true in church-planting situations. When the point person or lead pastor casts the vision, everyone knows what needs to be done. That is not the question. The question is, How will we do it? Sometimes we know the answer, but most often we do not. Consequently, ministry for Christ becomes an exciting adventure into the world of the unknown. We attempt something for Christ and it does not work. We attempt something else and it does work. Though much of what we are doing is experimental, it is not ambiguous. It is perfectly clear to all why we are doing it. It is for God and the Savior. People are not asking for guarantees. They all know that no guarantees exist, yet people are committed anyway. The risks are great, but so is the God they serve, and the vision he has given them. How else can we explain the early church and what God accomplished through them or those believers that make up the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11?

A Vision Enhances Leadership
Developing a vision and then living it vigorously are essential elements of leadership. I define a leader as a godly servant who knows where he or she is going and has followers. That describes not only the Savior, but his disciples and those who ministered in the early church as recorded in Acts. Godly servants are people who display Christ-like character throughout the ministry organization. They exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, given in Galatians 5:22–23. They know where they are going and where they are leading their ministry. They have a dynamic mission and, most important, a clear, energizing vision that paints a picture of the future. The consequence of character and vision is followers. When a congregation has a leader who owns a vision and lives that vision in a Christ-like manner, they will follow that leader to the ends of the earth.

A Vision Promotes Excellence
God desires that his church minister and serve well on his behalf. This calls for ministry excellence. Whatever we do for Christ must be done well, not sloppily or haphazardly. In the Old Testament God required that people give their best when they brought animals for sacrifice (Lev. 22:20–22). This was excellence in worship. In the New Testament Paul explains that God expects us to put forth our best efforts in our work. He says to perform as if we are working for him (Eph. 6:5–8; Col. 3:23–24). This is excellence in the marketplace.

A shared organizational vision promotes a standard of excellence. Deep down, people want to do a good job, to have a sense that they are effectively and powerfully advancing God's program through their ministry in the church. The vision casts a picture of what that looks like. It provides a visual, mental measure by which staff and congregation can evaluate how well they and the ministry are doing.

A Vision Sustains Ministry
Ministry can be very difficult, even painful. Discouragement and disappointment often lurk in the ministry hallways and boardrooms of the typical church. It is not beyond the enemy to incite persecution against Christ's church (Acts 8:1). Spiritual warfare comes with the ministry territory (Eph. 6:10–18). Many have risked or given their lives for the Savior and the furtherance of the gospel. The list of martyrs for the cause of Christ is extensive. Why? What has sustained Christians from the beginning of the church in the Book of Acts up to today? One answer is a biblical, compelling vision. It encourages people to look beyond the mundane and the pain of ministry. It keeps a picture in front of them that distracts from what is and announces what could be. All the trouble and grief that we experience in this world while serving the Savior are trivial compared to the importance of what we are attempting for him. That picture, carried in our mental billfolds, is one way God sustains us in the worst of times.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

CBMW DVD and CJ Mahaney

Today I recieved in the mail a gift to myself. Back a few months ago, I purchased a DVD of the conference I attended hosted by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood where Wayne Grudem and CJ Mahaney spoke. I had forgotten I purchased the DVD, as it had been a few months. I love getting things in the mail. Especially things like this. Ok, so I hate getting bills in the mail, but everything else I like getting.

The DVD is a recording of both presentations. Outstanding, and inspiring. As I find to watch it and pour over it, I'll dump little tid bits and thoughts into this blog. The first one is below.


After expositing a bit on 1 Timothy 2:8-15, CJ Mahaney states (my paraphrase): We as pastors don't have the option of ignoring this issue(the issue of Biblical views of manhood and womanhood). That's not an option. We don't have the option of avoiding this issue to avoid offending the culture, or in hopes of expanding evangelism. To the extent that the church understands and applies Biblical manhood and womanhood, I believe the church will be strengthened in her role as a pillar and support of the truth of the Gospel. And to the extent that we ignore this teaching, the church's Gospel proclaiming and Gospel protecting function will be weakened, and potentially or eventually, the Gospel itself will be placed in peril. Therefore it is our role and responsiblity as pastors to claify, cultivate, and celebrate biblical masculinity and femininity.


I believe this issue is a key issue facing the church today. It goes to a root level of worldview and hermeneutics. The message given by Mahaney was quite counter cultural. At least in the USA, the past 40 years of culture has been driven by a humanist view of sexuality. I'm not willing to throw the baby out with the bath water and say all the result of this is negative, but much of what has occurred because of this "sexual revolution" has been a negative on society in my opinion. Abortion, no fault divorce, radical feminism, acceptance of pornography, the homosexual agenda, single mothers, and the confusion between gender roles all are greatly influenced by this humanist view of sexuality that pervades our culture. And many churches are unwilling to stand against it, especially mainstream protestant churches in the USA. For too many years the tail has been wagging the dog, the church has been pushed around by the culture. I think we as pastors, and church members need to insist that we as the church need to be the transforming agent for our culture, and not the other way around. There is some room for discussion on our methodology (See DLW's blog The Anti-Manicheist for a take different than mine on methodology), but no room for the church to be soft on the issue/need for us to be cultural change agents. I believe our views on manhood and womanhood to be secondary issues of primary importance for the modern church.


Joe Carter, at Evangelical Outpost, blogged about the readability of his blog. It got me thinking, and I decided to see how mine measures up.


Readability Results for http://mrclm.blogspot.com
Readability ResultsSummary Value
Total sentences 521
Total words 7,100
Average words per Sentence 13.63
Words with 1 Syllable 4,842
Words with 2 Syllables 1,289
Words with 3 Syllables 639
Words with 4 or more Syllables 330
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 13.65%
Average Syllables per Word 1.50
Gunning Fog Index 10.91
Flesch Reading Ease 66.02
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 7.44

So according to this, my blog reads a bit harder than his does. I suspect that is because I have a number of articles posted in my blog, articles written by smart people who use big words.

Typical Fog Index Scores
Fog Index Resources
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader's Digest
8 - 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 - 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can't ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up

So right now I rank as more difficult to read than Newsweek and Time. I wouldn't consider either of those difficult to read, though the WSJ can give headaches because of the subject matter more than the writing.

I was curious about how this plays out on other things, so I randomly chose 3 sermons by John Piper from desiringgod.org and was surprized to find out that the highest score was just below 8, and the lowest score just above 6. I had expected to find his writing (even in his sermons) to be pretty high reading level stuff. Perhaps I'm confusing his ability to make me think about difficult things with his use of words. I suppose I am inclined to think something is more complex if it requires more thought/discomfort/difficulty on my part.

I am in the middle of a study break from school. We get two weeks in the middle of each semester where we scramble to catch up on all we are behind on, and work ahead if possible. Over the next 6 days I really need to work out one full sermon (Genesis 9), the better part of a second sermon (Genesis3?), refine and think about a third sermon to be preached the end of the month from Ephesians 2:1-10. I also need to review and study Greek, and read a book on reserve at the library. Add to that working 5 days at the Lobster, church meetings this morning and Tuesday morning, J-hi youth group Wednesday night, and a date with my beloved Banana on Friday, and I don't feel as if I'm getting much "break" from the study break. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, as the semester is half over as of today. I'm sure someday I'm going to miss being in school...

In spite of the above, I do feel enormously blessed by God, and feel that this is where He wants me for this season of life. It's funny how we can be where we believe God wants us, but nonetheless still be anxiously looking forward to the next stage. I suppose there is a lesson in there for me to learn to live in the moment, but I'm just too impatient :-) The old "hurry up God and bless me with patience" trap. Life is good. Praise God. Praise God, even when life isn't good.

I also need to quit blogging so late at night. I think my thinking skills decrease this time of night, but my creativity increases. Sometimes that is good, sometimes that is not so good.