Friday, June 26, 2009

The Real Thing

In just a couple of hours I'll board a plane for Utah. Next week I'm leading a Workcamp for my company serving the Ute Nation in northern Utah. It's the highlight of my year to be able to work with Christian teens making a real difference in the lives of people in need.

One of the things I like most about this work is that we're not doing street theater or handing out tracts. We're actually impacting the lives of people by meeting their basic needs. That kind of thinking really upsets a lot of people who believe the most basic need is eternal salvation. In my experience people who don't have secure shelter, sufficient food or a bed to sleep in aren't much impressed with your concern for their eternity. When you help people because you love Jesus it may make them curious to know this same Jesus...or it may not. That's not really the point.

We help because Christ calls us to the task. We demonstrate love to these people and expect nothing in return. We put our faith into action, not as a recruitment tool or a sales gimmick, but out of genuine concern for the least of these. At the end of the day I'm more concerned about lives touched than a salvation body count. It's all about motivation and I truly believe people can tell the difference.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Departure

For all my readers who have their own blogs or websites I just wanted to take a moment and let you know about an amazing free advertising service I found. It really is free and you'll have the opportunity to drive traffic to your website or blog. And if you're serious about sharing your thoughts with the world, as I am, you really should check it out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

When Hollywood Gets it Right

I'm up late watching Sister Act on TBS. There's a lot to admire in this movie. The underlying theme of a church being revitalized by a woman from the "outside" is very moving. It also reveals the prevailing world view that many Christians isolate themselves hiding from the real world behind walls and prayer.

It's an older movie, but that opinion is still strong in our culture. Church doesn't really have anything to do with real life. We Christians are responsible for some of that perception. In my experience organized religion, as a rule, takes so very long to catch-up with the culture. Centuries ago the church was the cultural center of the world. All the best art, music, literature and more came directly from the church. Some of the finest beer in the world is brewed in monasteries.

I believe the reflective, prayerful, holy life can, in fact coexist and even more, effectively interact with the culture. We can get outside the walls and make a huge difference in the neighborhoods right around us. And beyond.

It doesn't just happen in the movies. And today it's more urgent than ever that we find a way make a real impact in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Helping No One

Today I was once again reminded why I started this blog in the first place. There are just so many churches out there being led by people who lack leadership skills. Granted, leading is hard. Leaders have to rally the troops. Leaders have to exercise discipline, both personally and corporately. Leaders must confront individual wrongdoing for the sake of the integrity of the larger ministry.

There are far too many people in church leadership (pastors) who lack the requisite skills to deal head-on with uncomfortable situations. Fear of offending folks or causing people to leave the church ends up crippling a pastor's ability to accomplish good ministry. We settle for mediocre, or worse, as long as no feathers are ruffled.

The truth is that when a pastor refuses to confront blatant misbehavior and allows people to continue as if nothing was out of order no one is helped. The person engaged in reckless and destructive behavior is enabled. People affected by the behavior are wounded. People watching the behavior and lack of any action are confused. Eventually the whole mess collapses while people claim there was nothing they could do.

Good leaders take action that is appropriate, timely and well considered. Rarely will you find difficult situations going unaddressed in a healthy church.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Praise for a Friend

One of my best friends from college is the senior pastor of a church in Illinois. I stopped by to visit him today as we headed back to Colorado following my mother-in-law's funeral. I have to say I'm consistently impressed with his church and the way in which he's leading.

The church is developing new locations with new formats and my friend, Mark, is raising up pastoral leadership from within the congregation. No fewer than three men are currently pursuing ordination while they lead ministries within the church. They've developed a cool little coffee shop area on the main floor, they have an awesome video producer (who also happens to have come out of my youth ministry) and so much more. They put on a clinic for people in the neighborhood offering simple exams, and more.

There's a dynamism to the place and I credit pastoral leadership for this. He's casting a big vision for how this church can truly make a difference. It's hard work and it pushes the comfort level of staff and members alike. But real ministry is seldom easy. It's fun to visit places where they're mostly getting it right.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Moving to the Front of the Room

I haven't blogged in a bit because my Mother-in-Law died last Friday and my wife and I are on an unexpected trip to Chicago. It's been an interesting few days as we've navigated through the traditional rituals surrounding death in this culture.

As strong believers in Jesus Christ both my wife and I find this to be a time of great joy as her mother was struggling with dementia and has been steadily losing her capacity to remember anything for the last few years. Her sudden and unexpected death from a perforated bowel was such a blessing and a release from the slow death from Alzheimer's that we were expecting. That and our certain knowledge that she's been released from this temporal life of pain to an eternal life of freedom in God's amazing presence made for more celebration than mourning.

Lots of people...even fellow Christians...don't quite get that. How can you be okay with the death of a parent? The simple truth is that none of us gets out of this existence alive, physically anyway. We will all die. It struck me more this time than any other, that we're all moving to the front of the room. (For those who've not attended any funerals, the front of the room is occupied by the dead body in the casket!)

If scripture is true, those who truly know Jesus are actually longing for the day when they get to the front of the room. There's an anxious longing to be shed of this body and to get on with eternity free from the pain and oppression of sin we experience here.

I wonder if the church were doing a better job of expressing the joy, peace and freedom that is ours both in this life and in the life after this one if there wouldn't be more people excited about moving to the front of the room. If we were really living out the incredible life Jesus accomplished for us on the cross there might be more celebrating and less mourning when our faithful loved ones make the transition from this life to the next. Churches should be full of people living out the victorious life regardless of physical circumstances and eagerly awaiting their turn at the front of the room. Since that's not usually the case, I'm left to wonder...yet again...if those who lead our churches are doing all they can to help us fully grasp this truth.