Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Perspective

A good friend of mine is going through some struggles with our church. He's been pretty deep into a leadership role. That's often where pain and frustration happens at church. When you get "behind the curtain" and start dealing with all the real people involved in leadership. I was always cautious never to let a new Christian into a position of leadership at my church. The deeper you get the more dangerous it can be to your faith!

So my friend has discovered this book that's been out a few years now titled, "So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore". It's written by a couple of pastors under a single pseudonym. Because of my history in the church and my avid search for a better way to do church, I'm going to be reading the book with him. I'll be blogging about the thoughts I have on it.

I invite you to consider reading it, too. If you do, I'd love it if you would comment here and let me know what you think. I also found a website with a lot of podcasts by these two guys. I don't know if I'll have time to listen to these, but some of the topics are just interesting enough that I might.

Anyway, the overall frustration with the way church is done in Western culture is spawning a lot of interesting conversations. It's irritating to traditionalists but I think this is important as the church continues through it's new reformation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cowardly Lion

Sorry for the delay in getting to this third of three posts on the Wizard of Oz theme. The Cowardly Lion lacked courage. Although he was born to be King of the Jungle, his lack of courage caused him to hide in fear rather than claiming his rightful place. When it came to intimidating young girls he was all roar and bluster at first but quickly dissolved to tears at the first challenge.

How is it the Church, the Bride of Christ, has become such a pitiful laughingstock in the U.S.? It seems increasingly that church is most often the place where women gather and men occasionally stop by. How have we missed the truth that we are children of the King? We have been declared co-heirs with Christ. That makes us royalty. But like the Cowardly Lion we choose not to live in that reality.

How can the church better communicate to all those who follow Christ the nature of their true identity? How do we overcome the lies and help Christians live fully convinced of their God-given place? The answer isn't in better sermons or more inspirational worship services. I'm convinced that confidence comes from experience. The church must provide opportunities for people to experience the reality of being children of the King. In my opinion this means regular and challenging opportunities to serve others. Service to others has the power to change lives.

When given the challenge to attack the fortress of the wicked witch the Lion rose to the occasion and his life was changed. Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Okay, so I wasn't intending to do a little mini-series on Dorothy's three traveling companions. But this morning I woke up with another thought on the struggles of the Christian church in America that could be illustrated with the Scarecrow. And, yes, a Cowardly Lion analogy has also come to mind...but you'll have to wait for that one.

The Scarecrow lacked a brain. Or, at least he thought he did. I won't go down the rabbit trail of how you can think you don't have a brain if you don't have a brain. Anyway, one of my frustrations with the church in America for decades now has been the utter Biblical illiteracy of the people in the seats. In a country with such an immense educational system and a Sunday School system in most denominations that is very well developed, why do we have so many people who are so ignorant when it comes to the Word of God? What has the church done to "teach" people that reading the Bible isn't a matter of life and death?

In my humble opinion we've inadvertently communicated that Biblical knowledge is the bailiwick of the pastors. No need for you to dig deep into scripture because there's someone who's taking care of that as their full time job. It's so ingrained in our culture now that even when pastors, in sheer frustration, beg, plead and cajole their people to read the Bible only a handful actually do. Bible classes are poorly attended and those who do come still aren't really digging into scripture like it was the best meal they'd ever experienced.

I'm convinced that until people become intimately familiar with the Bible itself...not books about the Bible, or study courses, or Christian fiction but the actual Bible...we'll continue to hear the theological equivalent of "if I only had a brain" from those who call themselves Christians.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tin Man

Just a few days ago I returned from Scotland where I attended the British Open golf tournament. Now I'm visiting locations for our community service events on the East coast. I've had a lot of time in planes and cars. Inevitably my mind turns to the church. Sometimes it's why did I leave church work and should I go back to it. Sometimes it's reflections on what the church does and why.

Over the last couple of weeks I've finished the book Wicked upon which the smash Broadway musical was based. There's a surprising bit of conversation in the book about religion and belief. There's very little about the tin man.

But the story of the tin man is that he didn't have a heart. Have you ever felt empty inside? Purposeless? Today I got to thinking about the role the church plays in dealing with this. Did you know that scripture tells us that the role of church leadership is to equip the saints for ministry? Then I got to thinking that in most churches the leadership hoards the ministry instead of equipping others and giving it away. I finally put the two together. Maybe all those people in the seats on Sundays who are listless and unmotivated aren't being equipped for ministry. Maybe they lack the heart because no one in leadership is uncovering, nurturing and encouraging the gifts God's given them. Maybe we in church leadership aren't following Biblical counsel and are cheating all those people out of the chance of living full and fulfilling lives.

Maybe we're holding on to the tin man's heart and it's time to give it back to him.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Frustrating As Always

Had the chance today to read another persons review of a dying church that I've been trying to help. Pretty much the same assessment as I've had. The church isn't welcoming, the services are muddled and confusing, the music is poorly done and...this is my addition...the pastor really doesn't care.

How can anyone take money from people to lead a congregation and truly not care about what happens to the church and still sleep at night? I truly don't get it. He seems like a nice guy, but the reality of what he's doing is devastating this church. But he keeps cashing the checks. Worse, the church keeps paying his salary and benefits.

I don't know what's worst of all, a congregation that won't hold their pastor accountable or a pastor who seriously couldn't care less the church he leads is going down the toilet.

P.S. I'm headed out of the country for a week so won't be posting, most likely.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The King is Dead

In case you hadn't noticed, Michael Jackson, The King of Pop died suddenly at the age of 50 on June 25th. I thought I'd mention it because you may have missed the worldwide media frenzy, the tweets that temporarily shutdown Twitter or the overwhelming surge in sales of anything having to do with Jacko.

I'm fifty myself born just nine days before Michael in August of 1958. I really enjoy his music and thought he was a very special talent. My daughter is crazy about him which her 20 something friends don't really get. I get it because my friends didn't get it when the death of Elvis rocked my world in 1977. But this post isn't about Michael or Elvis. It's about a world that worships and idolizes frail, broken, sinful human beings. We keep looking for the divine in other human beings. It's a natural urge we humans have because we know there's something better than ourselves. Our Creator built it into us to look for Him.

But while nearly all the world was trying to catch a last glimpse of the greatness of Michael Jackson, thousands of people across the U.S. were truly reflecting the glory of the true King, Jesus Christ. If you're hungry for the divine and you want to see what people filled with the Holy Spirit look like, I invite you to take a look at any of the Workcamps or Weeks of Hope happening right now across the country.

Young men and women are giving up a part of their summers and a substantial amount of money to help elderly, disabled and disadvantaged people they've never met in communities they've never been to before. They're sleeping on classroom floors, eating cafeteria food and working in rain, heat and humidity. All of this because they're followers of Jesus Christ. Bit by bit, little by little they're changing lives and making a world of difference. Just tonight some of them are being so deeply affected by the experience that it's redirecting their lives.

I doubt any of these people will get a gigantic memorial service at Staples Center when their lives come to an end. But if you're looking for the truly divine skip the pop icons and take a look at people living out their faith with genuine passion and commitment. That's the church at her best and you'll never find better.