Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If you build it, they will come?

I'm here in Indianapolis at a church facilities conference (wfxweb.com).  There are some impressive and expensive church buildings in this country.  I toured one yesterday that was finished last year and cost $30 million.  It was stunning to say the least, and most definitely useful.

There is an emphasis on meeting the needs of today's American culture.  An increasingly connected, visual audience apparently (based on the conference) "needs" multimillion dollar, multimedia experiences driven by the latest technologies.

The four of us attending the conference have talked over meals and during breaks about CBC.  We've identified that there are definitely things we can accomplish in our current facilities and as we dream we wonder what we could accomplish in a new building.

Should we build a new building?  What would a new building have?  How can we best reach Woodbridge?  What is the purpose of a church building?  How can we do church most effectively?

There are so many questions.  Ultimately, we want to glorify God, but how?  What are your thoughts on buildings?  I have tons of thoughts about this and perhaps will write a longer post later.  For now, I just want to get a conversation started.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Is church too "clean?"

Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God - the LORD, the God of his fathers - even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. -2 Chronicles 30:18-20

I read this passage during my daily Bible reading today (Thank you, Richie!), and this verse got me to thinking. It is story of the celebration of the Passover by Hezekiah. In fact, it was the first mass celebration of the Passover in quite some time. What is interesting to note is that Hezekiah had sent out couriers to the the whole nation of Israel, including the northern kingdom, inviting them to come celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. These Israelites from the northern kingdom were the ceremonially unclean referenced in the above passage. Hezekiah does not stop them from participating until they are clean, because there hearts were seeking after God, but rather prays that the LORD will accept them as is, and the LORD hears Hezekiah's prayer.

What got me thinking was the similarities between this story and several passages in the New Testament. The first is the parable of the wedding banquet. The father is throwing a big party for his son, who is getting married, but none of the bigwigs will come. So the father goes to the street corners and allyways and brings all the dirty, lower class people to the party, where he gives them clean robes to wear. What is relevant in this instance, is that the people were dirty when they came, but that the father (God) cleaned them up after they came. The same happens with Hezekiah. The people come unclean, but the LORD sanctifies them after they come.

This is also the debate that the apostles struggled with. Must the Gentiles become Jews (or "cleaned up") before they could become Christians? God's answer, as given through the story of Peter and Cornelious, is NO! It is Christ's blood that washes us clean after we come to the cross. Do we, as the church, still struggle with this today? Do we expect people to clean up their act somewhat before they enter our doors? Do we simply encourage all who wish to seek God and worship him to come on in, as Hezekiah did? Do we remember that it is Christ who sanctifies, not obedience to the Law or rules? I believe a good example of this is with a homosexual. The point is not to get him to leave his homosexuality, but to bring him to salvation. God will then clean him up (or not, which raises the question of how we deal with those who don't seem to be leaving their sin as quickly as we feel they should). In other words, we are not to become "clean" in order to seek God; we are to seek God, welcome all others who do, and leave the cleaning up to God.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Use us or Lose us

Ok my younger brothers take a look at the following blurb (and I will have more after the quote)

Use Me or Lose Me
Recent surveys indicate that more than half of the baby boomer population wants the rest of their lives to count for something more significant. They want to invest the rest of their lives for the betterment of their families, their communities, and their world. This cohort of people is not only huge, but more than half of them want to give back to others. For the church that is aware of these realities, the boomer could well represent the largest labor force for the kingdom that the church has ever seen. These men and women will probably willingly serve in the traditional ways (ushering, greeting, sitting on boards, teaching classes, etc.), but if these are the only offerings you have then many of them will find greater opportunities to give back to the community outside the church. This is what the Baby Boomer means when he says to the church, “Use me or lose me.” He or she would prefer to get involved in something significant in the church, but if the church has little too little to offer, he will find opportunities elsewhere. Leadership Network Advance 3/25/08

There are a few of us boomers who realize we need to groom you for leadership of the church and start passing on leadership and responsibility for the future of the church (including local fellowships such as CBC). That means we need to give you opportunities to lead and not get in the way of you doing "church" different than we did. The question comes as stated above -- how will you engage the boomer labor force to do or be church.

Richie has heard me say before that I have to have a mission to be happy -- serving. Which is one reason I'm looking to go back to govt - I have a skill set that can help defend this nation. But what will I do when I'm ready to retire again at around 60? Maybe go teach? Continue coaching? What will you guys have me do for church as you are now the leaders in a decade?

Some of us don't want to be the guys sitting in the back carping about music or "we didn't do it that way"; or "Why did we stop having Wednesday night meeting or Sunday night meeting?

But my challenge to you my younger brothers is: what's your strategic plan? What would you change and why? What are things we can change now to put us on that path? What forms would you change to meet the function?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bridge Mix

Here are some quick things that I've run across lately that I've been thinking about.

- The 5th commandment to Honor your Father and Mother was given to however many hundreds of thousand former Hebrew Adult slaves (with their respective kids), not only to an elementary school-aged Sunday school class.

- About the whole masculinity issue that the church has been fighting lately to get Men involved and inspired in the church: Jesus was not a wimpy hippie. He flipped tables. He was a carpenter and most likely had a moderate muscular physique. He bore a cross after nearly being beaten to death. He even still had the strength to tell another man he would be in paradise after being beaten and hung by his hands and feet. Jesus didn't hesitate to tell the truth in the face of murderous crowds. He conquered death for goodness sakes. If that's not inspiring to Men, I don't know what is. Go Jesus.

- I read an article at ChristianityToday about the story in John 7-8 about the aldulterous women. Most Bibles mention that this section is not found in most or the earliest manuscripts. I find it interesting that I came across this article today, because Tim had me read John 8 last week and I had been thinking about it, and also yesterday reading Velvet Elvis, he was talking about the inspiration of scripture. So... my wheels have been turning. It seems to me that many Christians are confused about what it means that Scripture is Spiritually inspired, and to what extent they are inspired. When I was younger I used to think that if I could find any mispelling when people quoted scripture, that I could automatically disqualify it as something I didn't need to listen to. I was young, what can I say? But now, the question is, "Can I say that God has never since inspired someone to write something since the last segment of our Bible was written?" Obviously, God's Spirit has worked through people since then. Do I believe things need to be added to scripture? No. Do I think that the woman adulturous story needs to be removed? I'm not sure. But, this topic sure does open a huge can of worms as to discernment into what/who is inspired by God's Spirit and what/who isn't. I think we can all think of things that we know for sure aren't inspired by God, but that other faith bases do believe are inspired. But I know that I can say that I've said things before that God was definitely speaking through me. What about you guys?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Intelligent Design and Expelled

Dinesh D'sousa comments on Expelled. This is the point I've been trying to make about evolution and ID in general. Why should we concede the point on evolution. Paul tried to be everything for every man so that he might win some but I don't believe he sacrificed truth..

Ben Stein Exposes Richard Dawkins
By Dinesh D'Souza
Monday, April 21, 2008

In Ben Stein's new film "Expelled," there is a great scene where Richard Dawkins is going on about how evolution explains everything. This is part of Dawkins' grand claim, which echoes through several of his books, that evolution by itself has refuted the argument from design. The argument from design hold that the design of the universe and of life are most likely the product of an intelligent designer. Dawkins thinks that Darwin has disproven this argument.

So Stein puts to Dawkins a simple question, "How did life begin?" One would think that this is a question that could be easily answered. Dawkins, however, frankly admits that he has no idea. One might expect Dawkins to invoke evolution as the all-purpose explanation. Evolution, however, only explains transitions from one life form to another. Evolution has no explanation for how life got started in the first place. Darwin was very clear about this.

In order for evolution to take place, there had to be a living cell. The difficulty for atheists is that even this original cell is a work of labyrinthine complexity. Franklin Harold writes in The Way of the Cell that even the simplest cells are more ingeniously complicated than man's most elaborate inventions: the factory system or the computer. Moreover, Harold writes that the various components of the cell do not function like random widgets; rather, they work purposefully together, as if cooperating in a planned organized venture. Dawkins himself has described the cell as the kind of supercomputer, noting that it functions through an information system that resembles the software code.

Is it possible that living cells somehow assembled themselves from nonliving things by chance? The probabilities here are so infinitesimal that they approach zero. Moreover, the earth has been around for some 4.5 billion years and the first traces of life have already been found at some 3.5 billion years ago. This is just what we have discovered: it's quite possible that life existed on earth even earlier. What this means is that, within the scope of evolutionary time, life appeared on earth very quickly after the earth itself was formed. Is it reasonable to posit that a chance combination of atoms and molecules, under those conditions, somehow generated a living thing? Could the random collision of molecules somehow produce a computer?

It is ridiculously implausible to think so. And the absurdity was recognized more than a decade ago by Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Yet Crick is a committed atheist. Unwilling to consider the possibility of divine or supernatural creation, Crick suggested that maybe aliens brought life to earth from another planet. And this is precisely the suggestion that Richard Dawkins makes in his response to Ben Stein. Perhaps, he notes, life was delivered to our planet by highly-evolved aliens. Let's call this the "ET" explanation.

Stein brilliantly responds that he had no idea Richard Dawkins believes in intelligent design! And indeed Dawkins does seem to be saying that alien intelligence is responsible for life arriving on earth. What are we to make of this? Basically Dawkins is surrendering on the claim that evolution can account for the origins of life. It can't. The issue now is simply whether a natural intelligence (ET) or a supernatural intelligence (God) created life. Dawkins can't bear the supernatural explanation and so he opts for ET. But doesn't it take as much, or more, faith to believe in extraterrestrial biology majors depositing life on earth than it does to believe in a transcendent creator?


Again - the fact that a student in biology buys into the evolution argument as an excuse not to listen to the gospel is his problem with God. We talked about not getting diverted to side issues when sharing Christ but we also have intellectual reasons to believe in God -- the whole area of apologetics which Paul typified on Mars Hill.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From Church Leaders Intelligence


04.16.08

Church Growth Barriers
As megachurches grow larger, smaller churches are struggling. Many churches deal with the same inevitable growth barriers that keep them from filling their pews and reaching more for Christ. “They essentially find themselves stuck,” says Nelson Searcy, lead pastor of The Journey Church in NYC.

The most fundamental barrier churches face is space. When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full. Searcy observes that most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500 and 1,000.

The second barrier is self-development. If the church’s leaders have stopped maturing spiritually and progressing personally, the congregation is not far behind.

Barrier #3 is focus. Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused. Healthy churches should have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests to regular attendees.

Weekly worship service can be growth barrier #4. Searcy calls it “the front door” through which people get their first impression of the church. “To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size,” he advises.

Barrier #5 is often staff. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. This seems practical, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Searcy says, “You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brick Walls and Trampolines

I just finished reading the section in Velvet Elvis about the Brick Walls and Trampolines, which Terry referred to in this post.

Here are my thoughts:

Lets not discredit Rob Bell for using the virgin birth as his example for the brick analogy. He openly states on the very next page, "I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more."

But the meat of the matter is his analogy of the brick wall and the trampoline. For those of you who have not read this section, the analogy is two parts.

Brick Wall: He is observing that many Christians' faith is brick-like. In other words, one belief is a brick, and each brick sits on top of another brick.
My take: In many ways, this analogy rings true. How else would we have so many different denominations? I think of it as a Lego brick wall. Presbyterians and Protestants might have very similar walls, with a few different colored bricks in the top, middle, and bottom. Some denominations' walls will have different shapes and colors than other walls, but hopefully most of the bottom bricks are the same. We can maybe even say that some of the bottom bricks are different shades of the same color.
Bell goes on to note that "walls" are often defended, and aren't necessarily encouraging for growth, but are more often used as boundaries. I think his analogy breaks down here. First of all, bricks work great if you are describing foundational truths, and how some truths are based on the truth of others. Bricks can also be used to build structures or shelter. Walls shouldn't be the first connotation when we think of bricks. I'm sure that there are many walls Christianity (the Christianity as humans have made it) has built, some good, some bad, some as shelter, but they are not all bad walls. Also, he is only describing the analogy when he says that the virgin birth is only a brick, and what would happen if it was removed? I tend to believe that the virgin birth is a bottom brick, but not the bottom. Christ is the cornerstone after all. If the virgin birth was removed, Christ would still stand and so would a lot of other bricks. (Notice the contrast from this post and my previous post, I still haven't figured it out, and probably never will. God is beyond my comprehension and I like him like that). But let it be said that I think the virgin birth is immovable, because it is so clearly stated in a book I believe is truth.

Trampoline: Here Bell is describing how some aspects of our faith serve as springs in trampolines. They help us understand things better and help us jump higher. Just like jumping simultaneously on a trampoline you can get a much higher "bounce" if you time your jump just right with your partner's landing. One example of a spring is the Trinity. The word trinity is not explicitly stated in scripture. But when we use that "spring" it brings to light so many other aspects of God that we would have had a harder time understanding otherwise. Bell states that springs are not what make up Christianity, but are what help us understand it better.
My take: The trampoline idea is great, but as with most ideas, could be potentially dangerous. Purposefully looking for new springs without discernment can result in a higher jump, but some of them could eventually jump you off the trampoline entirely. I realize I am further stretching this analogy to relate it to getting off course but I feel justified in doing so in light of Bell's stretching of the brick analogy into forming walls.

I also think that while something may be a "spring", it wasn't given to us by our constant thinking and questioning. A true spring is revealed to us by God. God may reveal it to us through our study of scripture, but it is definitely not a man-made revelation. Any not God given spring is definitely one that flings us off the trampoline no matter how subtle it may do so.

Expelled

Ben Stein's movie Expelled comes out some time soon.  I just recently finished reading an article critiquing the film and here is the third to last paragraph in the article. 

"The weakness of the logic of Expelled is beside the point, however. No one who accepts evolution as fact is likely to leave the theater shaken. Some people with looser understandings of the science or the legal issues might buy into its arguments about "fairness" and protecting religion against science. Expelled is nonetheless mostly a film for ID creationism's religious base. That audience has seen one setback after the next in recent years, with science rejecting ID as useless and the courts rebuffing it as for a constitutional violation in public education. For them, Expelled is a rallying point to revive their morale."

For the full article (it's kinda long) go here http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ben-steins-expelled-review-john-rennie.

I think I'm just posting this so everyone is aware of how the movie might be perceived.  I'm not trying to make a statement or anything, just purely providing information.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Variability and God

This is a topic that I find very interesting. There are definite truths in both sides as far as I can tell, but I'm going to present you with both to generate discussion. I don't know if there is any other documentation on this topic, but it's something I think about a good bit. A discussion Richie, Terry, and I had last night reminded me of it.

Here it is:

Could God have made any of his choices differently? On the surface it seems like an easy question: "Of course. He's God, he can do whatever he wants." But on the other hand: "Of course not, He's God." Here's what I mean:

Every decision God makes is made by Godly discernment. Therefore, every decision God makes is just, wise, true. The properties of these decisions make every other dicision unjust, unwise, and untrue. We could even add other descriptors there, but those are just the ones that came to my head. God can't act against himself because that would be sin. This could even tie in to predestination-type topics. If God knows all, He knows himself, and does He therefore know every decision He will make?

Often, people say, "God could have not done such and such but will still have been God." Such as creating the earth, humans, etc. I'm not sure of the answer to that question. But here's a subtopic leaving behind the topic of creation. Could God have created human beings who he knew would fall into sin, but not save them? John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends". Of course, you could argue that Jesus could not have come to earth, and then would not be subject to showing greater love because he had never become 'Man'.

The other side of this is, if every decision God has made (and will make, in human terms) would have been made the same every time because God is God, then does God have personality? Does God have choice? Everything inside me also wants to say that he does. If God didn't have those things, then it almost makes God not alive, and we all know that he very much is.

Anyways, there is a whole slew of topics. I'm torn between them, and I hope hearing you guys discuss it will help sort some things out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Now this is just silly - and does make us look like nuts

Quote

REEDSBURG, Wis. (AP) - An elementary-school event in which kids were encouraged to dress as members of the opposite gender drew the ire of a Christian radio group, whose angry broadcast prompted outraged calls to the district office.
Students at Pineview Elementary in Reedsburg had been dressing in costume all last week as part of an annual school tradition called Wacky Week. On Friday, students were encouraged to dress either as senior citizens or as members of the opposite sex.
A local resident informed the Voice of Christian Youth America on Friday. The Milwaukee-based radio network responded by interrupting its morning programming for a special broadcast that aired on nine radio stations throughout Wisconsin. The broadcast criticized the dress-up day and accused the district of promoting alternative lifestyles.
"We believe it's the wrong message to send to elementary students," said Jim Schneider, the network's program director. "Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values. To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error."
Schneider co-hosts "Crosstalk," a nationally syndicated call-in Christian radio show.
After the program aired, both the school and Reedsburg School District office were flooded with calls complaining about the event.
The response surprised Principal Tammy Hayes, who said no one had raised any objections beforehand. She said a flier detailing Wacky Week had been sent home with children the prior week, and an announcement was also included in teacher newsletters.
The dress-up day was not an attempt to promote cross-dressing, homosexuality or alternative gender roles, district administrator Tom Benson said.
"The promotion of transgenderism - that was not our purpose," Benson told the Baraboo News Republic. "Our purpose was to have a Wacky Week, mixing in a bit of silliness with our reading, writing and arithmetic."
The theme for Friday's dress-up day came from students, Hayes said.
"It's different every year. They basically present the ideas, and they vote on what they would like from Monday through Friday," Hayes said. "... They did not mean anything by this day. They were trying to have fun and come up with a fun dress-up day."
About 40 percent of the student body dressed up Friday, Hayes estimated, with half portraying senior citizens and half dressing as the opposite sex.
"I can assure you we will not be having this day (again)," Hayes said.
Reedsburg is in southern Wisconsin, about 60 miles northwest of Madison.

Unquote.

Now this is the kind of stuff where we do overreact - you can't find a boogyman in everything that goes on. I take the school system at its word that they were not promoting alternative lifestyles. This episode probably set back folks witnessing and sharing Christ up in that area a great deal. It probably would have been better to have addressed this with the school principal instead of stirring up the pot.

Velvet Elvis

I just scanned several pages of the book on google books and would like to read the whole thing. I did stumble on the brick analogy and the virgin birth pages and am very concerned about his thinking. It is one thing for an unbeliever to not understand the nuances of the virgin birth and not believe that by faith because he has none. It is quite a different thing for a believer to buy into his argument.

If you want to have these discussions in a theology class that would be the place to do it but to continue to doubt the fundamental tenets of the faith that set it apart from other faith systems is to call God a liar. We've heard all these arguments before: the word translated virgin could mean young woman -- the context of Isaiah make that interpretation improbable. Then you have to throw out the whole speech of the angel to Mary when she questioned him by saying "how can this be since I'm a virgin?" and the explanation to her by the angel. Some of this argument Bell makes comes right from mormon theology.

Yes we need to share Christ - but what Christ are you sharing with others? The Sovereign God of the universe who created it by a word who became one of us or a Christ that had a biological father and some how mystically became God?

I like a discussion as much as the next but this is dangerous thinking if he is suggesting it really doesn't matter whether God created in 6 days or Christ was born of a real virgin. Look how CS Lewis approached these matters --you can't call him an intellectual slouch - he didn't shrink from these matters. Look at the other christian apologists over the years - even down to Bill Craig.

What does Bell say about the death and resurrection? are those metephorical writings too? Where does he draw the line on where he will base his faith??

Let the discussion begin

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Live the Life

Preach the gospel to all the world, and if necessary, use words. -st. francis of assisi

Were passengers aboard the train
Silent little lambs amidst the pain
Thats no longer good enough
And when its time to speak our faith
We use a language no one can explain
Thats no longer good enough
And God knows its a shame
As we look to pass the flame
We are not the worthy bearers of his name

Chorus:
For the world to know the truth
There can be no greater proof
Than to live the life, live the life
Theres no love thats quite as pure
Theres no pain we cant endure
If we live the life, live the life
Be a light for all to see
For every act of love will set you free

Theres something beautiful and bold
The power of a million human souls
Come together as one
And each in turn goes out to lead
Another by his word, his love, his deed
Now the circle is done
It all comes back to one
For it is he and he alone
Who has lived the only perfect life weve known
-- Michael W Smith

Interesting discussion today at men's fellowship breakfast about again living your life as flawed as it is and loving folks. One ancedote shared by Allen Hickox about a guy he meets in the gym who was constantly telling dirty jokes that Allen really didn't care to hear. How do you tell the guy you really don't care to hear them without coming across as judgmental? I can't remember now his exact response but it was along the lines of "I don't really relate to those -- what other jokes do you have" Another comment Allen said to him jokingly when these would come up was: How does your wife tolerate you? The guy replied, she doesn't. I wish I could remember the exact line he used because it was really good and not judgmental. As it was the guy did have some other stuff - like conservative jokes (the guy is liberal) so they did have some stuff they could banter back and forth. This opened up a quasi-friendship so much that the guy felt comfortable sharing that he was having some problems at home. Allen simply asked if he could pray for them and then followed up the next time they were in the gym.

I guess these are the kinds of things we should be looking for when the song says to live the life. And when scripture says to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in you...

And I guess we should be praying for these opportunities. O one other thing - 12 guys spent three years with Jesus day in and day out. We know one of them betrayed him; might know the names of 3 or 4 others - 6 max I would say. What about the ones who never wrote scripture and we hardly remember their names? What did they do? How come we don't hear about there efforts in spreading the gospel? Maybe its to remind us that simply living our lives and loving each other and other people is all we are really called to do. Just be faithful....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Finish the line...

Rudolph the red nose reindeer....

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks....

I can't get no....

Hit me baby....

Jingle bells, batman smells....

Melts in your mouth....

Like a good neighbor....

Help I've fallen....

Thy word have I hidden in my heart....

Good maybe you got that one

Sanctify them by the truth....

Maybe that one was harder

Think about all those songs and jingles that you know all the words to, you have them memorized because we hear them over and over again. We spend time listening to them and looking at them and dwelling on them so that we have these statements in our head that we can spit out. What if we could do that with scripture, if we meditated on it so that someone could start a verse and we could finish it. All of this came from a Francis Chan sermon (part of a series he was doing on Intimacy With God). Psalm 119:11 says I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. So much of Psalm 119 talks about that, the idea of meditating on Gods word so that you can remain pure like in vs. 9. Thats great if you could finish those verses above but think about all of your friends or people you know in the church that can't finish those verses. I am sure we all want to live a more pure life and not sin against God as much as we do and I think we often over complicate things. Psalm 119 says that if we need to know Gods word and hide it in our hearts.

We also see the word of God as a sword in Ephesians, Hebrews, and Revelation. This is our offensive weapon against Satan. We see Jesus use this when He was being tempted in the desert, he responded with the word of God. This has been on my mind this past week and I hope it can be an encouragement to you too.