Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

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“Jeopardy Churches”

January 28, 2009

jeopardy

In 1969 Barb and I moved to Pennsylvania to preach for an established church that needed a pulpit minister. Little did I know that that move would begin my journey out of legalism and into a broader understanding of God’s Grace. We were away from the Bible Belt and in an area with few Churches of Christ. I was fortunate to have fellow preachers within a short driving distance of where I lived. When together with these fellows I began to learn that they did not always see eye to eye with me on my understanding of scripture. The challenges that would follow would send me on a mission to learn the Bible and not just rely on pat answers that I had accepted from our brotherhood preachers, books and publications.

 

Mike Cope’s blog from the 26th. reminded me of those early years.

Len Sweet talks about the passing of the Jeopardy churches: churches that think their job is to answer every question. (I guess more precisely to match the show, they provide the exact question to fit every answer!)

Most people aren’t dying to be with people who think they know everything. It’s much more exciting to be on a journey — where everyone’s insights and everyone’s experiences are valued and then considered through interaction and discernment.

People don’t need to be given a thousand answers. They need to be invited to follow the One who is himself the Answer/the Way. They need to be invited to a life that is other than self-obsession, self-preoccupation, and self-preservation.

The way of the cross. That is the answer.

Those early years of transition from finding all the answers to finding the one who had all the answers opened my eyes to how immature it was for a person or church to think they could have all the answers. I gradually came to realize that I was simply on a journey with others seekers. We had all begun at different points, but our ultimate goal was to find Jesus and His will for our lives. They were not evil “truth” haters, closed minded defenders of evil. They were much like me, filled with preconceived ideas and opinions put there by folks that thought they were doing the will of the Father.

I am a big fan of “The Dog Whisper” on the National Geographic Channel. This guy understands how dogs think. One evening recently he mentioned how important it was not to introduce two strange dogs to each other – eye ball to eye ball. Rather he suggested that they meet and walk side by side for a bit before they begin the other routines dogs have to check each other out.

That made me think. Meeting eye ball to eye ball sounded a lot like the days of debates. Introductions were made and then the fight was on. I wonder if those meetings could have ended differently if first they had walked side by side and discussed what they had in common. What if we had seen each other as equals on a journey together to seek the will of the Father? What if we had seen each other as people with honest motives and intent?

I like Len Sweet’s characterization of “Jeopardy Churches”. It is sad but so very true. I think “Jeopardy churches” are just generations away from death. The declines of the past years will continue to increase and take there toll as more and more members either die or awaken to the reality of God’s Grace. Their children are already voting with their feet. Sadly, it is just a matter of time.

Answer: They don’t understand God’s Grace. Question: What is the reason churches are on the decline?

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Christian Without Adjectives

September 13, 2008

Recently in a Bible Class I was teaching someone came up to me after class and said, “You are a _________.” My reply was no, I am a Christian. We are a world full of labels. Some of the labels describe the group we belong to, the type of work we do. Some are considered positive, other are intended to demean and put down. Others describe our social and financial status.

 

Wouldn’t you love to be apart of a world where simply because of your faith in and commitment to Jesus that you would just be called a Christian. Sounds kind of New Testament doesn’t it?

 

The main thing that keeps us from being just Christians is that we have been branded; no, not with a hot iron, but with certain beliefs that make us unique. While we may argue that these beliefs are not a matter of salvation and that we can have fellowship with God and His Son with these differences, they still keep us apart. You know the “birds of a feather” thing. We don’t do things together because we worry who would get the credit, so we go our separate ways serving Him with those different adjectives that keep us apart.

 

Our definition of unity doesn’t help either. I have heard for years that unity means we all have to say exactly the same things in the same ways. Yet none of us have ever been able to do it. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind (John 17:21), or the Apostles either. The unity they spoke of was centered in a faith in Christ and it was already present. Our instruction was to preserve and protect it, not establish it. (Eph. 4:3). Judaizers were the big issue in the first century. What was challenging the unity that already existed was a difference of law and grace, the heart and core of what make one a Christian in the first place.

 

Division is so ingrained in those who wear the name Christian that individual religious groups separated by adjectives have their own groups separated by even more adjectives. I think that the only way we will ever be able to get rid of the adjectives is to focus on Jesus and not our adjectives. Can we all agree to worship Him, and love and accept each other? No more labels, pigeon holes, boxes…yes and no more adjectives.

 

I just want to be a Christian. If we could do that then the world would know that God sent Jesus and many of them could be just Christians too.

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“Gentlemen, this is a football”

August 6, 2008

“Gentleman, this is a football”, Vintage Vince Lombardi. The quote was all about getting back to basics. And it is true with reference to more than football. Whenever you find yourself floundering…get back to basics. If you are not growing…get back to basics. If you don’t know what to do next…get back to basics.

 

Followers of Christ are in a numerical decline. Even the Baptist are beginning to fess up to their over inflated “membership” numbers and admit that there are many more on the roles than in service to the King. (Read more here). Today there is a greater profession of believe in God and a greater lack of evidence of that faith than at anytime in history. Evangelism has not only become an archaic word that strikes fear in the hearts of Christians, it is no longer practiced as a response to the marching orders of our King. Percentages of those who are involved in pornography, that are getting divorced and that are materialist to excess are about the same for both Christian and Non-Christian alike. Christ followers need to get back to basics. Can I get an Amen?

 

“Ladies and Gentleman, this is a Bible”.

 

Prophets of old along with John on Patmos were told to, “Eat this book” referring to the message that God had given them. Read it, chew on it (meditate), digest it; make it apart of who you are. This is an individual responsibility.

 

As for the assembled church, Bible Classes need to become Bible Study Classes.  Does this sound familiar? A teacher stands up and reads a verse, then asks the class, “What do you think that means?”  And off they go into 30 to 45 minutes of shared ignorance, parroted answers learned by rote and uneducated guesses.  No wonder our kids are leaving the church in greater numbers than ever before.

 

Sincere and genuine Christians are trying to be better Christians and think that the answers will be found in the next great spirtual novel or spiritual self help book. They are fighting a battle with no armor, no weapons and no ammunition. The roaring lion is hot on their trail and they are trying to fight him off with a switch.

 

If you are stubbing, falling over things in the dark and trying to feel your way through life…turn on the light!

 

 

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UNCHRISTIAN…THE BOOK

June 24, 2008

You may not like the conclusions of this book, but you will have a hard time saying that they are not true. The following is a CNN interview with the book’s author. The interviewer is pretty savvy and I think fair in the questions he asks.

Take a look at this one also.

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Churchgoer vs Christian

May 20, 2008

Taking their lead from the PC – Mac parodies that you have seen on TV a group has a whole series of the Churchgoer vs Christian videos. Here are a couple. If you like them click on the YouTube logo in the video and it will take you to these and others.

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Shepherds – They Smell Like Sheep

May 5, 2008

 

 

 

 

Two weeks ago I was appointed a Shepherd for the Madison Church. Since I began my ministry back in 1967 I have worked with Shepherds in numerous churches. Sometimes as a member of a congregation, sometimes as a member and the preaching minister and sometimes with leaders who were supporting works that Barb and I were involved in. I have through the years preached many sermons and taught numerous lessons on Pastors, Elders, Shepherds, and Bishops as they are called in the New Testament. As I accept the responsibility of a Shepherd, I am given an opportunity to practice what I have preached.

 

It is a sobering thought!

 

I solicit your prayers.

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If We Are The Body…

February 13, 2008