Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

h1

“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?

Advertisement
h1

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.

h1

“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!

 

 

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

If We Are The Body…

February 13, 2008
h1

Different Times Demand Different Approaches

December 18, 2007

mcvey_dan.jpg

Dan McVey is Missions Coordinator for Africa at the College For Bibilical Studies at Abilene Christian University, in Abilene, TX. He is also a Board Member for Arewa Aid. This is an important essay that calls us to different approaches to missions and our own mission. Hope you enjoy!

Since its birth 2000 years ago, the Way of Jesus Christ has always been a flexible faith, emphasizing allegiance to Jesus Christ as its single most defining characteristic, capable of entering any culture, transforming it and moving in missionary waves to cultures and societies beyond. Christianity always has had shifting centers of influence in its history of expansion. From the Jewish temple and synagogues to the Greek temples and markets, and from the Roman legions and bishops to the Germanic monks and reformers, the Kingdom of Christ has seen gradual shifts in its centers of dynamism, theology and impetus for growth. Another such shift is happening right before our eyes. In shades and hues and now in brilliant flashes of light, the Kingdom of our Lord is expanding into new territories, and our theologies and vocabularies will reflect these changes in years to come.

What we are experiencing has been termed a “New Reformation,” the “Third Church” (Orthodox as the first, Roman Catholic/Protestant as the second, and this emerging World Kingdom as the third), and the “Renewal of Christianity as a Non-western Religion.” We are seeing a changing world, a growing Kingdom and changing expressions of missions. Where is the “mission field?” The word “missionary” has lost most of its traditional meaning (a westerner who travels to foreign fields of service), and is being redefined as cross-cultural servants from anywhere to anywhere under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Migration of believers, vocational missions, and creative access to unreached people are some of the most significant movements in church planting and evangelism.

In this changing world of Kingdom Times, we need new paradigms through which we view the opportunities and calls of God to serve in his world. Questions for the future include: 1) what is our role? 2) what message do we have? 3) what does partnership with God look like in this rapidly changing time? 4) what are our goals in missions? 5) how do we participate in God’s work in reaching the unreached portions of the world? and 6) how is the Spirit of God preparing the coming generations for their roles in these momentous times?

Two observations:

  1. We cannot continue to “do missions” as we have for the past 20 years. These are different times with different needs and we are different people with the unchanging message of Jesus.
  2. “The church that lives comfortably in the post-Christendom West is unable to respond to the pain and spiritual need of postmodern generations” (Samuel Escobar). We must reflect on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in sincere/authentic expression of faith in growing communities of faith within our own culture. Furthermore, we must cast long vision into the future of what our own churches are going to look like and how they will function in the coming generational, revolutionary shift of religious expression in North America.

God is raising the bar for those who are called to participate in these Kingdom Times. Fresh looks at simple lifestyle approaches, partnership with emerging churches, and laying aside our fixation on personal safety so that we may target the truly unreached places of the world-these are some of the issues we must address if we wish to be strategic co-workers with God. These are exciting times. These are testing times. Church history abounds with examples of fellowships and movements that were marginalized through political compromise, and submission to overwhelming cultural influences and apathetic disconnection from the needs of the world. Our roles, needs and abilities may see change, but the Kingdom marches on. Some day, as a matter of routine rather than the exception, we will be studying Chinese and African theologians, singing African and Polynesian hymns, and imitating Indian and Korean disciplines of faith. And it will be just fine. We are getting closer to the vision of Revelation 7.9-10 all the time, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”

h1

Motivation To Preach

November 1, 2007

hodges_023b.jpg

Street Preaching In Ghana, West Africa 1970

The marching orders of the Lord, or the “Great Commission” as we termed it, was given much more of a priority when I was growing up. I can remember when missionaries came to town they were given opportunities to speak and tell of their work. As a young boy I looked up to these servants of the Lord, and their challenges took hold of my heart at an early age. This coupled with the encouragement of the minister in my home congregation led me to the decision to become a minister. After preaching locally in Tennessee for a couple years I felt that I had to preach in a mission field. So at the ripe old age of 24 Barb and I began our first full time work in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, a northeast mission field.

 

Among the numerous reasons for the church’s lack of growth today I would list the lack of encouragement and exposure to the importance of preaching, and the urgency of the “Great Commission”. Seldom today do you have the opportunity to hear a missionary speak of their work. Young men today are encourage to make many career choices, but seldom are they encourage to devote their lives to preaching the Gospel of Christ.

 

I realize that part of the reason for this is the way preachers have been treated through the years. The horror stories are many. Another reason is that our tribe has no central control or headquarters, that provide a retirement program for their ministers. At the same time most ministers are not paid enough to provide their own. There is not much financial security in ministry with our tribe.

I guess all this says that there has to be a greater motivation to preach than financial security, and recognition in this life. And maybe that is the way it should be. As I look back on the lives that have been transformed by the message of Jesus that was preached and the lives that are now being touched by those who were transformed; that is wealth you can’t see in a bank account or spend at the Mall, but it is so very valuable.

One day in glory we will see the true value of the investments we have made during our life time. Only those that transcend time will really matter then. So if you are a minister of the Gospel…preach on brother! And while you are at it, allow a missionary to speak, take a young man aside and let him know that you believe in him and his abilities. Tell a young lady, as I did a number of years ago, you are going to grow up and become a missionary. LaJuana along with her husband Eddison have raised four beautiful children and have served as missionaries in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for over 20 years. She often reminds me of what I told her.

 fowlers.jpg

I have always loved Isa. 6:1-8. Isaiah describes the throne room of God. His first reaction was to exclaimed, “I am doomed”. His sin so prevalent in contrast to the presence of God would surely cause Him to be destroyed. But the Angel comes and touches his lips with a hot coal and pronounces that his sins are forgiven. Then comes the question from the throne, “Whom shall I send”. Isaiah now cleansed and filled with gratitude says, “Here am I, send me.” May our gratitude send us into our mission field as well.

 

November 2, 2007 Let me encouage you to read the following article at the Christian Chronicle

h1

The Dogs Bark…

October 17, 2007

wagon-train.jpg

Most folks who read this blog are aware of the struggles that the Madison Church went through some years back. What you may not be aware of is that since that time we have had, for lack of a better term, a religious stalker who hangs out in the balcony and reports on what he perceives to be our “religious departures from the pattern”. He even has a web site where he spews out his venom, along with a couple others self appointed keepers of the truth, who are determined to straighten out the change agents that they see on ever corner. His reports had dropped off almost to zero since Keith Lancaster resigned as our worship minister. Keith seemed to have been the main target of his poison pen. But of late he, along with his associates, have begun there attacks on others at Madison.

 

What is truly sad about this whole scenario is that the mission and purpose for the church’s existence has been set aside in the interest of “contending for the faith”, which is really not contending for the faith, but what “I” want. The real problem in most church fusses is not about doctrine, it is really about power. It is about who is going to be in control.  So someone doesn’t get his/her way, and they go off and set up a web site, or publication, etc. to straighten out everybody who doesn’t agree with them.

What is more sad is that those who set themselves up as “the” authority in what is or is not truth have a pompous arrogance about them that tries to intimidate others into submission. As they preach to correct all comers they sound like a little self appointed pope who in some way has been anointed with divine understanding. There is no, “come let US reason TOGETHER”, it come and submit to MY understanding.

Back in the old west when wagons traveled in caravans and they would pass through a town, inevitably the home town dogs would come out and bark at the wagons and nip at the heels of the horses. A word of wisdom comes from that picture from the past that can be applied to the Nay Sayers of our day. “The dogs bark, but the caravan keeps on moving.”