Friday, December 14, 2007

Seeking a New Approach To Church

Ever wonder if our 21st-century approach to church is entirely wrong?

I have conversations with many people that are rather disgruntled at the state of "the church." And they don't always know if the problem lies with the leadership, or the congregants. After all, a good portion of many church-goers are once-a-week attendees that really have no community with the church body. They come, they enjoy a nice show, they are spoon-fed some sermon points, and they go home and go on with their lives. They have nothing invested whatsoever.

It's a cycle, really. The more that people expect to be Sunday morning consumers, the more the church provides it on a Sunday morning. The more they provide it, the more consumers show up. And to an extent, if we're talking about numbers, it's a great way to grow a church. A church can grow into a megachurch 10 miles wide. And two inches deep.

We talk about what the root cause might be, and whether it's theological, or a problem with vision, or leadership, or just 21st-century consumer culture. But I have another suggestion.

Perhaps the seeker-sensitive church approach is entirely backwards.

Let me explain. All of my life, I've heard from other churchgoers about how they need to invite non-Christians to church. After all, if they come to church on a Sunday morning, they'll listen to some nice songs, and they'll hear about Jesus! Then they'll become a Christian! It happens all the time!

Technically, that might be true. It does happen occasionally. People go to a Sunday-morning service, hear about God, and they become Christians. And then they come back the next Sunday morning, and the next, and they are spoon-fed every week. In fact, they'll continue to hear about Jesus for years without ever needing to DO anything.

Instead, try this: Don't invite people to church. Build a relationship with them and tell them about Jesus. Tell them about Jesus' life, death on the cross, and resurrection. Tell them about how you are a new creation, and how God has worked in your life.

If the spirit tugs on that person, and that person understands, you know what?

He or she may very well become part of the church. Right there. Then, it might be a good opportunity to tell them about a group of Christians that gets together in your house on Monday nights for small group. Or Wednesday nights for a meal. Or Sunday mornings for a celebration service. Invite them to come along.

A church that caters almost exclusively to non-Christians, or even nominal Christians, might be nice for evangelism. But it's not really The Church. The Church is made up of Christian brothers and sisters, and they are living, working, learning, and serving together. If you try to make everything about the church "sensitive to the non-believer," what's going to happen?

The people that ARE new converts are never going to grow past that two-inch thickness. The possibility will always exist that they'll remain Sunday-morning consumers for years. They were spoon-fed a show, and that's what inspired them to come forward and accept Jesus in the first place... So isn't THAT what Christianity is? A Sunday-morning show?

Well, we say, the Sunday morning service can be seeker-sensitive, because if people want to grow deeper, they need to get involved in Sunday School classes and other areas.

Seriously? Why would they need to get involved anywhere else? We've shown them that all they need to do to be saved is to come to a Sunday morning service and hear about God.

Relational evangelism is SO important, and it's so much more than inviting someone to church. I'm starting to seriously question a "seeker-sensitive" approach to church. Are WE, the people of God, to be "seeker-sensitive" when building relationships? Of course we are. But are church services supposed to always be "seeker-sensitive"?

I'm starting to think that's a bad idea.

What say you, random blog readers?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

O Come!

My favorite Christmas hymn is “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” a 12th Century Christian hymn originally written in Latin:

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who orderest all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height In ancient times once gave the law In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree, An ensign of Thy people be; Before Thee rulers silent fall; All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Spoiled, But Still the Bride of Christ

You probably won´t care much for this post, but I feel it expedient to get it off my chest.

The last 4 months have been the most eye-opening and humbling period of my life since, oh, I don´t know, Junior High.

Spiritually speaking, anyway.

I´ve been on my own journey on the purpose of the church after years of railing about the deficiencies of the Body. I´ve been sourrounded by a worship experience that most of us would dismiss as "devoid of excellence" and "irrelevant to the seeker." The PowerPoint, when it has the correct words, isn´t color-coordinated to match the pews or carpet. The "sound system" is less than pristine. In fact, most of the time, the sound that it emits is unintelligible to my tired ears. The worship services are far longer than the 1:10 limit that we Americans say are more than sufficient. And the worship facility? Don´t plan on cushy pews with lush carpet. It´s plastic chairs and cold marble. In fact, the picture that I attached is First Christian Church of Valencia.

Impressive, isn´t it? To me, it´s absolutely delightful. In 4 months, I´ve started understanding what Christian love really is. It´s not bound to the Sunday worship hour. It´s the pastor calling, asking "how´s it going?" It´s brothers and sisters volunteering to drive to your town at $6.50 per gallon for gas, for the opportunity to pass out publicity in steaming hot weather for your new business. It´s inviting those less fortunate than you to your home for a hot meal.


Let´s face it: we´re really, really spoiled in the US. We have privilege, resources, and facilities that most Christians around the world will NEVER have.

So, next time you complain that the church isn´t "meeting your needs," I ask you, how are you meeting the needs of the church?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In This One Body to Reconcile Them Both to God

"For he himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations."

This post is not for "Theologs", but for everyone.

Here is a glimpse into my spooky side, what really is going on in Joe B all the time. I just try to express it in theological terms, not knowing what else to do with it. The stuff below was written to an old campus ministry comrade, one of the many now on the front line of foreign missions while I fight "The Battle of AT&T." I confessed:

"I just feel the heavens swirling around me again like in some days past. Something big is building in heaven and in the hearts of men, and I cannot articulate it but somehow I understand it. The huge post-christianity world-view shift of this generation sees dawning a new vision of God, and I just see the temple courts (you know, just outside the sanctuary?) filling up with unwashed nations of tax-collectors and prostitutes, entering with joyful force. And I see the priesthood of the sanctuary divided: whether to exclude them to keep it holy, or whether to risk defilement by passing thru the torn veil, by breaking the bread and pouring the wine of the Eucharist. Will we recognize the day of our visitation?"

"If that paragraph were spoken it would have had that spooky "prophesying" sound to it. This thing has been swelling for seven years as God has kept me peering into some mystery of
Eph 2:11-22, especially v14-15. These last two years God has stirred me to pray that the "church" will remain whole, and not a branch broken off as a new shoot is grafted in. I see well-meaning Dividers on the Inside and on the Outside, MacArthur v. McLaren, and I cry and say "must it be so?" (I'm much better at crying than praying.)"

"It sounds so foolish to be swept up in cosmic things when my life is such a speck."

I know this is personal, but it is profoundly ecclesiological too. And all of you are a part of it. What is the Spirit saying to the Church?

Monday, December 3, 2007

In the Image of God

Let me just shed a tear here on Java Jesus for Emily Sander. I never heard of her before I read the gleeful, smirking stories in the press: "Missing College Student May Have Had a Secret Life as a Porn Star." But, she had a secret life as a human being, too. It didn't matter that much, though, until they found out we could see her boobs on the internet. Still I see a sparkling specimen of humanity, a kid who just yesterday was climbing a tree or riding a bike, or writing on her backpack. In the Image of God.

I wish I could have shown her some sort of kindness in the days of her short life. I wish I knew something kind to say about her, and I’m sure there is something that could be said. I want to pray for her, but she is dead. Tissue and specimens and slides and samples. Something to be studied, no more to be loved.

Here in the end, only God knows the depth of wonders and the real beauty that lived in this little child of his. May God receive her soul, and vindicate her name, and may he crown her with life in the Resurrection of the Dead.

Goodbye, little girl.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Paradigm Shift

hey guys....i posted a link to a speech by Donald Miller - I would love feedback if you can ever find the time. It is on my blog - click on "here".
he seems to articulate so much of what i have been feeling - it made me uneasy a bit too...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The God Battle: O.T. vs. N.T.

Funny thing happened last night... I was with a group of friends outside of Starbucks, and I walked next door to grab a drink about 11:30 pm. When I came out, they had all left! Can you beleve that? They all left! What a bunch of maroons.

So instead of bringing up rousing philosophical and theological topics in person, I shall do it the old-fashioned way -- by blogging.

One of the more common discussions I have with Biblically-educated non-Christians (i.e., people who are fairly well versed on the Bible but who just don't buy into it) is the topic of the Old Testament God versus the New Testament God. They talk about how the God of the OT is a wrathful God who seems to fit the profile of a mass murderer, killing women and children and doing a lot of stuff as an Angry Powerful Being. Yet, they say, we want to reconcile that with a New Testament God -- a God of love and peace and hugs and happy trees. Is our God distant and wrathful, or near and loving?

One of the things I usually talk about in these instances is Jesus, his death on the cross, and the temple veil tearing in two. Giving us access into the Holy of Holies, God's presence. To me, it's the perfect symbol of how our relationship with God "changed."

Yet we say that God doesn't change. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Joe talked quite a bit in the comments on the tithing post about how God changeth not:

    Why would he require us to be people of faith for a millennium, then cold legalists for a couple of millennia, and then people of love thenceforth? Do we have a better covenant because we got a better God? Did the Son overthrow the Father? Did Paul overthrow Jesus?
Good questions, all. In my mind, if I keep things simple, I can understand. Yet the hard truth of God's wrath is shown time and time again in the Old Testament. Do we see that today? Did God just stop killing people for either sin or because they were in the way of his chosen people?

It seems as if we've got a couple of choices. Either,
  • God still does many of those things -- He shows wrath through disease, weather ("acts of God") and war. To be honest, my 21st century, peace-loving mind doesn't much like this idea.
  • Or, he doesn't do those things any more, or at least not to that extent, and he somehow has changed. Maybe we don't call it "change." Maybe it's his evolving nature, or an adjustement to his relationship with his creation.

I agree that "God changeth not," but the fact remains that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection was a major turning point in how God interacts with his creation. If we go by what most of our churches teach -- and most of them teach the New Testament 90% of the time with a few select Old Testament verses thrown in only to back up a specific topic -- then God doesn't seem to require as much of us as he did of the Jews 5000 years ago.

I ask these questions for the sake of discussion. It's difficult to know how to respond when people ask me about "the two Gods," especially because they aren't really ASKING, they are ACCUSING the God I serve of being the architect of genocide in many cases. We don't like to think too much about death and killing -- Christians generally pride themselves on valuing life, after all.

How do we reconcile many of the actions of God in the Old Testament with how we portray God now? And how do we respond when people charge God with mass murder?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Holidays?

If Joe can dedicate a blog post to getting upset about a Youtube video, then so can I.

Some family recently forwarded me a link to a video. It's a song (with a bunch of spoken word edited in) about people saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." The video can be found here:

My Mom asked my brother and I what we thought. It will surprise no one that I had a number of things to say.

First of all, I love the acappella group Go Fish. We have a couple of their CDs and the kids really like them. We used to listen to them all the time. Fun music. Fantastic. I'll get that out of the way.

Secondly, I... uh... STRONGLY DISLIKE listening to Brad Stine. I'm pretty sure that he is the comedian whose diatribe has been edited into the song... I recognize his voice and can tell by the stuff he says. He did stand-up at both of the Promise Keepers events I've been to, this year and a few years back. He drives me absolutely nuts. He's pretty much the redneck "conservative Christian comedian"... Equivalent to the Larry The Cable Guy and the guys on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, even down to the fact that he tries to have his own little catch phrase. He constantly talks about how America is God's country (I think he even used the words "favorite" once, which made me want to stand up and argue with him in front of 10,000 guys), and our Christian heritage, on and on. He can talk for an hour about the same sort of stuff as he does in the song.

While the song is nice, and I understand the sentiment, the problem I have with Brad Stine and those kind of discussions, is this:

Christians in America are not persecuted.

We have it so easy here that we have to come up with something like this and call it persecution, as if it's even an issue. We do the same thing with our kids not praying in public schools, or not having the 10 commandments on a courthouse lawn. We make it as if because of these things, we are being "persecuted."

Christians in China being jailed or killed, and in the Middle East? That's persecution.

Christians in America don't know true persecution, and I think it's one of the reasons so many Christian Americans are so lazy and uninvolved with Christ, and each other. I'm supposed to get angry and make it an "issue" if a non-Christian wants to say "holidays" rather than "Christmas"?

I realize that for the most part, I'm probably preaching to the choir here. I know stuff like this has been discussed before by some of the contributors over there on that sidebar >>>. But I still think it's worth discussing, because stuff like this is debated ad nauseum among American churches and American politicians.

If a Wal-Mart greeter wishing me "Happy Holidays" is persecution, I'm curious what we would call it if we were being eaten alive by lions and wild animals, with people cheering on the carnage from the stands.

Anyway... Who knew that a silly Youtube song would provoke such debate?

*Shout outs to my Mom for sending me the link, and Bill for being a Brad Stine fan. I know you're reading, Bill.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Should the Church Teach Tithing?"

Take a look at an interesting view on whether the church should teach tithing here.

More specifically, he puts together an argument about why he is "opposed to supporting churches using the false doctrine of NT tithing instead of better New Covenant freewill offering principles."

I'll sum up his main points, but go read it if you have the time.

  1. N. T. Giving Principles in Second Corinthians 8 and 9 are Superior to Tithing.
  2. In God’s Word the Tithe is Always Only Food!
  3. Money Was an Essential Non-Tithed Item
  4. Abraham’s Tithe to Melchizedek Reflected Pagan Tradition.
  5. Tithing Was Not a Minimum Required from All Old Covenant Israelites
  6. First-Tithes were Received by Servants to the Priests.
  7. "It is Holy to the LORD" Does Not Make Tithing an Eternal Moral Principle.
  8. First-fruits are Not the Same as Tithes
  9. There are Four Different Tithes Described in the Bible.
  10. Jesus, Peter, Paul and the Poor Did Not Tithe
  11. Tithes were Often Used as Political Taxes.
  12. Levitical Tithes Were Usually Taken to the Levitical Cities.
  13. Malachi 3 is the Most Abused Tithing Text in the Bible.
  14. The New Testament Does Not Teach Tithing.
  15. Limited Old Covenant Priests Were Replaced by All Believer-Priests.
  16. The New Covenant Church is Neither a Building nor a Storehouse.
  17. The Church Grows by Using Better New Covenant Principles.
  18. The Apostle Paul Preferred That Church Leaders Be Self-Supporting.
  19. Tithing Did Not Become a Law in the Church until A. D. 777.
His conclusions:

    In God’s Word, “tithe” does not stand alone. It is the “tithe of FOOD.” The biblical tithe was very narrowly defined and limited by God Himself. True biblical tithes were always: (1) only food, (2) only from the farms and herds, (3) of only Israelites, (4) who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel, (5) only under Old Covenant terms and (6) the increase could only be gathered from what God produced.

    Therefore, (1) non-food items could not be tithed; (2) clean wild game animals and fish could not be tithed; (3) non-Israelites could not tithe; (4) food from outside God’s holy land of Israel could not be tithed; (5) legitimate tithing did not occur when there was no Levitical priesthood; and (6) tithes did not come from what man’s hands created, produced or caught by hunting and fishing.
There is much more detail and scripture in his argument, but I've just copied the main points for those too lazy to go read the whole thing. Thoughts? Anyone?

Sunday, October 28, 2007


After 30 years of marketing church success, Willow Creek changes its mind.

Will people will pay big bucks to learn how to fail from such successful people? You can bet on it. Can you buy stock in a church?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Subculture or Counterculture: Is Church Relevant?

    ...This raises the missional question as to whether the church exists simply as a subculture or a counterculture or whether it can become truly cross-cultural in the sense of crossing into the broader culture through proclaiming the good news within that cultural context. [From Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K Bolger.]
We KNOW that the gospel is relevant. Jesus is still relevant. But are most modern churches relevant to society?

Sometimes we get the two confused. We think Obviously, all our churches are relevant. Because Jesus is still relevant!

Jesus immersed himself in first century Jewish society. He took on the culture and practices -- he became accessible, he became one of us. Yet sometimes we believe that our churches should stand totally apart from the culture. Should they? Should churches really be countercultural?

I haven't read much of the book that I quoted above, honestly. But some of the parts I've skimmed have made me think. Missionaries immerse themselves in the societies in which they live. Yet sometimes we criticize local churches that become too much "like the world." We like our traditions. We think that just because the world is in a constant state of change, the church doesn't necessarily need to change the way it functions.

This book mentions that the church occupied a central position within Western societies for more than 1600 years. But that has recently changed. Within the last 100 years, cultural shifts have created a post-Christian society. "The church as an institution has lost its privileged position and increasingly occupies a place on the margins of society alongside other recreational and non-profit organizations."

Most people don't go to church anymore.

And, though this is a big assumption, I believe that the vast majority of the minority that DOES go to church, does just that. They go to church. They don't go to WORSHIP. They don't consider themselves to really be the church. It's a building to go to on Sunday mornings.

The message of Jesus doesn't need to change. Our need for God doesn't change. But that doesn't mean that what church IS, and how church is done, can't change.

So how should it change?

We use the word community a lot to talk about what we think the church needs to be. Most of us truly believe that people long for relationships -- they long for an intimate community. The thing is, on the surface, that's not always true. People isolate themselves in their suburban homes because they want to. They avoid seeking out those relationships because, sometimes, it can be uncomfortable.

I talked to someone the other day who said she hated when people talked to her that she didn't know. Friendly people bothered her. She just wanted to be left alone, because she thought that any stranger that talked to her was going to be full of fake, insincere bullsh**.

So that takes us to the next set of words we like to use. Honesty. Vulnerability. Transparency. The church needs to rid itself of the faux smiles we automatically put on when we walk in the door. It needs to get real.

Are these things true? I don't know. Probably. An intimate community of honest people is nice. But that's not the gospel. That's not the message of Jesus. That's a self-help group, which is exactly what we're trying to avoid.

Obviously we need to show the love of Jesus. We need to be more outwardly-focused, yet at the same time developing true relationships within. Maybe the church DOES need to be countercultural. Surely, it needs to be different. Yet it still needs to understand our society, and be willing to change.

Once again, I have more questions than answers.

Should the church cross into the broader culture? How? Does the church need to change its "business model"?

Monday, October 15, 2007

"What Must I Do To Be Saved?"

Growing up, I heard the standard, Protestant Christianese from pastors, youth workers, Sunday School teachers and church leaders. Repeat it with me:

You need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ... You need to accept him into your heart. Recite this prayer with me...

As much as this sounds like Standard Operating Procedure for the lifelong protestant evangelical, an unbiased look at scriptures and the words of Jesus might make us rethink that paradigm.

Still, to me, everything in that formula sounds good. A personal relationship with the Son of God. "Accept" him into my life, surrender to him. Sure, sounds fine, maybe even theologically sound. What's not to like? All that is exactly what must be done to become a "Christian," right?

But where do we find any of that language in the Bible?

In Matthew 19, when Jesus was done telling the rich young man that he must sell all of his possessions and give to the poor, the disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus' initial answer was cryptic, but in verse 29, he says,
    And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
In Mark 16:16 (which, incidentally, was not in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells the disciples after his resurrection:
    Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Of course, this is also the same passage that he said,
    And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.
That could get us into a whole 'nother discussion, but for now, we'll leave it be.

When Peter addressed the crowd at Pentecost, he said,
    ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
One would be hard pressed to find the entire notion of a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" and "accepting him into my heart" in the scriptures. We could say it's inferred, and that it's just current language for the same basic scriptural concepts that have been there all along.

My guess would be that the "accepting him into our heart" and "personal relationship" language is a fairly recept concept, perhaps even a 19th or 20th century evangelical construct.

Am I wrong?

I have no idea. Someone with more knowledge will correct me anyways, so there's no point in me doing the research.

A lot of this goes back to our evangelical eschatological focus -- the Only Important Thing is what we must do to escape the fires of hell, after all. Giving people an easy-to-understand formula to get into heaven is the key. People want a personable God. People want relationships. Matters of the heart are important to people.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily saying that all of the ideas I've heard my whole life are necessarily wrong. Even if there isn't specific Biblical language to match, I have no doubt that our God IS a God that desires a relationship with us. It's called love.

But really... What must I do to be saved? And were the original people that asked that question using that language in an entirely different way than we do today? When we say "saved," our minds automatically think of fiery pits of hell.

Were first century Jews really thinking along those same lines?

Friday, October 5, 2007

World Religions 101

I went from writing nearly every post on this blog, to writing nearly nothing in the last month. But with all the link-posting we've been doing here lately, I think it's time for a bit of original thought.

If only I *had* any actual original thoughts. Drat!

Since we were talking about different denominations and worship-styles -- like those crazy Pentecostals -- I thought I'd go even farther and talk about some different religions.

As many of you know, I've been rather fascinated with Judaism over the past couple of years. Jewish history (cue the NT Wright theme song) is vastly under taught in our churches, and because of that, we often don't grasp the historical context of Jesus' life and teachings.

But there is one other major world religion -- many say it's the fastest growing religion in the world, in fact -- that has a number of similarities to Christianity and Judaism.


The majority of Americans see Islam as a religion of Middle Easterners, and a religion of terrorists and radicals. People holding AK-47s over their heads or strapping bombs to their chests.

But... We also talk about not judging a religion strictly on the actions of a few followers. After all, people do that with Christianity, and they get turned off right away. So what do Muslims actually believe?

Islam gets lumped in with Judaism and Christianity because in a way, the three religions all believe in the same "God." At least to the point in that they are monotheistic belief-structures that teach submission to that higher power. Islam actually holds the belief that we believe in the same God, but Judaism and Christianity, over time, distorted the messages of the prophets like Moses and Abraham and Jesus.

Since an in-depth discussion of Islam would take years, and more pages of text than I care to write, I'm just going to look at the Five Pillars of Islam:
  • The shahadah, the basic tenet of Islam: "I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." To my ears, that's eerily similar to the "statement of faith" that many Christian churches ask new members to recite: "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God." It's straightforward, it's simple, it's the religion wrapped up in a nice little package.
  • Salah, or ritual prayer. It's to be performed five times per day. Now this is dedication! In the comments to the last post, the discussion turned to whether some of our worship is "fake," and whether some of it is just performed out of discipline. Being required to do a ritual prayer five times a day? That's discipline.
  • Zakat, or alms-giving. This would be the Muslim equivalent of the tithe. It's obligatory for all Muslims who can afford it. Besides being used to assist the spread of Islam, a fixed portion is spent to help the poor and needy. I wonder how much membership would dwindle in our (Christian) churches if tithing were an obligation, rather than voluntary?
  • Sawm, which is fasting during the month of Ramadan. This is the practice of not eating or drinking (or doing a number of other things) from dawn to dusk during this month. It's to encourage a feeling of nearness to God. How many of our churches are talking about fasting? It seems to be a nearly forgotten practice. I know that I don't do it -- I'm too much of a fan of food. In my own church, it was mentioned in a booklet as a part of a recent stewardship campaign, but I never heard it mentioned anywhere else. I only know one person that made an effort to give up a number of certain foods, and people didn't even understand why she was doing it. (Although yes, technically, if fasting is being done correctly, no one else should really know about it anyway.)
  • The Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her lifetime. There is really no Christian equivalent to the pilgrimage. I don't see a lot of people using their life savings to get to Jerusalem or Nazareth.
From just looking at these five pillars of Islam, on the surface it appears that the major difference between Islam and Christianity is how disciplined and devoted the followers are expected to be. What is truly expected of Christians? They are supposed to get baptized and follow the teachings of Jesus. Love people. Help the poor. Forgive. But overall, we have fairly low standards for each other. We have churches FULL of people that invest about one hour per week in Christianity.

One could argue that the difference is that we have grace. And maybe that's true, I don't know the Islamic teachings on grace.

We do have grace, but over time, we, as Christians, have just become a people of very low expectations of each other. We ask much, but require very little.

I don't know the answer, but I do know that we've become lukewarm as a result.

*Credit to Wikipedia, where I got most of this info. So who knows how much of it is completely accurate.

**I'm also wondering how many people will read this post and think that I've embraced Islam as my new religion. Insha'Allah!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Lacking anything original to say, I decided just to steal the blog post of a young sage. We've scraped this subject before, but I love the way she wrote about it.

I invited her over to chop us all to bits. This is a rough corner of the blogosphere.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Vodcast that will knock the Devil's Socks Off!

I hate to be the bearer of incredible news...but it is now out. The vodcast that changes lives on a daily basis! The vodcast about which
Time magazine writes, "A masterpiece, it should be on display in cultural centers everywhere!" Newsweek, "Vodcasting has now been redefined thanks to the Darin Hansen Show!"
Ladies' Home Journal, "Sexy! 50 ways to say I love the Darin Hansen Show!"
National Enquirer, "Boy turns into a bat thus beginning Armageddon - and the Darin Hansen show is incredible!"
Sesame Street Magazine, "V stands for Vodcast and D stands for Darin, daring and delectable!"

soon to be on ITunes
but right now you can watch by going to my blog and clicking the link
or just click here

Thursday, September 27, 2007

mission shaped podcast

Got 30 minutes? This is a neat interview with a layman dude who is spearheading a "Missional Movement" in Lincolnshire UK. Remember my hare brained Block Parties idea? Holy cow, wait til you hear this guy about what they are doing over there. This model was made for the burbs. They call it planting "mission shaped churches."

Worship Evangelism: The Ghost of Churches Past?

This is a must read. Powerful, insightful...and pretty long. But if you only read one article this month, make it this one.

Hey, if you find it important, invite your comrades here to hash it over.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Opinions of Christianity on the decline among younger generations. Wow, who'd have thought it? 91% negative is a pretty cold slap.

Funny, I believe these numbers are accurate, but I don't believe the picture is clear. I tend to think that young folks are far less inhibited about expressing a negative opinion about Christianity than they once were. I do not take that as hostility.

Should I?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

controversies versus unity, my penance

Yesterday Darin and I were having a discussion of a philosophical, nonbiblical proof for God's existence offered by St Anselm. Unfortunately, we were doing it across the length of a table full of 7 dining companions. It seemed rather silly in that setting, although it was very mentally challenging (and therefore fun.)

Speaking of silly, I can manage to take almost any conversation down that path, most recently forcing the tragic resignation of the beloved Robotface Shumway from Scott's last blog thread. Mea culpa.

As a penance, let me propose a certain reading of Eph 4 that has grabbed me. No, it is not from NT Wright, just li'l ol' me. :-)

We usually think of this passage as being "about ministers." But the whole of Ch 4 is about the unity of the body, and v11 is just one component (and notably, one that does not make the list of "seven unities" in vss 4-6.)

v11: there are these "gift-people" (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher);
v12: their purpose is to promote works of service for the building up of the body;
v13: the twin-goal of which is UNITY in the faith-knowlege of Jesus;
v13: which equals attaining the fullness of Christ, maturity;
v14: THEN (when in unity) we will be resistant to deception and deceivers;
v15: and, thru increasing love we will be truly in his body;
v16: and the Body will truly work, manifesting the reality of God in the world;
v17-32: therefore, DO unity as follows...(maintain the bond of peace, v3)

Most of my bickering is on this one point: the church is too intent on defending God by enforcing doctrinal rectitude. I think Jesus presents a different picture of evangelism. I do not believe the Bible (nor common experience)teaches us that people come to faith by being logically cornered, nor do they abandon God because someone makes a more compelling argument. This view ignores the work of the Spirit and the witness of love.

Am I just rotten on this, or do I have a worthwhile point?

Oh, and sorry for being a jackass. Conversation just excites me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Emerging Blog Posts

No one else seems to be posting, and we can't let this site lie stagnant for that long. Time for me to step up to the plate.

Sadly, I don't have much to say, but the Emerging Church discussion (conversation!) is always a good one. I found some interesting articles here...

I haven't read very many yet, but they may be worth a look.

While I find some aspects of the "Emerging Church" interesting, I don't completely identify with them. And that's mostly because 90% of what you read about the Emerging Church really doesn't state any real beliefs, like an actual denomination. They just say they are current! and postmodern! and they engage in conversation! Yeah, okay, that's nice, but what does any of that mean?

I think our society just likes labels too much, honestly. Label something enough, and it becomes institutionalized, just like the very thing that I'm trying to avoid.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cool Christianity from hell

Let me set this up by saying how thoroughly I disagree with this crap. I understand these videos are widely shown in churches, no doubt to cheers and derisive laughter. If you've bought into this, I ask you to look again behind the cute veneer.

Thanks, Jared Wilson for your post on this subject. Very long, but a brilliant read, and VERY timely for we who fancy ourselves as the great hope of the Church.

The Tithe Blessing

The discussion in the post below continues, but it's time to move along to something else. I think we can manage two discussions at once.

    "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
The passage from Malachi chapter three is an interesting example of the "Tithe-and-Be-Blessed" mentality, and it's a fascinating one. You can't argue that God is telling his chosen people, "Stop robbing me. Give back to me a full 10% of your crops and food, and I will bless you abundantly."

That's not the only verse in which God tells us that we will be blessed through our giving. And we do hear stories from numerous people about God blessing those who give sacrificially.

Yet, I sometimes hear an argument against this mentality. "That's not what it's about," some say. "It's not about GETTING SOMETHING. It's about giving. You can't just tell people to give because your life will be blessed."

The thing is, I often agree with that critical sentiment. Even though it's fairly Biblical, it seems a bit strange. How is it giving sacrificially if we're going to be so hugely blessed by God as a result?

And, as Biblical as that is, is it true?

I sometimes wonder if there are stories about a family giving a tithe and then not being able to pay the rent. I wonder if there are stories about a person giving sacrificially, but then having the electricity turned off because he couldn't afford the electrical bill.

The simple answer is that we should be good stewards of our money, right? We can live off 90%. And he'll provide.

    As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." [Luke 21]
Hmm. Well, okay. We all know that passage. It's about giving sacrificially, of course! But look at it for an extra moment... Do you wonder what happened to the widow after she gave? She's broke! Did she starve? Did she die in obscurity? Did a non-profit charity feed her a meal and give her a cot to sleep on?

Quite honestly, I don't think giving your last dollar to the church would count as being a good steward of your money. I think God would want your family fed first.

Everyone says that giving is a heart-issue. It's about intent, it's about how we feel about it. "If you don't do it joyfully, don't do it at all!", we'll say.

I'm not even sure about that. I'm not very joyful to pay my student loan bills every month. But I do it, because it's required of me. I suppose one could say I'm blessed as a result of the education I received.

Are we to give because we'll be blessed financially? Or just because God requires it?

Once again, I'm full of questions and very few answers.

But hey, isn't that what blog comments are for? Answers?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Eschatologically Focused

I just like to use the word "eschatology," because it makes me feel smart.

Although I don't think I can really turn it into an adverb by adding that "-ly" at the end, honestly. Plus, it becomes really hard to pronounce.

Anyway... One of the things we've discussed (and made fun of, via "Church Musical") is how overly-focused the modern day church has become on all things "rapture" related.

We talk so much about going to heaven. And NOT going to hell. And getting our friends to go to heaven with us. So they WON'T go to hell. We talk about evangelism in very narrow terms, as in "what steps must one take to get to heaven?" We wait for Jesus to return and take us away from this dreadful place.

Because obviously, this world is not our home, right? We're just passin' on through.

And in all of this, perhaps we miss the big picture.

The Jews of the first century weren't talking nonstop about heaven and hell, and going somewhere far away after they die. And really, Jesus didn't talk a great deal about it. His "kingdom of God" was something much bigger than just a place for the faithful to go after death.

I'll fully admit that a lot of the ideas I've gotten lately are thoughts I've gleaned from NT Wright, Rob Bell, and Joe B (the three wise men). And I still struggle to completely comprehend everything that we talk about when we say "the kingdom of God."

Why? Because my entire life in the church, Christianity has been about telling other people about God so we can all get to heaven. That whole "Romans Road" ideal. Not that evangelism is a bad thing -- far from it -- but perhaps we need to rethink what we are selling.

Jesus' proclamation of "the kingdom of God" was much more than just escaping the fires of hell. The fullness of what it is, though, is hard to explain to people. Because yes, we DO want people to be saved and know Jesus personally.

So... [nudge, nudge] What IS the "kingdom of God"? What was Jesus talking about? We know that the Jews were expecting a political and perhaps military savior, to save them from Roman rule. And we know he didn't give them that -- He gave them something entirely different than what they were expecting.

If that something is not just "heaven," what is it?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Intentional Community

Here's a link to an article that someone forwarded me about Christian community. Actually, the whole website is for groups that might be considered "Intentional Christian Communites," some of which live together, some of which are just tight-knit groups of people. They've got 65 different groups like this in a number of countries.

Interesting stuff. Here's a small portion of the article:

    The early Christians recognized one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Before them, the Jews also had understood themselves as brothers. Among the Jews, brother meant not only "blood brother", it also meant the relationship all Jews had with one another because they were members of the Jewish people.

    Jewish law spelled out the responsibilities of this relationship in some detail. Deuteronomy instructs the Jews: "At the end of every seven years...every creditor shall release what he has lent to...his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release."

    "You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."

    "You shall not lend upon interest to your brother... To a foreigner you may lend upon interest, but to your brother you shall not lend upon interest; that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake" (Deut. 15:1-3; 15:7-8; 23:19-20).

    The Jews of the old covenant understood that their relationship with each other was different from their relationship with all men. Their relationship as brothers and sisters was a relationship of full commitment. To be members of the same people meant that each person was responsible for the welfare of all others (See also Leviticus 19:18).

    The relationship was the same for the early Christians, and it should be the same among Christians today. But today, few of us experience a definite relationship with many other Christians. We may be close to a few Christians, but most are complete strangers to us, even those who attend and support the same church.

And one other part I have to highlight:

    Having our lives in common also means sharing other personal aspects of our lives. In our culture, if we sin, if we are plagued by sexual temptations, if we are anxious or depressed, we keep these problems to ourselves. Victories over difficulties are similarly private. We might share our personal lives with our spouse or a very close friend. But most of us grow up with the firm conviction, perhaps arising from bitter experience, that our personal lives are strictly private.

    However, as brothers and sisters in Christian community, nothing in our lives is entirely our own. My life belongs to my brother. I cannot construct elaborate strategies to keep him from finding out what I am really like. In fact, opening up our lives to our brothers and sisters in the Lord is usually necessary to begin overcoming our problems and experiencing the freedom that the Lord wants us to have.

    Most people who belong to Christian communities where personal sharing is encouraged find quickly that they can be more free about their personal lives than they ever imagined. Personal sharing must be done with discretion and in the appropriate circumstances. But it should be done, for it is part of sharing our lives in Christian community.

There's a lot of great stuff in this article.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Church Musical

Just in case anyone hasn't seen it yet... Presenting "Church Musical," a documentary in four parts. Enjoy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Excellence in Worship

A few of us were at a Promise Keepers event last weekend. The worship there, among 9000 other men, was fantastic. I don't know how everyone else felt about it, but it felt like an incredible worship experience where I was able to connect with God in a deep way.

Of course, when I try to explain it in writing, it seems... Trite.

My worship is supposed to be for God, yet I'll admit that I was benefiting from it. It isn't supposed to be just an overwhelming feeling of *emotion*, but let's be honest -- At times like these, it is. It's an emotion-based experience.

I also was thinking about how we often talk about wanting to avoid a worship service that focuses too much on "excellence" and "production." Striving to do well is a good thing, but when having things look and sound perfect becomes more of a goal than worshipping God, then we have a problem. We know this, and it's been discussed many times over, because it is nearly always an issue in large churches.

Yet Promise Keepers is a huge event, and I'll admit that the PK band, the worship leader, and the "production values" were excellent. So how much did this factor into my sense of feeling good about the worship time? How much did it impact my "emotional-connectedness" with God?

I don't know. I'll admit that for all my talk of wanting things to be less production-oriented, I'm a big fan of a high-energy worship event. So it's hard to know where the line is.

One thing that struck me was that at the event, the worship leader mentioned that they had prayed and decided just the previous day to incorporate more worship (singing) and cut some of the speaking time. He said they were calling a few "audibles" during the event as a result of this.

How often do we allow the Holy Spirit to call "audibles" during our worship?

Is it even an option? Is it a bad idea in a large church?

I know that structure isn't a bad thing, but can too much of it become a barrier?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on Christian Community

When you stay up talking outside of Starbucks until 2:30 AM on a Monday night, it really sucks away your ability to be awake enough to write anything compelling on a blog the rest of the week.

I'll give it a go anyway.

Many of us are aware that "church" is not just a building or a worship service, but it's a group of people. Christians. Followers of Jesus.

At least that's what we *SAY*. However, a lifetime of preconceived notions about "church" are quite difficult to transform. Regardless of how much I talk about the "community of believers," it is still amazingly hard to back out of my "church" paradigm.

For instance, I think of my small group as just that -- a "small group." It's a subset of my "church." The group of guys that stay up talking late into the night at Starbucks is still, often in my mind, a subset of my "church."

We identify our churches by name. Even if we avoid the term "church" and ask someone, "Where do you go to worship?", we are still wanting to know which specific church they attend -- it's nothing more than semantics.

By putting a name with a church, we generally know a denomination, or at least something about that church's belief structure. I could look up an address, a phone number, a web page. Maybe even find a mission statement or a vision.

The problem with this paradigm is that, while it's handy and efficient when I want to classify and categorize things, it often does very little to foster and create a real Christian community.

You know what? My small group is a church. We're a group of people that care about one another, and we often get together at predetermined times to meet, to eat, to pray, to laugh, to talk, or to study scriptures. At least in our case, there's no real bureaucracy in which we must report our activities up to "the church."

House churches are a fascinating topic. I think it's easy for many of us (me included) to write off some house churches as fringe groups, meeting in somebody's living room, led by some crazy guy who has little to no understanding of the Bible. We look at many of the big churches -- the Church Growth Model megachurches, the House of Hybels and Warren -- and we think, Well, they must be doing something right. Look how many people go there each week!

Many of the megachurches are preaching the gospel, I'm sure. But we cannot look at Sunday morning attendance as a metric of "church success." If 3000 people show up for a Sunday morning service, how many of them are truly experiencing Christian community the rest of the week?

For that matter, how many of them are even experiencing Christian community on Sunday morning?

The idea of some form of communal living continues to intrigue me. Not just for economical and efficiency reasons, but because I believe that in the right context it would be something more. Many of us are looking for something more. Something deeper. Something above and beyond Sunday-morning-centric Christianity.

A way to grow and commune with friends.

A way to grow and know God more deeply.

A way to befriend and reach other people that don't know Jesus.

I look at so many modern churches, and I think, Is this really what God had in mind? I see good things, yes, but I also see so much... fluff. So much stuff. Random ministries that are sucking the life out of volunteers that got pulled into something they had no heart for in the first place. Worship services that require a cast of literally hundreds to produce the show. And then hundreds that attend to watch the show, before leaving with a heart that hasn't been changed in the least.

In the meantime, the Christians that are looking to be fed, the Christians looking for a sense of community, wander about like a boat with no anchor.

They feel at times purposeless and powerless.

Perhaps only within smaller groups, smaller "churches," can we feel that community. That sense of purpose.

Maybe it's just something that you can't foist upon people. Maybe people just have to find it themselves.

Can large churches have true "community"? If so, how do they do it?

Church Relevancy

Sorry for the double post today, but I found another great article on church relevancy. Its another long one, but again, well worth it.

Read it here.

"A" Worship In A "B" Body

Found this on the net today. I was amazed (yet again) at how well someone else has captured my thoughts. Parts IV and V are especially golden.

I know its a long read, but I think its worth it. In regards to the church's current view of worship - from the leader's perspective - its a great article.

Monday, July 2, 2007

WHAT is a worship service?

Joe wrote some very interesting things in his comment on the last post. It deserves some discussion if only because it said some things much more clearly than I did.

He pointed out that a list such as this one comes across as being nit-picky. True. But he also pointed out that it is clear that there is a single problem at the root of it all. The central question, then, is this:

    "WHAT is a worship service? Why do we have these things at all -- just what is it we are DOING?
If he doesn't mind, I'm going to copy most of his comment here, as it makes for an excellent post.

    Historically the heart of corporate worship a la King is COMMUNION, the eucharist. This is what Jesus instituted as his family Feast of Remembrance, a celebration of The People of God, this nation of kings and priests. "They will be mine" says YHWH "in the day when I assemble my treasure." [Mal 3:17, JoeBV]

    Everything about "formal" assembly of The People should emanate from that central fact. It seems to me that "the gathering" should last about the whole day, and include cooking, cleaning up, distributing goods, planning, deciding, singing and praying and constantly reconciling differences thru cooperation in all these processes. Most of all, it's not a mere abstraction, it's real life. Not something on a stage.

    So I say those 15 scathing theses are about 80 short of a reformation. I say one must start over from scratch and reconceive corporate worship entirely. The Jesus feast these days is reduced to a vestige from which most meaning is stripped. We forget that everything from Jn 13-17 happens AT the Lord's table: footwashing, prophesying, kingdom scheming, and theologizing. And it is all on a personal scale, not a mass production. The way we do it nowadays--a presentation that 90% of the people just come and watch--is a pretty bizarre notion of how to celebrate God's Gathering of the Select People (the ekklesia, the Church.)

    Dare I say it? We need to quit going to worship and start going to CHURCH!
The central theme here is community. Actually, that's been a central theme within our little "circle of friends" for years now. How can the church get back to being a community? Is it even possible in our 21st century, suburbian lifestyles?

Many of the things within a normal "worship service" are good things. Singing to God, the reading of scripture, preaching and teaching, the rememberance of Christ through communion. So, on the surface, things don't look half bad. But where is the community? How do we do all of this on a personal scale, and not as a mass production?

I love to listen to Darin and Joe talk about these things, but too often we talk in vague and abstract terms. Sure, we are idealists. We may know what we WANT.

But my main question, each time, is HOW. How do we accomplish this? How do we get there?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Wittenburg Church Door

Okay, so we've had many discussions on what church should be, and what church seems to be lacking.

We know we want action. In fact, I *feel* a call to action. A call to do something concrete, rather than just the bitching and moaning we've been doing for the past many weeks months years.

Wait, can I say "bitching" on a family-friendly blog?

Too late.

So I think it's time for some specifics. If something is wrong, what is wrong? And if something needs fixed, how can we fix it? What do I *desire* to see out of a church?


Bloggers love lists. Martin Luther loved lists. Have you seen High Fidelity? John Cusack. Good flick. His character loved lists.

Let's begin, shall we? This list will be fluid, as these are all up for discussion, debate, and editing. I doubt I'll come up with 95, but it's a start. Please feel free to add your own or argue some of these.

  1. Church is a community of believers, and much of the focus of "church" should be on that community.
  2. Obviously, the focus of a worship "service" should be on God.
  3. The purpose of "church" should NOT be to get people to sit in a pew on a Sunday morning. A church that is too "Sunday morning-centric" is not healthy for the church as a whole or Christians individually, as it fosters institutional thinking within the church and a "once-a-week" mentality within Christians.
  4. A worship service should be careful not to fall into a routine. If it lacks creativity or any discernable change on a week-by-week basis, it becomes problematic (we may need to explore the "why" here some more).
  5. A worship service should be careful not to be performance-based. When it becomes a production, when it becomes all about excellence, then it becomes less about God and the Holy Spirit.
  6. The Gospel of Christ, of love, of His kingdom... All those things should be preached. There is nothing wrong with "seeker-sensitive" worship services, but psychological self-help, chicken-soup-for-the-soul type of sermons are a problem.
  7. The church is smart enough to follow a sermon without needing blanks to fill in.
  8. Giving the Holy Spirit room to maneuver during a worship service means that occasionally, things may not go as planned. We should allow this.
  9. God doesn't care if there is feedback, or if a screen flickers, or if a microphone doesn't work.
  10. Along the lines of #4 and #8, worship services could be drastically different from week to week. That could mean a week of all singing and scripture reading. That could mean a week of drama and prayer. That could mean people coming forward to give testimonies.
  11. Other teachers could be raised up to preach on occasion. These don't even have to be paid staff or elders or someone with a PhD.
  12. A church needs a common vision, something to work towards and bring people together, moreso than just a generic mission statement. (This one is up for debate, as one could argue that the New Testament church did not have a specific "vision" beyond Jesus' call to make disciples of all nations.)
  13. Honesty and vulnerability is tantamount in a church. If the church is in a major financial bind, the congregation needs to be aware of that. If Sunday morning worship services are the main meeting time for the congregation, it is obvious that during a Sunday morning worship service, honest talk of finances is vital.
  14. The "success" of a church is not measured by its weekly worship service attendance in numbers, or by its "growth" in numbers from year to year. If numbers must be used to measure real "growth," then small groups, Sunday School classes, and other specific ministries are probably the best way to quantify.
  15. Along with #13, vulnerability and openness within a church needs to be fostered from the ministry staff. REAL vulnerability and openness, including sin and repentance.

That's only 15, but I don't want to hog all of these. Any thoughts on these 15, or additional ideas?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Noah vs. Moses, round I

In the absence of deep theological discussion, I'd like to throw out something a bit different...

Go here now. Do it. You'll thank me later.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rob Bell Interview

Velvet Elvis guys - this was an interesting interview I thought

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sex and Church

Well, we've hit on the topics of Men and Church, and then Kids and Church... Why not Sex and Church?

So... here we go.

Sex is shameful.

Masturbation is dirty.

Lust is sinful.

Notice a trend here? Churches really corner the market on telling people to wait until marriage for sex. Sure, I believe that the statistics point out that there is no noticeable difference in churched and unchurched kids having sex, but the fact is that "Sex is Baaaad" is a common theme in American churchianity. Perhaps the only statistical difference is the degree of guilt after-the-fact.

While 90% of the sex talk is centered around abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage, there MIGHT be 10% that mentions, "And oh, yeah, sex is a *good* thing within marriage. God made it, so it's good, and, uh, stuff. But make sure you wait! And make sure you don't look at other women lustfully! Or PORN! That's really bad! And, uh, hey? You women? Dress modestly, because all men (even the Christians!) are pretty much ruled by their johnsons, so it's your responsibility to wear turtlenecks and baggy pants, lest the men be overcome by their lustful ways!"

Or something like that.

Let's face it, the church has conned generations of people into thinking that anything sexual is shameful. You can't just go from hearing these things your whole life, into having a ring on your finger and your mind doing a complete 180.

"Great, I'm married now! Anything goes! No guilt, no shame, no more worries, and no more problems! Everything will be perfect now!"

A great deal of Christian couples DO have premarital sex, and then they deal with the guilt of that for many years within their marriage.

A great deal of Christian couples have sexual struggles within their marriages that are never discussed.

A great deal of Christian women are taught that being nonsexual is virtuous.

A great deal of Christian men are taught that sexual thought and desire is of the devil.

And just out of curiosity, how many here have heard an in-depth sermon from the pulpit on I Corinthians 7:1-5? A show of hands? Anyone?

How many Christian couples are sleeping in separate bedrooms? How many are going months or years without having sex? And how many children are growing up, seeing THAT as their model of Christian marriage?

We know that God made sex and it is something that is good, but I sometimes wonder if premarital counseling at churches should actually be some sort of intensive deprogramming from years of "Thou shall nots." I once heard someone say that regarding all-things sex, God is cast in the role of The Great Frustrator.

It's about time that the church get a lot more candid.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kids and Church

Well if no one else is going to post here, I'll just have to do all the hard work myself. Ya bunch of slackers.

The last post was about Men and Church. I was thinking this morning about kids and church.

A couple of months ago, I watched the documentary "Jesus Camp." It had been in my Blockbuster online rental queue for quite some time, because I had heard about it, and I was really curious. The film was nominated for a number of awards, and it stirred up a lot of feelings in people, mostly because it painted a fairly scary portrait of a group of "evangelical Christians" and the ways they brainwash children into become political soldiers of God.

Or something like that. Either way, some of the footage really made me wince.

I even had a short argument on the IMDB message boards about whether the film really documents "evangelicals," or a tiny subset of pentacostals. But that's not really the point here.

My question is this: Within our churches and homes, do we teach our children Bible stories and blind faith, or do we teach them Bible stories and critical thinking skills?

For me, I know that the common thread growing up was that kids would attend church until they were no longer forced to go by their parents. This often happened sometime between the ages of 15-17. By that point, a lot of my friends had stopped going to church, except for two groups:

  1. Those that were Catholic, and going to church was a ritual and tradition, or,
  2. The ones who had a "cool" youth group, where the popular kids and cute girls would hang out.
Other than that, a lot of teenagers weren't going to church. Why not? Did the ones that had been raised in the church not have a solid foundation already built?

In "Jesus Camp," much of the story centers on two kids, ages 9 and 12. And both of them seemed to be totally committed to God, to the point where the 12-year old mulleted boy would get up in front of a room to preach, and the 9-year old girl would happily evangelize strangers on the street because she said the Holy Spirit told her to. The movie is chock full of children speaking in tongues (it's pretty much mandatory), children weeping and shaking with the Holy Spirit, and children praying in front of a life-size cardboard cutout of George W. Bush (go ahead, laugh a little nervous snicker at the last one).

While I admired a 12-year old kid that would have the guts to preach to a room full of other kids, some of the kids -- and most of the parents -- disturbed me just a little.

Obviously, the children in this film are miles apart from most of our own children.



I'd like to think that I'm not "brainwashing" my children. I'd like to think that I can teach them and introduce them to Jesus, and that they'll be able to develop a relationship with Him of their own choosing (and His) if and when they desire. I'd like to think that as my kids get older, I will prepare them for the fact that these Bible stories that we read at night aren't taken as fact by many of the people they will encounter later in life.

I'd also like to think that the majority of teaching will be done by me and my wife in our home. But realistically, my kids, although young, are at church a great deal. Multiple times per week, quite often. Sure, right now it's coloring pictures, doing crafts, singing songs, and listening to stories. My kids are young, but when I get home with my 5-year old daughter, she can recite the entire story -- with details! -- that she heard in class about Peter being in prison and an angel coming to let him out.

So the truth is, we entrust a great deal of our children's learning to people at church. And I trust those people, even (for the most part) the ones that I don't know. I don't feel like we are brainwashing our children. We teach them the Truth, we teach them about Jesus' love, and as they get older, they have the free will to accept or reject it.

Yet two things still trouble me. One, if The Church (in the broadest sense) is doing it right, why do so many of those kids reject that truth as they get older? And secondly, do "outsiders" look at what we do as indoctrination? As brainwashing?

While it may not truly matter what those people think, might they have a point?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Men and Church

Is much of today's "church" geared towards women, and alienating men? Some articles and quotes for discussion...

A few posts from the Church for Men website:

    Some of the latest worship songs border on the erotic... When I saw the phrases “moving to the rhythm” and “spread wide” I just about fainted. Lyrics like these leave little doubt: today’s praise music targets love-starved women. (Gals buy about 75% of the praise and worship CDs) I don't know any man who follows Christ for his "intoxicating fragrance."
I'm so used to today's "praise songs" that I barely notice this anymore. But in contemporary praise music, the tone of Christ as our "lover" rather than our "leader" is pretty obvious when you compare it to the masculine hymns of old. (And yes, I just made myself sound like an old fuddy-duddy... I actually generally prefer newer upbeat praise songs to old hymns, but I understand the point of the author.)

Also see the great article, "Why Men Flock to Islam."

    Islam’s unbending moral code, its five strict pillars and even its reputation for ferocity are attractive to men at a gut level. A man thinks, “Here is a faith that’s going to hold me to a higher standard. Men are dying for this.” Furthermore, Islam appeals to the kind of man who is repulsed by the soft, accepting and relational faith pushed in many churches today.
If you don't have time to read the article, the author talks a bit about how our churches might be able to "deliver" for men without oppressing women in the process. And some might find number one interesting:

    1. A clear mission for every church. Most church mission statements are rambling and non-specific. Men are drawn to clarity and brevity. If they’re going to give up their weekend, they want to know why.
There is a serious gender gap in our churches... The statistics show that churches are comprised of 61% women and 39% men. And a lot of the men that DO attend, do so because their wives tell them to. They are unaffected.

Jesus was a magnet to men. What is it about modern churchianity Christianity that is driving men away?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Epicurean Paradox

Continuing last night's discussion of the problem of evil (which has been continuing for the last few thousand years, I suppose)...

The Wikipedia article on the subject is an interesting read.

I'm actually only about halfway through digesting the article, but hopefully I'll have time tomomrrow to finish it up.

Were there any deep thoughts on the subject last night after I left?

Friday, May 11, 2007

"We as Christians spend too much time... devising game plans and strategies for reaching our 'opponents'."

Slightly off our usual Monday-night topics, but there is a fascinating post on the xxxchurch blog about relational evangelism...


Craig Gross and Ron Jeremy travel together often on their "Porn Debate" tour. They are friends. They eat together, spend time together, and have a genuine friendship. Read the post, it's just a very interesting take on whether our attempts to build relationships with the lost is sometimes like a "give-and-take" trade agreement.

A key sentence towards the end:

    Ron Jeremy can not be an opponent. He must be a friend, and friends share friends and invite each other into their world.
I've heard stories from more than one friend about times they have delved a bit deeper into the "sinners" world to reach the lost. Sometimes deep enough so that they may not even be comfortable talking about it in "church," because they know there would be a backlash.

We know that Jesus ate and established relationships with many so-called "sinners," and he did so without sinning.

How deep could you go? Does it feel like a "trade agreement" sometimes?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Is Church?

What is church?

What should church be? How closely are we supposed to follow the model of the early New Testament church?

The church in Acts is vastly different from the church of today. Yet the first-century church in Acts is also often upheld as a shining example of what and how we are supposed to be.

But is that what God truly intended? Did he want us to try to match them exactly, to copycat what they had done? Or did he expect 2000 years of enormous social, cultural and technological change to form a church of a different type?

From my narrow mindset (Midwestern American middle-class Christian white male... You can't get much more whitebread and narrow-scope than that), I see a lot of churches that have got it wrong, and a lot of churches that seem to have it right.

I see house churches that seem to have it right.

I see house churches that are obviously completely misguided.

I see megachurches that seem to have it right.

I see megachurches that are obviously completely misguided.

Does size matter? Is numerical growth a key indicator of the health and "Godliness" of a church?

What if someday, we learn that we've got it all wrong? What we are doing isn't really what God even had in mind in the first place?

What does God expect of his church?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This blog is a holding place for further discussion, debate, argument, screaming, shouting, ponderings, deliberation, meditation, examination, consideration, and the occasional link or article to go along with what we discuss on Monday nights.

Caffeine: A stimulant to the nervous system and heart.

Ecclesiology: The study of the theology associated with the nature, mission, constitution, and functions of a church.