Category Archives: Kingdom on Earth

An Open Letter to Congregations Welcoming New Pastors

My own thoughts (some hopefully beneficial, some potentially harmful) on just what to do about a new pastor arriving less than a week from today prompted me to draft an open letter to my church. It addresses the “fix-it” list mentality that we can get caught up in whenever new leadership comes into an organization…

January is here! No doubt, this is the month where God’s blessing on us manifests itself in the form of a gifted and passionate shepherd to serve as Pastor and Head of Staff. Thanks be to God! I can’t help but think that our gracious and providing God has a sense of humor. How appropriate that Pastor Bill arrives in January… that he arrives in a month saturated with new beginnings and new chapters, with renewed hope and renewed vitality. Personally and professionally, I’m very thankful for God’s blessing on us. I’m excited to work with a fellow climber, a fellow bibliophile, and a fellow questioning pilgrim, to name a few of Bill’s qualities.

The arrival of a new pastor after a long interim period is great news, but it’s also an occasion for extra diligence. Over the past few months, each of us has probably said that some problem or another will just get better when the new pastor comes. I know I have. But the more I think about it, the more I’m wary of that attitude. Indeed, the presence of a pastor inherently clears up certain potential conflicts. For example, although we could not have survived this period without the leadership of dedicated laypersons who stepped up to the plate, I eagerly anticipate having just one supervisor. Just one person to report to. Where hierarchy exists, it exists most efficiently in simple form. So, Pastor Bill’s arrival itself is somewhat of an automatic solution to certain organizational challenges.

But we know we’re not a perfect congregation. No congregation is perfect. There are still ways for us to streamline the way we carry the gospel out into Durango. There are still ways for us to more enthusiastically fold newcomers into our midst. There are still ways for us to harness 21st-century technology for the purposes of building God’s Kingdom this year. There are still ways for us to become a tighter family of many generations working together.

Join me in rejoicing that our Pastor has arrived, but also let us remain diligent, both as individuals and as a corporate body. Before I ask Bill to make a drastic change that I may personally want to see, may I give him the time he needs to observe us and strategize about how to best lead us. May I avoid the temptation to hand him a “fix-it” list. May I be eager to discern how my unique gifts might best combine with those brought by Bill. Join me in enthusiastically welcoming Pastor Bill in this way!

Let us take to heart how Paul ends his admonition to the believers in Rome: “And now to him who is able to establish us by the gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey him, to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen!”

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Willimon & The Offensiveness of Advent

I’ve had Methodist pastor Will Willimon’s blog in my Google Reader since last May when a colleague talked a lot about him at a retreat. Here’s a recent gem:

More than likely, Advent eschatology offends us for more mundane reasons. I am at church seeking personal advice for how to have a happy marriage or how to get along with the boss next week, only to have Advent wrench my gaze in our subjectivity in its insistence that whatever God is about in the Advent of Jesus, it is something quite large, quite cosmic, quite strange and humanly unmanageable, something more significant than me. I am not the master of history.

So let us begin with the honest admission that our real problem with these Advent/Christmas texts is largely political and economic. Tell me, “This world is ending. God has little vested interest in the present order,” I shall hear it as bad news.

However, for a mother in a barrio in Mexico City who has lost four of her six children to starvation, to hear, “This present world is not what God had in mind. God is not finished, indeed is now moving, to break down and to rebuild in Jesus,” I presume that would sound something like gospel. For her the Advent/Christmas message presages a revolutionary conflagration.

A great deal depends, in regard to our receptivity to these texts, on where we happen to be standing at the time when we get the news, “God is coming.”

It’s Advent. Let the revolution begin.

 

From his most recent blog post.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading

Catalyst 2007 – Rick Warren

“God’s Agenda”

  • If you want God’s blessing on your life, then you have to get with God’s agenda. 1st line of PDL: “It’s not about you.”
    • Stop praying “God, bless me.” Instead: “God, help me to do what you’re doing.”
  • The Kingdom is the single biggest image in the New Testament.
    • Where is it? Wherever Jesus is king… Heaven, earth, within you…
    • What is it? God’s people fulfilling God’s purposes on God’s planet for God’s glory
  • Cf. Matthew 25: If you want Christ to come back just get out and start sharing your faith
    • The disciples always wanted to talk about prophecy and signs; Jesus wanted to talk about evangelism.
  • God’s agenda is the church.
    • What if someone said, “I like you but I just can’t stand your wife (or body)?”
  • God created the entire universe just so He could create a galaxy just so He could create a solar system just so He could create a planet just so He could create an ecosystem… just so He could create a human that would choose to love Him and He could love the human back.
  • Your parents may not have loved/wanted you, but God did, and he made sure you had the ability to love them back, and in turn love Him.
  • God is a creator. You are most like God when you are creating. So stop trying to change culture. Create it.
  • The Moses “Staff to Snake to Staff” story
    • Why is that in the Bible?
    • Hint- When God asks you a question, it’s not for His benefit.
    • Likewise, when God does a miracle, it’s to teach a truth.
    • Moses’ Staff
      • His identification as a shepherd. Who he was
      • Symbol of Moses’ income. What he had
      • Symbol of Moses’ influence (over sheep :P). What he did
      • Take your ID/influence/income and throw it down.
      • God: “And if you surrender it to me I will make it come alive like you’ve never imagined. And every time you pick it up again, it’ll go dead.”
      • From that point forward, Moses’ staff is always referred to as the Rod of God… it pops up in the 10 Commandments, the Red Sea, Pharaoh, simply all over the Pentateuch
      • So: What’s in your wallet hand?

Warren’s Response to the Moses’ Staff Story

  • After writing Purpose Driven Life, an AIDS trip where he accompanied his wife really turned him around.
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Affluence
    • I Corinthians 9 – “It’s ok to get paid for preaching, but I wanna do it for free so no one can doubt my motives.”
    • Not gonna spend the money on myself
    • Not gonna take a salary from the church
    • Gonna give salary back for 25 years
    • Gonna set up AIDS and poverty charities
    • Gonna become reverse tithers (give 90%, live on 10%)
    • “There’s a bumper sticker that says ‘Honk if you love Jesus!’ Well I wanna make one that says ‘Tithe if you love Jesus, any fool can honk!'”
  • “What’s in my hand?” – Influence
    • Psalm 72 – “Solomon’s prayer for more influence. It sounds more selfish than good ol’ Jabez! Solomon was already the wealthiest, wisest man on the planet.”
    • But it’s only selfish until you read the purpose: “So that the king may help the orphaned and marginalized…”
    • “I want to use my power for these people to speak up for those who have no influence.”

Catalyst 2007 – unChristian

A moderated discussion with Tri Robinson, Chris Seay, Dave Kinnaman, and Gabe Lyons, on Kinnaman’s & Lyon’s new book unChristian.

  • Why does our revelation to others that we’re Christians bring such rejection?
  • unChristian set out to scientifically document perceptions of and attitudes towards Christians. Over 10,000 interviews were conducted.
    • Top perceptions: Anti-gay, Judgmental, Hypocritical, Sheltered, Too political, Proselytizers
    • NonChristians 16-29 years old are 8x less favorable about Christians than their Boomer parents
    • unChristian is not an opinion poll to see how we should act… we still have the Bible for that.
  • “We’re not hated for righteousness, but for self-righteousness.” Dave Kinnaman (DK)
  • “On ‘Oh, this is nothing but media bias…’: Research shows that 16-29 y/o’s have 5 Christian friends, 6 months experience among a church community, a majority have at least considered what it means to follow Christianity, etc. They’ve been up close and personal and have some very real things to say.” Gabe Lyons (GL)
  • “They have personal stories to back up their perceptions of Christians as hypocritical, shallow, etc.” (DK)
  • “This generation is slipping away from us. If we sit back and assume our world’s going to Hell, and just leave it alone… well, we just can’t be like that.” (GL)
  • There’s been a surge of people identifying themselves as ‘Christ-followers’ and other similar terms, instead of ‘Christian’. “We need to be redeeming the term ‘Christian’, showing all the things we’re for.” (DK)
  • If Jesus were physically among us again, “his focus would not be on morality… it would be on God and the Creator. If you focus on morality, Romans ultimately tells you you won’t get morality. unChristian is not despair of where we’re at, but hope of where we can be.” Chris Seay (CS)
  • “Before we’re gonna change our culture, we’ve gotta change our own hearts.” Tri Robinson (TR)
  • “It’s wrong to preach a message about social justice or giving water or feeding the poor without providing an outlet for people to go and put it into action. We need a path to run on and it’s the role of the church to provide that path.” (TR)
  • “Christians today are waiting for their leaders to say its ok to care for the environment.” (TR)
  • “It comes down to our character. So far, the right answers have produced the wrong character. We have to own some of that.” (CS)
  • “In those perceptions are tremendous opportunities. They [nonChristians] are smart & savvy. They do remember. They’re begging for chances and deep conversations to wrestle with their doubts. They’re absolutely waiting to be awakened to God’s purposes. They could change the world, we just have to get out of the way.” (DK)
  • “Spirituality is at an all-time high, but they’re not finding it in Christianity. It’s not just an image problem. It’s not that you have to five yup the truth. You just have to hold it in tension as you engage people that are different than us, that are anti-us.” (GL)
  • “I feel that there is a major major trend coming. Let’s talk about the things we agree on. There are so many organizations that are on the same page that don’t know each other exist. Let’s draw the gifting into one place.” (TR)
  • “They don’t recognize the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in Christians. The generation is skeptical of us. What will we do? Will we hole up? Do we draw a line in the sand? How could we embody that grace and truth that Jesus tells us he is?” (DK)

Tom’s Shoes

One thing that sometimes turns me off to even the noblest of fundraising plans and charities and stuff is how complicated they can get. I mean, before you give to something, you should investigate it and find out where your money’s going. So when 55% goes here and 30% goes there and 84% is overhead, blah blah blah, I’m like, “Eh, it’s kinda complicated… Whatever…”

So what about a charity or service that has a 1 to 1 giving ratio? Pretty straightforward and real easy to give to.

Tom’s Shoes.

You buy a pair, another goes to one of 600,000 barefooted kids in Ethiopia. Easy.

On that note, here are some wise words about what we buy:

In simple English, this is truth
So see if this makes sense to you
Under the guise of Jesus Christ
Beneath the vibe and all the lights
They lie, these spies
Covered, your eyes
I never knew this was a contest
I guess we lost it long ago

Blue mixes
Kick us while we’re down, yeah
Fixing prices
Sure, you say one thing
But your actions tell the truth on you

So, blue mix means to weaken sound
Turns concert halls to battlegrounds
Make us pay to go on tour
Marked up t-shirts to match yours
Blind fans, gold mine
You are, dollar signs
And when did this become a contest?
I guess we lost it long ago

Blue mixes
Kick us while we’re down, yeah
Fixing prices
Sure, you say one thing
But your actions tell the truth on you

You are responsible
To watch what you buy
These bands that you love
Pull the wool over your eyes
So watch them
Watch us
Watch them

Five Iron Frenzy, “Blue Mix”

[FIF HT] : t.c.

Hell Houses

Recently I got a letter from a neighboring church, inviting me to send people their way for a special “Outreach” they’re doing. When things get sent to only me, I can ignore them pretty easily. However, this invitation letter was also forwarded to our Children’s Director and our church’s Outreach & Fellowship Committee. Since I have some objections to the program the letter describes, I decided it would be wise to go on record with the committee about my thoughts.

The committee moderators replied promptly after, echoing agreement with my basic reasons. Well, that was fun, but it was also too easy. So I’m offering my thoughts here at the blog to generate more discussion. Without further ado, the letter: Continue reading