Monday, September 25, 2006

Is God at work?

this morning i read about a church that had 8,200 people come to their church services yesterday...they also had 214 decisions to follow Christ. the author of the article was telling of the amazing things that God is doing in this church. he then wrote about the "four point strategy" that this church uses that other churches need to use...i assume in order to see God work in their church the same way.

i have nothing against the "four point strategy". it seems pretty logical to me. i'm certainly not against having 8,200 in church on sunday. i think i understand why those kind of churches don't serve communion every sunday, tho... some would probably accuse me of being jealous of the success of large churches. i can't say i'm totally immune from those feelings. we live in a "bigger means better" kind of culture. when i meet people and they find out that i'm a pastor, the first question they ask is almost always, "what denomination?" that question is usually chased with the ever-popular "how big is it?" inquiry...always one of my favorites.

is size evidence of God's blessing? can we safely assume that if we are getting bigger, God is at work? if we follow a proven "four point strategy", should we expect to have the kind of explosive growth that the early church saw in the book of acts?

does God like big churches better?

what do you think?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You need to read this...

i read this quote this morning by pastor and cultural interpreter, steve sjogren:

"One of Mahatma Gandhi's more famous quotes was supposedly spoken to a group of British journalists as they rode on a train through English-held India. He was asked, "Why is it that you speak so highly of Jesus yet you are not a Christian?" He quickly responded, "I would become a Christian... if I could just find one..." Since reading those words a couple of decades ago, I have been haunted by the cutting truth behind the observant eye of this Hindu world changer. There are many billions through the ages who have dared to glibly call themselves Christians - as there are many today who take on that descriptor. That term means literally "little Christ." If you stop to think about it, it's a pretty audacious thing to call oneself a "Christian" in light of the literal meaning of the term. As I write this I wonder if I have ever met a bona fide Christian in all of my thirty-plus years of seeking to follow Jesus. To say that this is disappointing doesn't begin to capture my feelings about this generation of the Church."

wow. i'll comment on this later. i'm a little overwhelmed by the thought of it right now.

Monday, September 18, 2006


here's another quote from walt mueller about dealing with young people in a post-modern culture:

"Be in but not of the world. We must avoid the extreme of pulling ourselves out of the culture, and the opposite extreme of becoming so closely aligned to the world that we uncritically assume values and behaviors that are contrary to God’s will. The church has been guilty of both for far too long. We must learn to walk the tightrope of living for God in the context of the postmodern culture. By maintaining the proper balance, we are maintaining a transforming and redemptive presence in their culture and modeling true, biblical discipleship for all those young people who come to faith."

i grew up in an era and a church culture that preached " in the world, but not of it" regularly. all that meant to me was "don't do what you're friends do"... don't, don't, don't. so that's what i did...or didn't. i stayed as far away as i could. there is no question that my life as a christian was defined waaay more by the things i didn't do, rather than by the things i did do. where i didn't go. what i didn't say. what i didn't see. who i didn't go around.

i know it's a dangerous proposition to encourage our young adults to get out, into the world. it's scary out there. bad things happen out there. there's ugliness and perversion and darkness. but light has got to be in the darkness to illuminate the darkness.

if redemption is ever going to become a reality to those that are lost, somebody's got to find them. that's going to be pretty hard to do if your existence is defined by "don't".

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All ministry

walt meuller is a writer, speaker, pastor and a guy that probably knows more about today's youth culture than anyone i next few posts are going to be some observations about some things he wrote recently in his brand new book about how to reach young people with the message of Jesus.

"Approach teenagers as a cross-cultural mission field. To effectively engage the emerging generations you must remember that there is a cultural gap that you are responsible to span. Their world is not your world. Consequently, you are a cross-cultural missionary who must employ the incarnational approach God used when he sent his Son into the world. God came to us as one of us. He entered into human culture, living and using human language and customs. Knowing their language, culture, and lifestyles helps us contextualize the unchanging message in forms that are familiar to youth."

all of ministry is supposed to be cross-cultural ministry. all of ministry is supposed to be incarnational ministry. the more i am at this ministry thing, the more i am coming to realize that we have to be able to know the language that everyone speaks, know the culture and background that everyone has been formed in, know the lifestyles, values, ethics, priorities, hopes, dreams, beliefs, worries, fears, preconceptions, and assumptions that people have so that we can interact with them in a way that makes sense, shows sensitivity, affirms dignity, and opens the door to relationship.

for anybody. for everybody.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday Night Football

ok, i'll admit's nearly midnight and i'm still up watching my beloved chargers do battle against the hated raiders in the opening game of this year's football season. i love the start of the season. there's no question that i'm a fan. but every year, i am amazed at the level of wackiness that raider fans reach. i sit in absolute shock at the passion, dedication, sold-out craziness that these weirdos have...their costumes, their intimidation, their loyalty, their lunacy.

as i watch them tonight, dressed up like criminals posing as rock star groupies lost on their way to a kiss reunion concert, i found myself saying, "why don't you people get a life?!" and then it hit me.

they have a life. they have a cause. they have fully committed themselves to be fiercely loyal, fearless, reckless disciples. they don't care about what people think of them. they are totally single minded. their obsession with the raiders is scary. really scary. and make no mistake about it...they have a life.

followers of Christ could learn a thing or two from these outrageous bizarros. what would the kingdom on earth be like if it's citizens were as openly devoted to the things of God as our creepy neighbors from nocal...? maybe it's time for us to get a life.

monday night postscript: i'll take the win, but i hate "marty ball".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The lightbulb

there is no question that the most amazing part about being a discipler is seeing the light bulb go on in the heart and mind of another person. when the message of the kingdom becomes more than a good idea and it becomes a clear call to a revolutionary life of obedience...that is the moment that makes everything worth it!

i am grateful for those moments.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


one of my favorite authors and heroes of the faith is gordon macdonald. he is a pastor, author, educator, philosopher, husband, dad, and all-around amazing guy. i highly recommend his books. he wrote recently of a bumper sticker he saw... "don't believe everything you think." man, is that true for me! if i believed everything that floated through my thought processes, i'd hate to think where i'd be...

the reason for this is that the older i get, the more i am thinking. i've never been one to just sit mindlessly, but these days, it seems like i am constantly rethinking what i've always believed and being challenged to look deeper into God's word more than i ever have. on top of that, God's word, being the grid by which we view culture, history, relationships, philosophy, morality, and more, is daily drawing me to analyze the world around me with a new-found passion.

sometimes its confusing. sometimes it hurts. sometimes it makes me question the most fundamental pillars of my belief system. sometimes it sows seeds of cynicism. sometimes it creates the most crystal clear mirror i have ever looked at myself in. sometimes there is beauty like none other. sometimes there is such a horrible picture of life i can barely keep looking, let alone, think about it. but i do. think about it. seriously. curiously. honestly, i hope.

i don't always believe what i think. but what i believe is tied intimately to what i think. taking those thoughts captive is a full-time job!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Friday, September 01, 2006

Unsafety part three

the church is not a safe place because Jesus is not a safe leader.

he summons us to die. he commands us to leave behind those things that are comfortable, reliable, trustworthy, and secure, in order to follow his lead. family, friends, education, occupation, savings accounts, reputation, and possessions are all seen as negotiable baggage and potential hindrances to lives of faith.

risk is a necessary component to a life of full surrender. for faith to run its full course in our lives, something must be at stake. there needs to be a cost. if nothing is on the line, then...nothing is really on the line!

we are called to run the race of faith with the reckless abandon of a crazed football player running down the field on the opening kickoff to plunge headfirst into a wall of 280 lb. linemen. fearless. no regard for self preservation. single-minded passion.

we have been recruited into a battle where the enemy is more hidden than osama. more crafty than a thief in the night. more demented than a serial killer. more evil than hitler. more perverted than a child molester. more real than we know.

Jesus lovingly demands that his followers give up everthing, hold tightly to nothing, go anywhere, and expect nothing in return except the words "well done".

the church is not a safe place.