Monday, February 26, 2007

Church membership

i started thinking about church membership yesterday. i grew up in an era where membership meant something different than it does today. and i can't say that it really bothers me. don't get me wrong, though...

when i study about the church, there is no question that relationships mean something. the bible writers talk about the church as a family and a good family is where commitment is lived out, intimacy is forged, conflict is resolved, tasks are shared, trust is built, backs are covered and responsibilities are not optional. it is also where the essence of membership is defined.

i read recently that it's getting progressively more difficult to define a church member, but you definitely know one when you see one. i think i agree with that.

i like it when i hear people say, "this is my church!" i like it when i hear ownership and pride (the good kind) and heart when they talk about their church family. i like it when i hear folks say, "these are my people!" it really means something to me when i learn of people who are willing to lay down their opinions and tastes and wants and differences in favor of friendship and warmth and load sharing and bigger vision.

church membership is all about none of us being as strong as all of us.

i guess there will always be people who say they are members of particular churches. maybe even ours. but don't you think that if you have to wonder whether someone is a member or not, maybe there's a problem? most of us know...instinctivley...whether we are part of the family or part of the team. the same should be true of church.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The college group and the 9:00 service

i had some great discussion this past sunday night with some of our college students. their insights into scripture are profound. their pursuit of truth is admirable. their love of north point is obvious. their desire to have an honest and life-changing connection with god is what keeps them coming. they are a really good group.

in our discussion, we beat around the topic of worship service times on sunday mornings. we've been trying, for months, to grow our 9:00 service (another post...another day), but we are not quite "there" yet. one possible solution would be to have an entire the college group...make a commitment to that service and help it grow. the problem is there is no way, no how, not in my lifetime or yours, that our college group would make the decision to come at 9:00 on a regular basis. but not for the reasons you might think...

it is true that most of them stay out too late on saturday nights. many of them don't have mama to wake them up in the morning anymore. a lot of them probably get up early every day of the week to go to work or classes...and the thought of losing a "sleep in" day doesn't sound too appetizing. but those are not the reasons why they don't want to come at 9:00.

the best part of sunday mornings for our college students is not the sermon. hard to believe, but it's not. (i'm over it.) it's not the opportunity for communion...nor is it the nifty music we play as we worship. the new padded chairs are sweet and really comfortable, but they aren't the best part. no...the best part of sunday mornings for our college group is when it's over.

as soon as the service ends, our college young people go right back to doing what they were doing when the service started. enjoying each other. talking...laughing...poking fun...comparing notes about their weeks and school work and jobs and music and fantasy sports and relationships and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.

if you watch them, they take over the room. their relationships spill over. most weeks they have to be kicked out of the auditorium, so they begin to slowly file out and continue the fun at their restaurant of choice.

the reason they won't come to 9:00? they couldn't hang out afterwards. they would get a sermon and sing songs and pray and take communion and experience all of the other components of the service. but it just wouldn't be the same. and it's ok with me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sermon redux

i gotta tell you, i don't think i would have liked listening to most of my own sermon this past sunday. in preparing for my sermon on the rich young ruler (matthew 19:16-24), i became super convicted by what jesus was saying to this guy. really, what i was convicted of was the similarity between the the young ruler and our culture.

he was rich. we are rich. and that's the part i don't want to hear.

but no matter how much i don't want to hear it, it's true. and to have some preacher stand up in front and say it...out loud...with no regard for personal struggle or financial stress or awareness of unique situations... with no apparent sensitivity to the fear or worries or depression that people feel when they labor under the relentless burden of financial pounding...well, i'm sure i wouldn't have liked listening to me.

i made reference to a website that points out just how rich we are compared to the rest of the world. and that's the problem. when i live under the crushing weight of finances gone wild, my vision becomes myopic. i can't see beyond my own mess. my financial chaos becomes so demanding, there's no way i can look at others...let alone see how much better off i am. and i definitely don't want some preacher telling me to start admitting how great my life is.

but truth is truth. no matter how bad our financial condition gets, jesus still tells us to measure our lives by the plight of the world's poor. sell your possessions and give to the poor was not jesus' answer to the shortcomings of the welfare system (or was it?). in this passage, he was simply telling the rich (rulers and common folks like you and me) what they needed to do to live underneath the rule and authority of the kingdom.

rich people need to admit they are rich. we need to admit that our wealth...and all the good and bad that comes with our the most powerful force in our lives. and we need to recognize that until our addiction to money...and all the chaos and worry and stress and pursuit it surrendered to kingdom wisdom, there will always be problems. as ironic as it seems, without our wealth, we would not have these problems.

and the best way for rich people to get things straightened out is to remember the poor.

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. Galatians 2:10

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thinking too much again

i don't want to make a big deal about this, but these things bother me a little...

why is it that people can get up early, get dressed, take care of the kids, make a lengthy drive and manage to get to work or school on time...all the time...but can't get to church on time?

why is it that we will stand and passionately cheer our favorite athletic team, but sit quiet and motionless during the time we worship the greatness of the king of the universe?

why do we cry over the loss of our pets, but not over the thousands who die every day in darfur?

why do we know the names and plots and characters of countless movies and tv shows, but don't know the names of the twelve apostles?

why do we consider school events more worthy of our time and money than church events for our children?

why can we walk for hours at the mall or stand for hours at sporting event, but our legs get weary when we have to stand up to sing two songs at church?

would we read our bibles if they had more pictures?

why is it so hard to give 10% of our income to god through the church, when we don't think twice about spending the other 90% on ourselves?

why is it so difficult to accept that some people have got it wrong? why does that fact have to be deemed "judgmental" or "intolerant"?

why is it so hard to walk up to someone we don't know and start a conversation?

why is it so important to get revenge? why can't we control our anger...even when we know it's doing no good for anybody...including us?

when will we realize that worry is a sin and a blatant distrust of god as our provider?

when will it dawn on us that hanging around christians all the time is like living in a ghetto?

why is gossip soooo acceptable among christians?

why is it more important for us to be right, rather than to do right?

just what i was thinking tonight.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Superbowl

tony dungy, the coach of the superbowl champion indianapolis colts once said, "god is here...even in the ugly things." he should know. he said this after the suicide of his eighteen year old son.

i had interesting feelings about this year's superbowl. being the resident sports authority of my world, people would ask me who i wanted to win the big game. honestly, i didn't care from a player or favorite team point of view. once the chargers handed their tickets away, i didn't have enough emotional energy to invest in another team. but i did care about tony dungy.

i think it is significant that tony dungy is an african american in a sports world that is run by wealthy, white owners. it is significant that he is the first african american coach to win a superbowl. it wasn't long ago that african americans were not considered "coach" material. i can remember the day when owners and coaches didn't think that african americans "had what i took" to even be the quarterback of a pro team. it was a great moment to watch tony dungy accept the trophy. it was an even better moment to listen to him talk.

when one of the sportscasters ask him what the secret to victory was, he replied, "we did it the lord's way." did it the lord's way? what an amazing comment! he didn't say that god wanted them to win. he didn't even give the obligatory glory to god we so often hear from entertainers and athletes. he just stated that there was a right way to do things and wrong way to do things. and as the leader of the colts, he chose to lead the lord's way. we should all learn from his simple formula...

watching tony dungy on the sideline is a lesson in anti-football coaching behavior. no screaming. no ranting. no over-reaction. no stripping of player dignity. calm. personable. friendly. patient. humble. the high school football coaches i have witnessed in texas should be required to watch tony dungy coaching videos.

watching his players hug him after the game was touching. watching the players from the other team hug him after the game was amazing. listening to the cynical journalists extol his personal and professional virtue this week has been nothing short of astounding. he did it the lord's way and he has been noticed for it.

when his son committed suicide last year, this very private man in a very public position walked through life's toughest situation with dignity, honesty and an unashamed and unapologetic faith in god that was beyond inspiring.

in the big picture, there is waaaaay to much blending of sports and religion in america. i am weary of hearing athletes talk about how god is blessing their effort. in a world that labors under the effects of sin and disaster in epic proportion, i find it hard to fathom that god is particularly concerned with the outcome of the games we play. but he is always concerned with the way we live our lives in the face of a world that is looking for meaning and purpose.

i am grateful for tony dungy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


i read this morning about a pastor that took a sunday off. yeah, just took a sunday off. he swallowed his guilt, took off his preacher facade, and just went out in the community on a sunday morning. he wrote about some things he learned. these are some of the same observations i've had for years, but it was kind of cool to hear it from his perspective...

the first thing he noticed was that a large majority of people DO NOT do not go to church. pollsters may still call us a christian nation, but the fact of the matter is the majority...the overwhelming majority of people in our country and in our community to not go to church. is that good news or bad news to you?

his second observation is one that i have been aware of my whole life, but just recently have been really bothered are not going to church. most research says that our churches are made up of 60-70% women. i'm not sure i would dispute that research. i'm reading a book right now that talks about why men hate going to church. i'm agreeing with almost everything the author has to say. you ought to check the book out.

another observation the pastor makes is that people are craving community and they are going to find it somewhere! on most any sunday, you'll find huge groups of people at restaurants, at the mall, on the lake, hitting the golf course, at the gym, out by the pool having a barbeque, and all kinds of other places. the common denominator? they're looking to have a good time with friends. mmm....

his last observation was that a lot of people are working on sundays. the day is certainly no longer sacred...even among the faithful. sunday is a work day...a play day...a family day...a sports day...pretty much anything but a sacred day.

does this information concern you? does it confirm your belief that the world is going to hell in a hand basket? does it excite you to the possibilities of new and creative ways to "do church", in order to reach a culture that no longer sees sundays the way we do? are you ready to get out of your comfort zone?

i'll leave you with this question. is church for us...or them? think about it...