Tag Archives: Christians

What Is Essential to the Gospel?

This is more question time for the readers then me giving answers.

In a discussion at the house the other day, and a couple email conversations with some readers, I’ve started to rethink what topics, facts, concepts, etc. are essential to the Gospel.

There’s all kinds of cliches and sayings about the gospel: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” There’s all kinds of things we spend far too much time talking about and others we simply neglect. So, take a minute to think about this. I’m wondering, if someone were to come up to you and ask you write now, “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

What would you say?

Why Isn’t Church More Like a 12 Step Program?

Below is the 12 Step program (originally for alcoholics):

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

1. We admitted we were powerless over ________ – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Mindy and Bryan were having a conversation a while back about the 12 Step Programs and how church would probably be a much more fruitful and beneficial activity if it functioned more like a 12 Step Program. If you read the steps above they seem like a perfect path for Christians, new or old in the faith, to begin their journey. Many come to faith not as alcoholics, but as chocoholics, shoppoholics, greedy, materialistic, selfish, self-righteous, adulterous, deceptive, pious, gas-guzzling, uncaring, you pick your vice.

Could you imagine if church services where less about one message for all gathered, and more about embracing each person on their journey of faith?
I wanted to start a “Pharisees Anonymous” group at our church that would meet about 45 minutes before the service started. Folks would come together, and acknowledge their shortcomings. We would confess to one another scriptures that we were aware of that we were struggling to follow, and we would encourage one another to continue to journey. No finger-pointing, no judgment, but not a lot of “feel happy” puff yourself up stuff either. I’m thankful I live in a community that does that, now I want to spread it to the church.

Anyone else interested in starting a 12 Steps group?

People Against Poverty and Apathy: Photos

Just thought you might want some proof that Mindy and I really went to the PAPA Festival. It was really a good time. We didn’t have our camera though, so I’ve relied on others pictures posted online. Not very effective for telling any sort of story about our time there. Except that I tried juggling.
Mindy sitting at a session

Ariah Juggling

More photos if your interested in getting an inside look at the people and places that were Papa fest.

Initial thoughts on the PAPA Festival

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about my time at the PAPA Festival all day, but I kept procrastinating on it, mainly because I’m not sure I have that much to say. This wasn’t an academic or informational gathering per say. There where learning sessions, but the majority that I went to were more discussions then they were information which I could share with you.

I will point out that there where white folks with dreadlocks there then I’ve ever seen in one place. Makes you wonder. Lot’s of very ‘alternative’ folks out there looking very much like the normal crowd because they made of the majority at this gathering.

I enjoyed myself for a good number of reasons. I ran into a ton of random people with all sorts of unique connections which was a pretty cool thing. I think I’ll post on the random people I met next.

Mainly, I think the thing I enjoyed most was just being around a whole bunch of “Christians” that actually shared my value system. Too often I feel outcast or alienated as being too “radical” or liberal or something similar. The folks I seem to share values with are ones whose motivation is not following Jesus at all, but something completely different usually. So it was good to be ‘worshiping’ and fellowshipping with others who share my values and my beliefs and motivation.

What does denying yourself look like?

Today I was talking with a friend about some of the word’s of Jesus and it became so clear to me why I think the church should care about justice, should care about others, and shouldn’t just look like another club that people can join (as long as you look, act, and enjoy the same things as the majority of the people in the club). Jesus messes with people’s heads and says these words:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The cross was a method of gruesome punishment, like the electric chair, or lynching. It’s equated with pain, struggle, hurt, and many other harmful and negative images; and Christ tells us to take that up. And then he get’s us even more backwards “lose” our life? What is that supposed to mean?
I’m not hear to do a theological exegesis of the passage, I’d rather just address the fact that THIS is the Jesus that we in the Church profess. There it is as plain as day for any passerby to read. Followers of Jesus should be denying themselves.
So why do those looking on see Christians drive in on Sunday in their fancy cars, pull up to their nice and decked out churches, listen to their health and wealth gospel, sing some feel-good songs, get back in their cars and go out to eat (where they don’t tip well), and head back to their house full of the same gadgets and gizmos everyone else has, ready to start another week?

Where’s the “deny” and “lose” in that? About the only “cross” it seems like most Christian folks are taking up is their house payment. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Why the sermon?

I’ll be honest I like listening to a good sermon every now and then. I could list a few of my favorites for you; at some point maybe I’ll even provide links to mp3’s of sermon’s that really moved me. There is also a good bit of Biblical support for sermons. Jesus seemed to like to sermonize it up every so often; my personal favorite is the “Sermon on the Mount.” Paul had quite a few lengthy sermons, and the first thing Peter does once he has the Holy Spirit is give a sermon. The word “Preach” shows up in the NIV 123 times (according to Biblegateway). Paul even goes off about the Rights of an Apostle in I Corinthians 9 (which is probably where we get our justification for having a paid pastor). The idea of a weekly meeting for a sermon probably comes from one of my favorite passages Acts 2:42-47.

So by now your probably thinking my goal was to answer the question presented in the title: Why the Sermon? Your maybe even a little bit convinced, or you’ve at least added some Bible verses to support it. So if that’s all you wanted, stop now and read no further.

I still wonder “Why the sermon?” If we are going to follow the Acts passage we should be meeting together daily, and also going to each others homes and eating together; we should be selling our possessions and sharing everything in common. And maybe our pastors should even be doing miraculous signs.
If we are going to hear out Paul’s words to the Corinthians then maybe we should also be advocating for more circuit preachers. Maybe we should stop the calls for money and just be giving it.
And when I look at most of the preaching done in the early church it seems very much the focus was on the necessity of getting the story of Jesus right. It seems the goal wasn’t to have something nifty to say each Sunday, but rather it was to preach the story to those who don’t know it, and to clarify Jesus to those who might have heard a incorrect message concerning him.

Maybe, once we’ve got a pretty good handle on the story and we’ve got a decent idea of what this Christian life is requiring of us (if your still real confused, read Jesus’ words he gives at least one sermon that is quite straight forward), then we should quit the sermons and just starting doing what we are supposed to be doing. What does that look like? I’m not quite sure yet.