Tag Archives: Church

Guestroom For Jesus

homeless In most cities in the USA, especially in our current economic climate, there are more abandoned housing units then there are homeless. In other words: there is enough housing for everyone. Of course, the red tape and economic structures of our society prevents this solution from becoming a reality. However, I’d like to offer an alternative solution.
By even conservative statistics, there are many more empty “guest bedrooms” in people’s homes then there are homeless out on the streets in every city. Specifically, I’d bet there are enough empty rooms in “Christians” homes, whose very faith calls them to care for those in need, to end homelessness in the USA tomorrow if we wanted to. As an example, there are 3000 homeless in Hennepin County, which has a population of over one million. Assuming an average household of five people, that’s 200,000 homes of which at least 1-2% more then likely have an extra bedroom. Even with this reality, we have plenty of excuses as to why my correlation (Christians with Empty Guest Bedrooms : Homeless Ratio) simply is not appropriate or feasible.

“Many homeless have mental conditions, that would make it unsafe for my family.”
“Most homeless have drug and alcohol problems which would put my families lives in danger.”
“And God calls us to protect our family and be wise” [sidenote: Can someone please show me where in the Bible it say that to “protect” our family is a top priority?]

Lame Excuses!
We have within our means the ability to radically live out the Christian calling of caring for the needy and practicing hospitality, and we are content to cop out with some lame excuse.
Here’s why it’s lame. Keeping your family (and the people on the street) safe is a wonderful thing, really it is. Mental conditions should be treated, drug and alcohol problems should be controlled, nobody should be hurting or threatening anybody; but what does that have to do with opening your home to someone else?

Sure, you are to be validated in your concerns. But, now it’s time to problem solve and find a solution for bringing together your desire for the well-being of all, and your calling to radically follow Christ.
If people (including many Christians) can spend thousands of dollars solving the problems of remodeling their outdated bathroom, or upgrading to a state of the art kitchen, then I think we can also put our minds and money to creating homes that can accommodate those who need a place to stay.

Maybe you put an outside door on the guest room and a regular locked door into the house. Or you remodel the office or the space above the garage to have not only a bedroom but a bathroom and a small kitchenette.  Use your imagination, you could go more elaborate or more practical, but look to solve problems rather then make excuses.

Maybe for some it means downsizing their home till it accommodates the basic needs for their immediate family and they then use the freed up additional wealth and resources to contribute to a community that is meeting the needs of the homeless.

Stop making lame excuses that justify your apathy to following Christ call. Instead have some fun and remodel your house (and in doing so open yourself to following Christ in ways you’ve never considered before)!

The Church and the Wage Gap

Wage Gap Church Marquee

There are few forms of discrimination that have as much wide-spread and consistent impact on success then the wage gap. The wage gap references the statistical gap between men and women’s pay for equal work. To date, all skills and experience being equal, white women earn 77 cents on the dollar that white men earn. Men and women of color fare worse.

The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job and do the same work. At the time of the EPA’s passage, women earned just 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2006, that rate had only increased to 77 cents, an improvement of less than half a penny a year. Minority women fare the worst. African-American women earn just 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men, and for Hispanic women that figure drops to merely 52 cents per dollar. –InfoPlease

And if you don’t think those pennies add up, consider that a college graduated women will lose over $1 million in wage earnings compared to her male counterpart due to wage discrimination.  This sort of discrimination is intolerable and even more so because there is a lot that we can do to address it.

How can the church begin to address this issue? There is much we can do, and plenty of resources to guide us. The following is a simple plan for taking action in your church.

  1. Document and Research
  2. Collaborate and Learn
  3. Talk to the Boss
  4. Celebrate!

1. Document and Research – There are some compelling reasons to make our salaries known. The taboo on sharing how much you make is one of the reasons this sort of discrimination can thrive. Knowing what others in your field make will help you be aware of if you are being unfairly paid.  Churches as communities and action centers are a perfect place to coordinate this kind of sharing. Researching wages within your field and if you are being appropriately paid is something many people already do individually. While individual research has benefits, imagine the collaborative ability a church body has to gather this type of information and keep it shared and public within the community. Within the church, opening conversations about our incomes could have all kinds of other implications as well. Documenting also means letting it be known when you feel you were mistreated or unfairly dealt with as it relates to your wage. If any place should be a safe haven and a place to share those things, it should be the church.

2. Collaborate and Learn– Caring after the orphans and widows in their distress has to do with a lot more then providing clothing and shelter (though that’s good too). Acts of charity are good things, but wouldn’t it be amazing to see the church as a collaborating force to ensure women were treated and paid fairly? The church, as a unified body, is just the sort of community that can provide the resources and preparation for demanding fair wages.  If someone had concerns about their unfair treatment at work, the church should be able to provide contact information and resources for learning how to negotiate, rather then just an offer to pray for the person.  An African American women earning the dollar (rather then 64 cents to a white males dollar) she deserves for her work doesn’t need to depend on the charity of others to survive and she can have the pride of standing on her own two feet, rather then being the victim of oppressive discrimination.

3. Talk to the Boss– Probably the most intimidating and daunting task of many people’s jobs is asking something of their boss. Especially for single-income households, talking to your boss about your pay, or any acknowledgment of being unsatisfied with work, can be a very scary task as there is probably a great fear of getting fired. Once again, the church has an important role in this step. The churches role is to be a supportive and loving body in the midst of injustice. So, not only do we help empower and prepare people to ask for equal wages, we are also there to support them should their demands be met with resistance. It’s much easier to stand strong against mistreatment and discrimination if you have a loving supportive community around you.

4. Celebrate!– I’d urge churches or small groups to have Wage Parties, or maybe Against Injustice parties. When my house mate paid off his last school loan and became debt free, we had a celebratory party. It was a beautiful thing. Like a celebration after finding a lost coin or sheep, we should celebrate when unjustly stolen salaries have been given back. The church should be a place of praise and celebration, for fair wages as much as anything else.


source:  The steps used are based loosely on an article, Mind the Wage Gap, from the fall 2005 issue of Ms. Magazine.

(This post was originally posted in April of 2007)

Driscoll: Who Would Jesus Dehumanize?

driscollI can’t remember if I’ve blogged about Driscoll before, and with our internet running at a snail pace I can’t look it up. I’ll just recap Driscoll from what I know.

Mark Driscoll is a pastor of a growing church in Seattle called Mars Hill. He’s a super trendy, cool dude (not to be confused with the other super cool, trendy dude from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Rob Bell) who is the new face of the conservative calvinist church movement. If I were to take a guess, I’d say the old face was and has been John Piper, Minneapolis based pastor, whose sermons and books have been quite formative in my faith and theology.

Though as I’ve journeyed along in my faith I’ve come to find some of my views are in stark contrast to Pipers, he’s still very much a ‘mentor’ of mine and someone I respect deeply. That said, you’d think I’d feel similarly about Driscoll. Not the case.

Sometime last year Driscoll said some absolutely ridiculous things (apparently he says this sort of thing frequently, but this time it was youtubed [p.s. This video is terribly offensive, viewers beware]) and it stirred up quite the controversy in the blogosphere. Here’s my basic summary: Driscoll has a habit of trumping up the masculinity of Christ and demeaning women at the same time, people complained, a protest was planned for a coming Sunday, both sides agreed to meet on a Thursday and Driscoll both apologized and agreed to meet with someone who would ‘counsel’ him on why some of his language is inappropriate.

Needless to say, I was impressed by this move on Driscoll’s part and hoped to see some good come of it. Fast forward to this past week. I saw a link to a New York Times article on Driscoll, Who Would Jesus Smack Down? I clicked over and gave it a read, and through the first page I was quite impressed. I appreciate Driscoll’s candidness on issues, and I even dig his commitment to his theology. But, I was sadly disappointed when I started reading the same sort of language he’d been rebuked on coming up, and the remaining four pages had not a word about any change that he’s made. Now, it could be the author simply missed this, but you’d have to admit it’d be a hard change to miss.

Driscoll constantly rails against what he calls the “feminization” of Christ, continually using feminine and many other ‘female’ oriented terms in a negative way. He describes Protestant culture as “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists,” clearly not intended as a compliment.

Who does Driscoll think he is? With both a wife and five kids, how does he think it’s in any way appropriate to refer to women in such a condescending way? It absolutely blows me away. And what’s even more distrubing to me is that pastors like John Piper, who I truly admire and respect, seem to be silent or even supportive of Driscoll. I even found a video on a semi-related note by John Piper on why he invited Mark Driscoll to the Desiring God conference back in June of 2008.

Piper, someone who is brilliant and extremely intentional with his choice of language, seems to have blinders on to the dehumanizing and sexist attitude and choice of words that Driscoll seems to promote. It breaks my heart that Piper hasn’t spoke up on this (Piper, if your out there listening, I’d love to hear you speak up on this).

Mindy recommended an illustration to help the inappropriateness of Driscoll’s choice of language really sink in. Replace any other oppressed group title into the above quote and the offensiveness becomes quite clear. How would you feel if you heard a pastor saying this:
“The church is full of black people and black-acting dudes with limp wrists.”

I don’t think you need to go much further then that to see how obviously inappropriate Driscoll’s language is. I’m very open to Driscoll making a case for Jesus being a more hard-lined, Calvinist theology-like savior (not that I agree with him, but I’m fine with him saying it). But to do that at the expense of half our population? To promote a theology that calls for female submission in the church and at the same time degrades and dehumanizes our mothers, sisters and daughters; That’s not just un-Christ-like, it’s inhumane.

Further Thoughts On Church

I wanted to layout some further thoughts from my rambling post on Monday. First of all, thank you to everyone who commented, it really lent me some insight. So, undoubtedly, some of what I write below is in response to some of the thoughts shared. I’m also encouraged that so many people have found churches that break the traditional mold I tend to see everywhere I go.  So, my thoughts below aren’t about individual churches (if the shoe doesn’t fit…), but rather a question or thought about the “Christian” community as a whole.

The Bible

People, inside of the church and outside, have a lot of different views of this book. It’s authoritative History, good advice, fairy tale, or oppressive manifesto. It’s ancient for sure, but like many old text, there are some tidbits of advice that are universal. Christians claim the Bible as their authoritative text, but most don’t seem to have ever read it themselves. I think they should read it. But, then there’s also the crew that jumps on the Bible-in-a-Year bandwagon and attempts to cram through the whole book time and again. My main concern is that we are reading but not doing what it says.  And by doing what it says, I don’t mean condemning people who don’t believe it’s rules, but rather following the admonishes ourselves (Love your enemies, Feed the poor, put others before yourselves, do not judge, etc). I’d almost think we’d be fine just putting away our Bibles for the rest of our lives and spend our time actually trying to implement what we know we should and aren’t.


Most of my thought falls into the same category as the Bible. Isn’t there a point when the pastor, or the group, re-evaluates and says “this isn’t working.” There’s benefit to public speaking, informing, challenging, etc. But when a large group of people get together week after week to motivate themselves to follow Jesus and do what the Bible says, isn’t there a point when you raise a question as to whether it’s actually happening or not? I’m not an outsider by any means, but I think any logical person could spend a few weeks around a church and say there is a huge gaping difference between what they are preaching and what they are doing.
Part two of sermons is this idea that one person in an entire congregation (almost always a male) some how is gifted to be the only one who speaks to the entire group on a weekly basis. I’m sorry, but I see absolutely no basis for that in the Bible I read.


Some people love the music at church. I used to, but now I can’t stand it. My opinion of the singing is really summed up in this one passage, Amos 5:21-24. Part of which reads:

“Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

I can’t imagine we’ve come much farther then the Israelites in those days, in fact, I think we are probably in many ways far worse.

Communion and Sacraments

I feel similar about these as the Music above. I don’t want to diminish the value of rituals or sacred acts, I think they are a very important part of ours or any culture. And yet, they’re sacredness to me is so diminished by our inaction, that in many ways I struggle to see the value at all.
And I’ll be honest, especially for all you non-Christians out there, I just find communion bizarre. I dig that it was originally done at a passover meal, and it’s connection to the Hebrew prayers over the bread and wine at Passover and Shabbat. But, the whole drink my blood and eat my body stuff? I still don’t get it.


Most folks who gave their reason behind church mentioned community. I couldn’t agree more. I think church has been a great way for me to meet other people from my community (both geographically and common values). However, simply community, in and of itself, isn’t a very compelling reason to attend. Many people find deeper community with others through a whole host of other activities (sporting events, meals, video games, cooking, hobbies, outings, etc). Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate of community, I just think pointing to church (particularly Sunday morning) as an example of deep Christian community is pretty disappointing.

[photo credit]

Why Do You Go To Church?

This is an off the cuff thought, but I haven’t had much interest or motivation to attend church lately.
It’s not just that it’s hard to get the kiddo ready to go and venture out in the freezing cold on a Sunday morning, there’s more then that.

It’s also not that I’m against churches completely or anything, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet other people in my neighborhood who share similar values. We’ve connected, via the small groups and service projects, with other people in our community.

I guess, I just sort of start to wonder, “what’s the point?” I’ve probably heard well over 500 sermons in my life (others of you have heard a TON more). And it’s true, there are some cool preachers out there that can put a new spin on things, lend some interesting insight into a topic or Bible passage. Yet, it’s just another interesting media input. I can watch great sermons online, listen to them during my walk, read a book on the topic or consume some other medium at my own convenience. When I show up on Sunday I mostly small talk with the one or two people I know, listen to some music and head home.

I’m rambling here, my intent was mostly to ask the question of you. I’m not looking for you to convince me of anything, I’d just like to know your own personal motivation for attending Church (if you do). Or, in a similar vein, why do you read the Bible?

Drop your answer below.

(P.S. I’ve added a new comment plugin called IntenseDebate. It adds some neat features, comment threads, reply by email, and more. You don’t have to register or anything. Please let me know what you think, if it works, or if it’s a pain in the butt).

Moving Beyond Pro-Birth

(This is not a critique, but what I believe is an honest starting point for a dialog regarding mothers and babies and how the church can be the embodiment of the love of Christ)


I have seen so much passion regarding this issue, so much time, energy, finances, thought and more being poured into the anti-abortion stance by Christians and christian groups. I’m not sure that I’ve seen so much passion from the church in the USA regarding any other issue (at least from my limited perspective).  I’m excited to see so much passion by the church (though at times I feel it is misguided) and I want to empower people to direct that passion to love for babies, children and mothers (completely families). I have a hunch though.

I’m starting to think and believe that the church isn’t pro-life at all. If you could call the church anything regarding this issue it would be “pro-birth”. When I look at the church wholistically and specifically regarding the issue of abortion I see a drive to insist that the only moral route for a pregnant mother is for a baby to be born. But before and after that I see very little effort by the church as a whole to live through our actions a truly “pro-life” stance. Let us love in actions and in truth.

So, that being said, here is my beginning list of ways the church can and should be The Church regarding the issue of pregnancy, babies, families, birth and abortion. I want to start with the ethos of the communities.

Looking at the statistics (regarding premarital sex) and beliefs (against abortion), I find it a little odd that (with one exception) I have never seen a young woman who was pregnant out of wedlock in any church or youth group I attended or was a part of (nor at Wheaton College where I went to undergrad). This concerns me on two levels. First, it says that couples that are getting pregnant and are unmarried are disappearing from the church, or could be secretly having abortions, because of the obvious social acceptableness of being pregnant and unmarried in the church. Secondly, it means the church, by and large, is an extremely uncomfortable place for a woman (or couple) who is pregnant to come to and find a support system.
The church is failing to live out it’s roll because we are shouting condemnation and judgement so loud no one is comfortable coming to us for the love of Christ.

Pastors and Youth Pastors need to take the roll of shifting the ethos of the church to be a welcome place for pregnant teens and unwed mothers (by and large it is not). Sermons need to be preached from the pulpit (of grace, not of condemnation), individuals and families need to be loved, cared for, apologized to. Students need to feel comfortable coming to the parents, youth pastors, or friends, for help regardless of the circumstances.

In addition, the church should be living by example a holistic love for people through out the life span, regardless of circumstance. By and large, most churches in the US participate in meager acts of charity (again, this has been my experience).  A person, of any age, should be able to walk in the church door and have their needs met. And I mean that to an extreme. (I’m talking church, not government, so feel free to accuse me of being a complete church socialist or communist ;).  Every man, woman and child within the vicinty of a church should be able to come there and have something to eat, proper clothes and a roof over their head (my church here is far short of that as well, and my own life does not live up to this standard I admit). It says something about us in the church when we claim to be pro-life, but we spend are money and resources on ourselves just like our neighbors while children go hungry around us and woman feel unable to go through with a pregnancy.

Lastly, we as Christians should be in relationships that would allow us the opportunity to intervene and shower our love and support on a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I’ll be the first to admit, I have very few relationships that would put me in a position to help someone and support them before they made a decision. Abortions, by and large, are done in secret, many times because they want to keep the pregnancy a secret. If I was a young pregnant mother, Churches and Christians would likely be the last place I would go, you can feel the venom of condemnation and judgment just imagining it. We need to be those people of unconditional love. We need to be the people that a young pregnant couple could come to and ask for our support in making the right decision, and that we would love them in action, unconditionally. I fear the church (myself included) is not at that level of relationship with the woman (and men) who are being faced with these decisions, and we need to be. I think this is one of the churches great moral failings.

[photo credit]

Video: Thoughts on Money

It’s YouTubesday again, which means will look at some videos. I’ve put five videos on the player below, all related to finances and the church. Here’s a quick rundown of what you have to watch below.

  1. Nooma – RICH 01:29
    To most people in the world, what we have would be more than enough. Maybe what we have is enough.
  2. Eight Dollar Hot Dog 04:25
    Are God’s children caring for one another? Pastor and author Chris Seay discusses the tension between eight dollar hot dogs and children dying every fifteen seconds because they lack access to clean water. Are God’s children caring for one another? [h.t. joe and people]
  3. THINK OF ME 04:04
    A movie that was presented by Franis Chan and his church Cornerstone. This is the reason they decided against a multi-million dollar church building to instead build an out-door amphitheater for church. The rest of the money was given to help feed the poor around the world. UNBELIEVABLE! [h.t. shlog and Jesusland]
  4. The African Dream: Ending Extreme Poverty 06:54
    This 7-minute short serves to promote awareness on Poverty in Africa – an issue of extreme importance that does not receive the mu This 7-minute short serves to promote awareness on Poverty in Africa – an issue of extreme importance that does not receive the much needed attention it deserves.
  5. Consumerism! The Musical 05:01
    A satire and celebration of the culture we live in.

Flashback: The False Charity of Clothing Drives

Originally Posted in February 2006

The story goes something like this:
A typical church in a well-to-do neighborhood is inspired by the stories shared by a visiting missionary. In an effort to contribute to the needs that the missionary has shared the church has a clothing drive and encourages members to donate their winter coats for those who don’t have a coat to keep warm. The drive is a wonderful success and the missionary sends word of how the coats have benefited the people she works with. This is a wonderful thing.
The following year, the church again encourages it’s members to donate their coats and clothing and again they fill boxes with used clothing and coats. Now we have a problem.

Why is this a problem? The needs of the community are being met, with coats and clothing coming their way. And to the degree that those needs are met it is hard to critique without being looked at poorly. Yet I will still address my concern about the church.

Let me entertain you with some questions:
1. Have you ever participated in a clothing drive?
Having heard about a need in the world, you recognized that you had more then enough for yourself, and you where compelled to share your possessions with those in need.

2. Look at your closet now. Does it reflect those same convictions that moved you to donate your clothes in the first place?

3. More specifically, if I looked at your closet now, would I be able to see your convictions reflected, or would I say you are a prime candidate for our next clothing drive?

See, the problem with clothing drives is that often they result in a “hand me down” sort of charity. We donate our old, out of fashion, and undesirable clothes and make room in our closets for the new wardrobe we’ve been eager to purchase. Not only do we physically clean out our closet, but do it in the name of “charity” as if these actions are a noble act of giving. (If I am not describing you, please don’t feel judged or feel the need to defend your actions). This is a “false charity.”

What am I suggesting instead? I would like to see convictions drive our actions, not events like a clothing drive. If you have two coats and you only need one, then you should give the other away. The next time there is a coat drive your only option should be to buy a new coat and donate that one to the coat drive, because the one you currently have you need. If you have more shoes then you need you should give them away, and if you have more clothes then you need you should give those away too.
A church full of people living out their convictions would have no use for a clothing drive (unless it was to collect new items), because every member would have already given away their excess.

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”*

Flashback: Why the Sermon?

A while ago I wrote a series called considering church, and discussed 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.

 Read the original post and comments here.