Tag Archives: Church

Flash Back: Considering Church

A great series I enjoyed writing that I wish I continued was about the church. And it started with this post, Why a Building?:

I think my initial hesitation about the whole building thing came when the church building craze started my last year of high school. My church decided we need to add a $2.5 million addition on to our building. I didn’t realize we were outgrowing the original building in the first place, and now they wanted to add on. And in adding on they wanted it to look really nice, which is understandable since the current building looked quite nice. But I thought to myself $2.5 million is a whole lot of money, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.
Little did I know over the next few years practically every church I went to was doing a building campaign. Some of them really needed it, others I wasn’t so sure. We attended one church for a while and then they started a building campaign for a second building and they where putting an indoor waterfall in it. That was it, I was gone.

Then at some point I started thinking… Why the heck do we need a building anyways? I mean we all live somewhere, why don’t we meet in our homes? It seemed to me that’s mostly what the early church did. I mean, it’s true we couldn’t all pack in to hear the really good preachers, but since when is that what it’s all about? Some would say that’s what small groups are for, to meet in smaller communities in our homes and stuff (I’ll address this later).

I’m not saying church buildings don’t have a purpose, I’ve just started questioning if they are really necessary at all. I mean is it feasible to do the things we do in a church building in our homes instead? And what about bigger events? Is it possible to do those in a place other than our own building?

One of my main concerns about the building is that seems to be all we spend our money on, or talk about spending our money on. The main time you hear about making tithing pledges in most churches it seems is usually related to a building campaign. And then the church goes into debt to purchase the new building before they even have all the money.

That was just a rant of sorts, I really should fine tune it a bit, but there it is raw.

The conversation that began from that post was great and it continued into a brief series entitled, Considering Church.

Scheming Swindlers

I think this is one of the most brilliant statements about the current state of Christians and the church today.

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”
-Soren Kierkegaard

The Church’s role in Suburbia

It could possibly be over a year ago, I asked readers to give me some topics to write on and this was one of the ones that was brought up. I started a draft with just the title and that’s as far as I got until now. Rather then just delete it I figured it’s time to dig in a share my brief thoughts.

I know the person asking this didn’t intend this, but I think I initially have to say the churches role in Suburbia is to be the same as it’s role everywhere, and that is to make the good news of Jesus known to all people. So the role in Suburbia is the same as in the inner city, the war zone, the church buildings, the workplace, the brothel, the senate, the sweatshop, and in the family. So, if we are going to ask about the Suburbs we need to ask about these other places as well, but you can do that within your own church. on to Suburbia…

Let me start with what I do not think the churches role is, because I think it will get to the heart of what is inherent in this question for many people. I think we’ve started asking these sorts of questions about certain places, activities, and lifestyles in order to justify those things. So, by asking and answering the question of “The churches role in Suburbia” we might automatically acknowledge that it is an okay lifestyle and place in which to dwell for a Christian. A Wealthy CEO with a membership to a country club begins to ask, “what is my role as a Christian in this country club” and inevitably the answer will make the assumption that they should continue to be a member of the country club. The church wouldn’t allow the same question to be asked and answered of a drug dealer in a crack house, we would instead acknowledge that the answer must include that they stop dealing drugs. I hope that made some sense.

So, and I’m going to be bold about this, I don’t think the churches role in Suburbia is to live the lifestyle of suburbia and from there have a role of influence (wait though, I’m not saying you can’t live there). I would argue that the church, made of many individuals and families would do much better moving in geographical proximity to those in physical need (which is not in the suburbs), but that is a whole other topic. For now, let’s assume you are living in suburbia. I think our role as the church is to share the good news of Jesus with our neighbors. And before you think I’m talking about the Romans Road sharing the gospel let me clarify.

Suburbia is full of all the things the world tells us will satisfy our souls. White picket fences, SUVs, makeup and fitness machines, electric can openers and pretty pets, big plasma tv’s and our very own swing sets. If your living in suburbia with all this stuff, and your telling your neighbor it’s really Jesus who satisfies you, let me just say it’s going to be a confusing message.

A vision for the church in Suburbia:
Keep your house… for now. Sell all your unnecessary possessions, or even give them away to your neighbors. Tell them they can have those things because they will not truly be satisfied by the stuff, that only Jesus can satisfy. Take the extra money and give it to the poor. In fact, go out and bring the poor to your house for a big banquet. Sell your trendy car and buy a cheaper one with cash, that gets you from A to B. Take the extra cash flow and start sponsoring a child, take in a foster child, donate to the women’s shelter. Pay off your house in a year or two, because the debtor is slave to the lender. Find a church made up of people that look different then you and who worship in a way that might not be the most comfortable for you, you’ll likely have to drive a ways to find this place. Shed your life of anything that might confuse your neighbors, so that when they so your joyous, selfless life, the only thing they can acknowledge as the source of truth in your life is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Loves Osama Bin Laden

A News article tells of the story behind this sign in front of a Sydney baptist church and the criticism from The Australian prime minister.

I’m happy to hear of kindred spirits in the world. After 9/11 I posted a sign on my door that read:


It was torn down multiple times in the first few days I had it up. Then I made a t-shirt, and it got comments from people left and right. I made a new shirt when we went to war with Iraq and it met similar resistance.

So, it amazes me that there are whole churches out there that are clear on the radical love Christ calls us to, and it doesn’t surprise me that there are plenty that are opposed to it.

Anyone else ready to erect a Jesus Loves Osama sign at their church?

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?

Impacting Documentaries. Learn. Live.

I’m hoping to get a movie series going at our house that will encourage us and other’s onward toward action about important issues we might not currently know about.
I really hope the movie series will be endorsed by Mosaic where I attend on Sunday’s as well as getting the word out a few other places, but we’ll see what happens.

For now, I’m trying to pick some movies. Here’s a long list of ones I’m interested in showing. I’d like to just pick ten so I can do it on a every other week basis for about 20 weeks.

  1. An Inconvenient Truth
  2. Crash (Widescreen Edition)
  3. Sometimes In April
  4. Hotel Rwanda
  5. Tough Guise
  6. The Corporation
  7. The Boys of Baraka
  8. Born into Brothels
  9. North Country (Widescreen Edition)
  10. Killing Us Softly
  11. Life And Debt
  12. POV: Lost Boys of Sudan
  13. 30 Days - Season 1
  14. Bowling for Columbine
  15. Why We Fight
  16. Fahrenheit 9/11
  17. Another World Is Possible: Volume 2 - Poverty
  18. Another World Is Possible: Volume 1 - War
  19. Another World Is Possible: Volume 3 - Creation
  20. Murderball
  21. Fast Food Nation
  22. Chavez: Inside the Coup
  23. Super Size Me
  24. Color of Fear
  25. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

What would be your ten from that list? Or do you have other suggestions?

“Least of these” ≠ “unsaved”

Least of These BannerI felt it was necessary to address a common misconception that is brought up in the church these days. The thing that is so dangerous about it is that we use religious language and inferences of Bible verses, but we do it in a way that gives us a dangerously inaccurate perception of the people we interact with.
We use the language of “Least of these” a lot in the church, especially when we are talking about “ministry” and “service.” This is not bad wording as it’s the language Jesus used when he told the Sheep in a parable why they were allowed to enter into His kingdom:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Primarly we say the “Least of these” when refer to people in need, whether that be the homeless, poor, low-income, etc. This seems like a good interpretation since Jesus himself describes the least of these as people with real physical needs: Hungry, Thirsty, Needing clothing, Sick, in Prison.
I think having concern in the church about the “least of these” is an extremely important and worthwhile use of our time. In fact it appears to be the longest and most direct words of Jesus about Heaven and Hell, which seems like it should get some attention in our after-life focused churches. (I met a guy in Atlanta who had a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus on it with the title: Angry Jesus and the quote: FEED THE POOR OR GO TO HELL! which seems like a pretty good paraphrase of Matthew 25 if you ask me.)

The misconception, the danger, and the wayward understanding I hear way too often in the church is an equating of the “Least of these” as “unsaved.” No where in the Matthew 25-where our language of the “least of these” comes from- is there any mention or inference that the people whom the sheep provided for where somehow “unsaved.” If anything Jesus says they are “brothers of mine,” implying they are part of the kingdom if they are anything.
Yet, in our churches today we talk about “ministries” and we tie so closely the idea of providing for folks physical needs with that of “saving people.” We create this idea that when you go to the soup kitchen you need to “tell people about Jesus,” as if they are unsaved, unchurched, and in need of your gospel. Let me make clear, there are a lot of people who need to know the love of Jesus, but there are just as many in the church pews and suburbs around you as there are in the homeless shelters and housing projects. Just because someone can’t make ends meet to put a roof over their head does not mean they some how do not know God or haven’t experienced the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop treating the “least of these” as “unsaved” and start treating them like the sister’s and brother’s in Christ that they are, and even more treating them as the Kings and Queens that they are, since according to Jesus, “Their’s is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Conclusion: Don’t stop the soup kitchen and homeless shelters, we need to continue providing for our sibling. If anything we probably need to step it up a couple notches since the most tangible way you can interact with Jesus nowadays is not in a church service or a song, it’s feeding him and clothing him (“When I was hungry you gave me something to eat.”).
What we need to do is stop treating “service” projects as some sort of charity, hand-out, that gives us the jollies, as if we are stepping down from our place of superiority to help these helpless people (Cause that is straight-up garbage).

Thoughts on the Journey Compilation

With the daily podcast, Thoughts on the Journey, moving full steam ahead, I figured I should compile a show for all the current Trying to Follow podcast listeners. Basically this is a compilation of 6 of the daily podcasts I’ve been doing through the month of October. This is being posted in the podcast section so it will show up on the itunes podcast page for all my Trying to Follow listeners.

or Download Here.

Time Machine: Wheaton College article about the FMA

(In the fall of 2004 at Wheaton College, where I was a senior, a couple of students from the Student Government were trying to approve an official statement from the Wheaton College Student Body declearing a stance in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment that would outlaw homosexual marriage. A number of students rose up in opposition to the attempt to approve the statement. I’m ever grateful to Lola, the Student body president at the time, for if she had not vetoed the initial vote on the statement it would have been sent out and made regardless of others input. Anyways, here is my article for the Wheaton College school newspaper concerning the topic)

How do we truly love our neighbor? If I may contextualize a bit: Jesus says do as the homosexual prostitute did when he, not judging or condemning, had compassion and cared for the needs of the Wheaton student who had been left for dead in the alley outside of the ministry she worked at, even after another Wheaton student and a pastor drove by. (LUKE 10:30-37).
Some in our community feel that loving your neighbor is best done by supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment, I’m fearful of that action. I am neither the person, nor a Record article the place to sway your decision on the Federal Marriage Amendment. I will say that we must be very clear that the FMA is NOT a stand against homosexuality as sin, but a political statement concerning the rights of those already practicing homosexuality. My words here are only to voice a concern over the message that Student Government and the Wheaton College student body will send to the world if we COLLECTIVELY support this amendment. This is not a definitive statement, only a few thoughts.
Jesus’ public condemnations where almost always directed to the Religious authorities within the religious community that he was a part of. In the early church we see most rebuking and moral standards being dealt with within the church, not to non-Christians. Paul even says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (I Cor. 5:12)
This FMA Statement will define our community for years to come, especially if the news world catches wind of it. When we go to do ministries the question will not be about whether we are allowed to dance, but why do we dislike homosexuals so much?
How did Jesus address the idea of using physical punishment to uphold morality? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (Jn. 8:7) We are not to use the law as a means to force adherence to our moral standards. You want to love your neighbor who is a homosexual? Go hang out with them, be with them. Work with Emmaus ministries on CSC (Christian Service Council), sit at the bedside of someone dying of AIDs whose family has disowned him or her. That is where you can share Christ love.
Before we try and take the speck out of others eyes (and I think by “brothers” Jesus meant other believers), have we made sure there is not a plank in our own? I’m not sure exactly how we go about doing that but I have some ideas of statements that we could make to the greater community that would at least be a step in that direction.
I have two suggestions for possible proposals and resolutions that I think we can as a college campus collectively pass and send to every major organization that is fighting for gay rights. First as it relates to the support of marriage. I think we can be humble and admit that Christians have not been a very good example of the sanctity of marriage. We can let the world know that we know that we too are sinners and fail to live up to God’s ideals. We can explain to others that God is and will forever be the one who has defined marriage, and no matter what we the church or the rest of the world does we cannot change that. And we can commit to being an example in years to come of what true marriage is, as a union before God.
The second statement I think we can make, relates to the homosexual people who this impacts. We, the church, have been a horrible example of Christ love to the homosexual community for years. Christ would have sat by the bedside of dying homosexuals in the height of AIDs in this country, yet we stood outside with signs saying they would burn in hell (or we passively stood by while those statements where made). We can beg forgiveness from the homosexual community for the hurt and hatred that has been dealt to them by members of the Christian community. We can commit to spending much more time personally showing and spreading the love of Christ in genuine ways to people who practice homosexuality.
Unity in the body of Christ is an absolute priority in scripture and should be on this campus. How do we bring that unity amidst such differences on an issue like the FMA, which is not a simple Biblical issue? Shall we divide our community by making collective statements that misrepresent those in our community? I pray not. Let us dialogue together and pray together. “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Phil 3:15-16)
If you believe it is best and most loving to support the FMA, then I pray you are doing equally as much to assure the that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons know the love of Christ. Please don’t make a statement supporting the FMA on my behalf. To those who support the FMA, please feel free to collect 1800 signatures of students who support the FMA, but please don’t outcast me from the community by making collective statements. How will I remain in this community? How will I tell my homosexual friend that I chose to remain a part of a community that was making collective statements that to her carry such hate? Lord help me.

The Bible is a Story

If you haven’t noticed the little countdown on the side bar, I’ve decided to join a group of folks from Mosaic in reading through the Bible in 12 weeks.

Adria explains well why we are all doing this:

Why read the Bible together in 12 weeks?

1. To know what the Bible says, so that we can better understand what the Bible means, and what God’s message is to us through this story, so that we can live well.

2. To have an experience of reading the Bible as a whole book, and not just it’s separate parts. The beauty of reading the Bible in such a concentrated amount of time is that we better understand the overall story and let it put our lives into context.

3. To create community around a common goal.

To facilitate the community part of things Adria put together a blog, 12 weeks, for all those reading to write their thoughts on and to create some dialogue. It’s a pretty neat thing and I’m excited to be a part of it. It did take me a couple days into it before I finally joined in.
If you want to keep up with what I write as I read you can bookmark this link, or grab this feed.
And now you know what I’ll be reading for the next three months.