October 31, 2007

Missouri Baptist Convention (VI) – It’s a Wrap

At least for me. We headed home yesterday even though most of the crucial voting in the convention is set to occur today. For those who don't know, what is happening at the convention is of tremendous importance not only for Missouri Baptists but for the national SBC as well. Many states are looking at Missouri right now and observing what is going on. For those who need a primer:

  • The conservative resurgence happened in Missouri as well
  • The conservative resurgence (in the opinion of some) has gone too far in its legalistic stances on methodology, Acts29, alcohol, and other secondary issues and must be replaced by a more moderate, less antagonistic direction for the Missouri Baptist Convention (better known as Save Our Convention)
  • That shift began taking place yesterday with a landslide victory by Gerald Davidson over the incumbent Mr. Green. Today's votes will carry significant weight as the rest of the officers are elected. It will either signal that a shift has truly taken place, or whether Davidson won on name recognition. Quite frankly I think a shift is underway, and I think you'll see that today.

So what to make of all of this. Rather than write paragraphs, I'll share brief thoughts in bullet form:

  • It's time that alcohol consumption be dropped as a front and center issue for Baptists. We are clearly given liberty in Scripture for its consumption. We are warned of its excesses but we are warned of all excesses in Scripture that would result in idolatry. We have more central things on which to focus our time and energy (namely lost-unregenerate people).
  • Some have said that they think David Tolliver took the high road in his address Monday night. I do not. I think it was a cheap shot across the bow and ill timed given the events that were set to take place the next two days. I do not know Mr. Tolliver, but after having listened to his address, I (along with many others at the convention) found it to be disingenuous and bad exegesis.
  • I agree whole heartedly with Micah's first bullet point here. And I look forward to the second one as well.
  • After observing the conference for two days, I am greatly concerned about how out of touch most folks are about the world they find themselves in.
  • Having the chance to hang out with Acts29 guys who have actually planted churches was great. I look forward to being a colleague of theirs in the near future.
  • I am more appreciative of Lane and Dennis and what God has done at LifePoint.
  • Bobby Shows is awesome and I am proud to have him as a spiritual grandfather.
  • Eternity may have just found a home the last two days….stay tuned.

October 30, 2007

Missouri Baptist Convention (V)

Mark Dever finished the 9 Marks portion of the MBC convention with a message on leadership based out of Acts 6.

He opened the address with a pointed support of mega-churches saying that:

The church at Jerusalem apparently had 1000's of members and we see nothing inherently un-biblical about it.

Mark also covered some interesting tangents as he worked his way into the leadership portion of the message. He talked about racism undermining our belief in the Gospel by not believing that it can overcome every barrier. He also cautioned pastors that division between people who would naturally be divided in the world eclipses the Gospel and shows our natural division to be more powerful than the Gospel. I had to let that one sink in for a while before I caught it but it was a great point.

He then returned to the main theme of his earlier address by reminding pastors that the apostles realized that ministry entrusted to them was more important than quick resolutions to conflict. Their priority was the ministry of the Word. He then went on to give a pretty thorough treatment of Elders, Deacons, and Congregations. He did so with good clarity and usually Dever skill.

He hammered home being able to manage priorities and keep the main thing the main thing. He championed the plurality of elders approach to church leadership. He re-introduced in a way the role of the congregation in church government. Overall, he did a great job.

It was also a big highlight of the trip to meet Mark and to spend some time talking with him about what he's up to and where's he headed over the next few months. I'm looking forward to seeing him in April at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville.

Stay tuned. Highlights and thoughts from today's sessions at the MBC are yet to come.

Missouri Baptist Convention (IV)

Matt Schmucker brought the right after lunch message on membership / church discipline. Matt did an OK job in a tough timeslot. This is tough stuff to deliver a sermon on so to speak so it came across as more of an academic address than it did a message aimed at motivation to change.

Gary Scott Lamb has a good roundup of the address over at his Thoughts And Adventures blog.

I'll highlight here Matt's twelve step recovery program to recovering biblical discipline and church membership:

  1. Regularly proclaim the Gospel
  2. Use a congregationally agreed upon statement of faith
  3. Require membership classes
  4. Interview your potential members
  5. Think before baptizing and admitting children to church membership
  6. Realize that admission to membership is an act of congregation
  7. Publish membership directory
  8. Give active pastoral oversight to the members
  9. Create a culture of discipleship in your church
  10. Limit some activities to only members
  11. Consider reviving practice of church discipline
  12. Recover the grandness of God's blessing

Missouri Baptist Convention (III)

Jonathan Leeman, Director of Communications for 9 Marks ministries, wrapped up the morning with an address on conversion and evangelism. He did a good job in the address, helping us see that preaching and evangelism are not distinct animals but rather one in the same. He talked about how preaching the Word helps three very distinct groups of people in our congregations:

  1. Non-Christians – Here we must learn to apply sermons to their lives that will seek repentance and faith. Jonathan made a great point about not winning their approval but rather their lives with our preaching.
  2. Nominal Christians – This is where he talked about the groups that I think I have been the hardest on in my blog and how we take way too much for granted with this group assuming that they have a grasp on the Gospel and they don't.
  3. Christians – Even this group needs to hear the Gospel regularly to increase their understanding of it and to learn how to increasingly integrate it with the rest of their lives.

Jonathan then went on to talk about that conversion IS NOT:

  1. Reciting a creed
  2. Reciting a prayer
  3. Walking an isle
  4. Emotionally heated experience
  5. Reaching a certain age
  6. A journey

In contrast to what he believes conversion IS:

  1. Turning from path your on
  2. Turning from self-justification to Christ's justification
  3. Turning from idol worship-god worship
  4. Turning from self-rule to God's rule
  5. He created the first time – he creates us the second time.

He then spent some time talking about a subject that quite frankly has plagued and is the biggest issue with the MBC and SBC. He said that misunderstanding conversion will cause our churches to be filled with serious pronouncements but not with people who have experienced a radical change. OUCH. He's absolutely right and that is the exact diagnosis that is wrong with a lot of churches in America today.

Jonathan did a good job. He had a lot of content and delivered it well. More to come on the afternoon sessions.

Missouri Baptist Convention (II)

Mark Dever was the second speaker of the morning. For those who don't know Mark Dever, he is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC. He wrote 9 Marks Of A Healthy Church and has been responsible for the creation of 9 Marks ministries

Dever started out by clearly stating what his whole sermon would be about:

If you're going to be God centered – that means you need to be Bible centered. And being God-centered doesn't mean giving your people what you think God tells you but rather giving them what God has given to us, namely the revelation of Himself through His word.

And in typical Dever fashion, he then went on to speak for forty minutes on the centrality of expositional preaching. He certainly showed some animosity toward para-church programs and publishers with this little zinger:

People always ask me what we are doing at Capitol Hill to grow our church. And I always tell them that we use the Jesus program. Now the Jesus program may not be very popular because nobody at Wheaton, Nashville, or anywhere else makes money off of the Jesus program. But that's what we use.

He then went on to challenge the current normative thinking that we need to focus on how to best engage the culture by arguing that it is not the degree to which we understand the culture that will make us successful, but rather the degree to which we are different from it. He argued that the quality of a church's life together is what will set us apart. He argued that the current generational deception is that figuring out the culture is the way to reach the world. Rather, he argued that the best way for us to reach the world is for them to see the Spirit's fruit lived out in the life of the congregation.

He then moved into completely disintegrating pastoral faith in statistics and judging success based on statistics. He basically argued that he who lives by the numbers will also die by the number but rather faithfulness should be the mark of success. Once again he took a swipe at the para-church business market by saying:

They are nothing more than economic interests that want to sell us stuff. We're an ideal market for folks to tell us that we'll have a successful church if we use their products. That's not true. What's true is what is in Scripture. By preaching the word. Telling them about sin. Grace shown us in Christ. Share the Gospel. We must preach the truth of God's word to God's people. That is how we will have a healthy successful church.

He then went to champion expositional preaching which he defined as:

Sermons which expound the text. Sermons that take the point of the passage, and make that the point of your message, and then apply into the life. EP is not to have your own novel thoughts about the point of the passage. It asks what is the point of the passage. It asks how you bring that point alive. It asks how that applies to their life. It is not tied to style or personality. It is not necessarily verse by verse. It could be an entire chapter. It could be and entire book. But the point of the passage is the point of your message.

He then made a great point about a distinction of preaching:

You are not called to preach. You are called to preach God's word. The minute you get away from that, you are just talking. You stop preaching God's word, your commission is gone. The truth you're talking about needs to be the truth of Scripture. Joyce Meyer can quote the Bible, but not say what the Bible is saying.

He then went on to talk a little about topical preaching:

Topical preaching will slant us toward saying what we want to say. The main point of text will not be main point of sermon. Topical preachers might lead people to be Catholics – where they depend on the preacher and not on the book.

Now I don't care who you are. Those are strong words. But if you think about it long enough, you'll discover he's right. Dever then went on to share his thoughts on pastors' and the length of service most of them have at churches:

Get rid of your bag of tricks, grab your Bible, and stay at your church. I'm not saying it's wrong to leave a church, but the faithfulness I'm talking about seems absurd and too slow. Or your view of ministry may be wrong. You may need to make a commitment to shepherding God's people.

He finished up with several things, but I think the most important was just some general advice on preaching:

Give people an idea of where the text falls in the Biblical storyline. Don't treat the Bible as a Chinese fortune cookie. Tell people how the text fits in the entire story otherwise a lot of the Bible will look and sound silly. And also, you need to have the Gospel in every sermon. Try to address non-believers and the way they are thinking in your sermons. Remember that the point is not to show your mastery of homiletical technique or to make your congregation the most learned. The point is share God's word with God's people.That's why you have a pastor and not a video feed. They see your life and they can imitate you. They know you and you know them. It's in that context that he has gifted you to apply God's word to those individuals. Also remember that the Gospel is not just individual but communal and has applications for your church as well as the individual.

Overall, a very strong address and a typical Dever message. Solid, to the point, and applicable. There are some things here that I'll pick through later, but you'll get the gist.

October 29, 2007

Missouri Baptist Convention (I)

We're meeting at lovely Tan-Tar-A resort at the Lake of the Ozarks. We arrived a bit late for the first speaker this morning Matt Schmucker – Executive Director of 9 Marks Ministries. I caught the last few minutes of his address but I think it was basically this:

The pastor's job is to preach the Word. Don't try to be relevant. Listen and preach the Word of God. Stay faithful to the Word of God and make that your soul focus.

That was the gist of the last 10 minutes of it. And it was well received by the pastors in the MBC. It'll be interesting to hear from Mark Dever to see how he follows that up. More to come…

Should Be An Interesting Day

I'm headed to the Missouri Baptist Convention at the Lake of the Ozarks with LifePoint today. As you may or may not remember, the MBC and Acts29 are not necessarily Mutt and Jeff.

This promises to be an eventful two days and there will be some blogging on-site hopefully.

In the meantime, I'll be pondering how to blog on this extensive article over at the New York Times. (HT: Bible Belt Blogger)

Here's a quick commentary on the the following paragraph:

So when Fox announced to his flock one Sunday in August last year that it was his final appearance in the pulpit, the news startled evangelical activists from Atlanta to Grand Rapids. Fox told the congregation that he was quitting so he could work full time on "cultural issues." Within days, The Wichita Eagle reported that Fox left under pressure. The board of deacons had told him that his activism was getting in the way of the Gospel. "It just wasn't pertinent," Associate Pastor Gayle Tenbrook later told me.

Ponder this: Does being an evangelical Christian or a Christ follower as we like to call them at LifePoint, automatically mean that you should align yourself with the agenda of the Republican party. And an even better question for you to think about:

Would Jesus have more in common with the Republicans or Democrats?

October 26, 2007

Give Me A D – Give Me An E – Give Me An E – Give Me A P

What's that spell? Depends on who you ask.

Perry Noble thinks it's about what you do and not what you know.

Jeff Vanderstelt thinks that busyness doesn't prove depth. (HT: Jared)

So which is it? Are you deep because you come and serve at church? Are you deep because you can recite the Heidelberg Confession? Can you do a lot of stuff and yet be shallow? Can you know a lot of stuff and still be shallow?

Who's right? Is James right? Is it a false paradox? Do you really have to choose one or the other? Why can't you have both?

Why are doers so resentful of thinkers? Why can't thinkers actually do something? Why can't doers actually think about something once in a while?

I've got my theories. Is deep being able to be both or all?

So many questions. So few answers. I'm finding I have fewer of them in life.

October 24, 2007

When People Aren’t Where You Wish They Were

The last few days have been challenging for me. I don't know about anyone else, but I fight myself all the time. I know that there is a man deep inside me that gets out way too often and there is the man God is forming struggling to keep the deep man under wraps. I'm a dominant personality. I'm a big personality. It is often my greatest strength. Too often, it is my greatest weakness. And the last few days have served as a reminder that I am far from being where I want to be.

One of my greatest struggles within myself is my evaluation and judgment of other people. My natural tendency is to write people off way too quickly. Because of my background and my journey of where I have come from, I can't understand why people approach life so passively. Why they sit back and just meander through their time here on Earth with no passion and no fervor. Why, although they may claim the name of Jesus, they share none of His passions and none of His sufferings. And when I encounter that, I immediately begin to attack that mentality. I may not do it forcefully but I guarantee you I'm loading up the bullets in my thoughts.

When I see folks who have been given so much yet do so little. When I see folks who have such fantastic opportunities right in front of them yet fritter them away. These things weigh on me. I have encountered this in my time of leading a ministry at a local church in St. Louis. I have seen this in employees that I led at Upward. And now I have seen this in certain people at LifePoint. And I have always struggled with the following tension:

When is it time to place a loving arm around them? When is it time to give them a firm, swift kick in the butt to the curb?

You see, Jesus didn't long-suffer with everyone. There were people that he sent away. The rich young ruler, the Pharisees, Judas, the proud, and the lazy were all folks who bore the inpatience of Jesus. There are folks and there are times when the best thing you can do for someone is to put them out. Paul said as much many times about the immoral brother. Jesus said as much when he spoke of spitting the lukewarm out of His mouth.

So what do you do when people aren't where you wish they were? Do you love them? Do you shepherd them? Do you challenge them? Do you guide them? Do you point them in the direction you would have them to go? Do you encourage them? Do you rebuke them? And finally, if all of that fails, do you forget them?

I'll tell you, God has been all over me that I am way too quick to forget them. I desire to wash my hands of them because they aren't living up to the standard that I think they should be living up to. I want to issues the ultimatum: Get on, get off, or get out! Why? Because that feels good! That doesn't require one ounce of patience or thought. That doesn't require one minute of time spent thinking about how the Spirit might be leading me to pastor someone. That doesn't require a single step toward investing something in that person that you may not get back. In short, it's easier to write them off, than it is to walk the road with them.

And God is hammering me right now to try and get me to walk the road with people. Not to tell them whether they belong on the road in the first place. He's been doing that for the last ten years. And because I'm so hard headed and stubborn, it's been hard to get that message across. But I sense that in my soul, the tide might be turning. And I'm excited about that.

What do you do when people aren't where you wish they were? You realize that you aren't where God wishes you were, but He loves you just the same and patiently walks the road with you. That's an amazing thought to live on.

October 23, 2007

It Ain’t Ever Gonna Be That Way

I heard those words yesterday in reference to a discussion of how things could be regarding a situation. I was describing how a situation ought to be and how it could one day come to pass and the person I was talking about it with said those words to me.

Which got me to thinking and I'll expound more on this week hopefully:

Why are we as humans so negative in regard to looking to the future and imagining a reality that is different from what we are currently experiencing?

Is it that we simply don't trust God as I've said here before? Is it that we are so ingrained in our current way of life and thinking that we can't imagine it being any different? Is it that we don't think God is able to do anything more than he is currently doing? Is it that we are so bogged down in sin that we are oppressed by its hold on our lives? Is it that we don't see the good in situations and people? Is it that we've never been taught to see potential?

This has huge ramifications not only in the business world where I ran across it, but in the ministry and church world as well. Why are we so poor at imagining what the future may be and then having the courage and boldness to attempt to see it come to pass? Why are we so content to stay right where we are at in life and not do anything more?

I'm pondering that right now…and I thought you may want to today as well!

October 22, 2007

Sunday Shirt – Sunday Shorts

I can't tell you how many times in my life, especially in the last ten years, I've had the conversation with someone about what attire they should wear to church on Sundays. I have always held to the firm conviction that it doesn't matter what you wear. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. Because of that, I have always encouraged folks to come just as they are. Forget about how you look, how others think you should look, or any other artificial expectations you may have about getting right before God before darkening the doors of the church.

So imagine my surprise and dismay Sunday morning when the words came out of my mouth that went completely contrary to all of that. I was taking a shower, and my son walked into our bedroom dressed in clothes he had picked out himself. My wife observed what he had on and told him she had meant a different pair of shorts and shirt when she gave him instruction on what to pick out of his closet. And then these words came out of my mouth: "Get A Sunday Shirt – And Sunday Shorts"….

And it hit me immediately. "Why did I just say that? I don't mean that do I? Did I really just tell him to look differently on Sunday than he does the rest of the week? Am I really that kind of parent? Am I that kind of person?" And a hundred more questions lining up from there. And it stuck with me so much that it was the only thing I could write about for this post.

We are so wired as fallen people to dress ourselves up for others to see. It is so ingrained in us and is such a default mode for us that many times we don't even recognize that we are doing it. From the very beginning when Adam and Eve realized that they stood naked in the Garden, man has sought to improve his appearance before others and hide his shame through exterior means. And if you'll think long and hard, you'll begin to see in your own life little ways how you do this:

  • When someone asks you what you do for a living, especially if they have a vocation you believe is somehow superior to yours, you "dress up" your job a little in the hopes that they'll think more highly of you than if you just told them what you really do
  • You buy a car that you really can't afford because you don't want to be seen driving in the church or work parking lot with your Honda Accord that has 175,000 miles on it and a few dents in it. I mean seriously, how could you ever expect people to take you seriously if you're driving that old clunker around.
  • You spend way too much money on a house in a neighborhood that you feel will give you a little extra stature because of the prices of the homes there. Think about it, if you lived in one of those "track home" neighborhoods, you would be just like every other commoner out there. But since you live in a "nice" development, you can be sure of only positive reactions when people ask you where you live.
  • When someone asks how you are doing, you always respond with the safe and practical words "I'm good". Because you couldn't possibly let them know what is really going on. Think about it. You're a highly respected professional who has the nice car and the nice house. You're not supposed to struggle with the same problems as the "average" person. Your education and training have insulated you from actually experiencing those poor person issues. If you really let people know what was going on behind closed doors, they might begin to question what business you have being the professional that you are.

And the list could go on. But you get the point. It isn't just that we dress up for Sunday mornings. We dress up our whole lives. We want people to think we are someone that we are not. Vulnerability and truth are hard. We always want to feel like we are doing more than the next guy. And therefore if we can look, act, dress, or live better than him we can feel worse about him and better about ourselves. It's our default mode. It's how we are naturally wired to operate apart from the intervening grace of God.

I'm just thankful that God always reminds me through my own actions that I'm still fallen and still imperfect. No matter how far I think I've come, I still have a bent towards Sunday Shirt – Sunday Shorts.

October 18, 2007

Seismic Activity In The Christian Church

I'll wade into the waters here, but I can promise you this is going to become big news over the upcoming months and have HUGE ramifications for the American church. You can also find out more info about what the article is talking about here.

So let's take a look and talk about this shall we. Essentially, what has happened is Willow Creek has looked at their methods and their philosophies of the last 30 years and said "Oops"…

Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country. So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, "We made a mistake"?

It's going to be interesting to see how that question gets answered. But there's a lot of unwinding to do. And a lot of changing course about to happen. There will also be some serious post-mortems at all the churches who have spent collective BILLIONS building facilities so they could be the big box church they thought they should be.

  • To hear Greg Hawkins say that attendance at services is not an indicator of growth in spiritual maturity should send shockwaves to the mega-church upstarts out there. For all of those people who have invested millions in their Sunday service because they thought THAT was the way to change the community, you have just been told differently by the godfather of your movement.
  • To the folks who have publicly ridiculed churches who wanted to pour heavily into teaching, equipping, and maturing their own – you have just been rebuked.
  • To the evangelistic zealots who believed that their program would hurdle the church over the top – you have just had your hopes dashed.
  • But to those who have said all along that we must teach and equip our people to learn how to read their Bible, to learn how to pray, to learn how to practice solitude and meditation, to engage in missional living right here at home, to give their life away to their fellow church members, to give sacrificially to each as they had need. To those – you have just seen another church (albeit a big one and a flagship one) understand at least a little of what you've been talking about all along.
  • To the pastor of a small church in rural America whose been told he matters nothing because he's not reaching thousands, you have just learned that your little flock of 50 has pleased God more than the masses of thousands who came to be entertained.

And to all of us in ministry who labor for the Gospel – we have just learned the value of admitting when you're wrong. This is a big step for Willow to admit they blew it from a philosophy standpoint. And what they have done is start something I hope every local church and para-church ministry does starting now and that is honestly evaluate the true difference you are making in people's lives. Quit using numbers as your justification for your rightness and start listening to the people you think you are reaching. Get involved with your people and find out what they truly think and who they truly are.

This truly is a stunning turn of events. How God will use this should be interesting. But with the rise of The Gospel Coalition, Redeemer Presbyterian, Bethlehem Baptist, Desiring God, Acts 29, and in general the resurgence of a focus back on the Gospel – this truly is a remarkable moment in the life of the American church. I'll be interested to read what other bloggers have to say.


UPDATE: Read more about this at the following locations (I'll update as I find them):

Justin Taylor
Grace Fellowship Of South Forsyth
Expository Thoughts
The Heidelblog
The Gospel Driven Church - Jared
The Centurion
Phil Johnson
Todd Rhoades

It’s No Wonder (IV)

So far we've looked at the fact that most Christians don't have meaningful relationships with lost people. A significant result of that is that we are becoming less and less influential in the world around us. As we become less influential, the health and substance of the Christian church is under assault. As I wrap up this series, I want to address one final perspective related to all of this and it is:

Is it any wonder that we are being marginalized by the lost world and that their perceptions of us are becoming increasingly negative?

Check out this short article here by Time Magazine (HT: Scott Hodge) and then read this article from a San Antonio news site (HT: Mike Olmsted). Now let me start off by saying that I firmly believe the goal of Christianity is not to win a popularity contest. Our main objective is not to be elected homecoming queen in the United States. A faithful life, devoted to Jesus, and lived out in the public squares will most certainly draw persecution, rebuke, ridicule, and scorn from a good majority of people. That is promised to us by Jesus himself as it was the reward He himself was given for a lifetime of faithful, perfect love demonstrated to the world. We should never be "en vogue" as I think when that day arrives, you will be able to point to cornerstone pillars of Christian faith that we have tossed aside in order to be liked.

However, what these articles point out that is that we are being disliked, I believe, for the wrong reasons. More and more, Christianity is being pigeonholed as the "anti-gay", "anti-booze" faith. Our withdrawal from meaningful relationships with lost people has allowed us to retreat into our fortresses and begin hurling spears at those that stand outside the Christian castle. And more and more, we are becoming known for what we stand against than who we stand with. And this should not be the case.

Read 1 Peter 2:12 and really take that verse in. Peter exhorts us to keep our conduct honorable, and in so doing that when the world accuses us of evil, that we have behaved and done things in such a way that they will have no choice to see that we are not evil, but rather so amazing in our character and service that they glorify our God in heaven.

We will be hated for our stances on the moral issues of the day. We will be persecuted for our theological beliefs and the firmness of our convictions. We will be savaged for our immovable stance on human life, human conduct, and human standing before God. No doubt about that. But we are missing the other piece of this verse and that is our good deeds towards lost people. And it is hard to do good deeds for lost people when you don't know any. Jesus called us to engage the world and to be its servant. Throughout history, martyrs whose blood was spilled because of their beliefs were also immortalized in the annals of history for their service and love of their executioners.

So it should be with us. But we are not looking to serve the lost. We are looking to condemn them. We have taken up a firm position in the seat of the Pharisee's and stand as the world's judge. We stand far off from the lost because they may make us unclean. We have shunned them as our neighbor. We have wiped ourselves of their stench. And the longer we do that, the more we will be hated, but for all the wrong reasons.

Are you a Christian that someone might vehemently disagree with on the issues of the day but that same person who hates you for your beliefs would also cry if you left their life? How you answer that question will be very telling of the maturity of your faith and your walk with Jesus.

October 17, 2007

It’s No Wonder (III)

So far we've looked at the fact that most Christians don't have any meaningful vibrant relationships with lost people. We then explored the possibilities of the difference it would make in our world and in individual lives if that were not the case. Today I want to look at what I believe to be a direct result of Christians not engaging their neighbors, their world, or their culture. And that is: Is it any wonder that our churches are in the shape they are in today?

I mean seriously. To give you a flavor of what I'm talking about, you need to read this and this, look at these and digest them, and then really think through what some of these mean. After you've looked at all that, you'll have an anecdotal feel and a numerical feel for the paragraphs I'm about to share. The resources I point to are by no means comprehensive or necessarily linear. If you care enough to, you can get a feel for the state of things just by diving in a little bit online.

But the overwhelming conclusion you come to is that the American church, especially the more traditional corners, are in deep trouble. And almost every measure you could use to judge that will bear that statement out. And I've come to two inescapable conclusions as to why that is.

  1. The majority of "professing" Christians (I'm saying 85% plus) couldn't articulate Biblically what the Gospel is.
  2. Because they don't know it themselves, they're incapable of sharing it truly with lost un-churched people.

We wonder why we're so inept at evangelism in church today. It's because the majority of people in our pews aren't saved and don't know (and certainly aren't transformed by it) the Gospel themselves. They may know bits and pieces, but they don't understand who Jesus is. They're coming to church as some sort of psycho-therapy or emotional release, but they have no clue who the Biblical Jesus really is or what the Good News is all about. And if you think I'm full of bull on this one, I challenge you to get a group of the average ten people from your church together and simply pose this question and listen to the response you will get:

What is the Gospel?

You will be both amazed and disheartened at the answers you receive. I was. I did this at a large church that I attended and couldn't believe the answers I received. They sounded good. They may have been bits and pieces of the whole. But not one person in a group of fifteen people who had just completed the membership class for this church could articulate clearly what the Gospel was. And by the way, if you think the Gospel is "Jesus died on the cross for my sins", then you have missed it as well. You're a product of crusade or para-church evangelism which reduces the glorious Gospel to a formula for a "get out of hell free" card. I would argue that para-church ministries and crusade evangelism have done more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ in the last 30 years than they have helped. That's hard for me to say and may be hard for some to hear but I am believing more and more it is the absolute truth.

And so because our churches are full of people who don't know the good news, they certainly aren't going to be beacons of sharing that good news with anyone else. And worse, they are going to be me-centered for most of their church life. They will not look to give their life away or serve others. And consequently, they will never get to know other lost people. They've got their ticket to heaven punched and the rest of the world can screw-off because Christianity is all about me now. How unfortunate! How tragic! And now, because they don't know the Gospel, they can't be transformed by it. They will spend a life growing more and more focused on themselves and less focused on those around them. And the vicious cycle continues. The more they turn inward, the less they turn outward, and thus the cause of Jesus is hurt even more.

October 16, 2007

It’s No Wonder (II)

Yesterday, we looked at the fact that most Christians (especially those in Christian leadership) have no vibrant personal relationships with lost people. There's a bit of a caveat to that in the sense that new Christians are more likely to have personal connections with lost people but over time, most Christians become isolated and withdrawn from the world that they were saved. They busy themselves with church activities. They go to work for Christian organizations. They turn more and more inward until they are completely isolated from a world of people destined to become objects of God's eternal wrath.

With that being the case, is it really any wonder that the news we watch is as bad as it is. Now, understand that I know we live in a sinful fallen world and that the bad news all around us is primarily attributed to sin and to the consequences of our idolatry in the Garden. I know that. I'm not about to say that we can eradicate sin just by getting to know more lost people. But check out this sampling of stories from the last little while:

And that's just a sampling. I have in my RSS feeds literally thousands of news stories of humanity gone awry. And that is what happened when we exchanged the glory of God for an idol. So yes, we are living in a sinful world. Yes, that is what God promised would happen when Adam and Eve screwed it up. Yes, that is why Jesus came to die.


Have you ever thought for a moment about the folks lives around you. I mean each of those stories above, this person was in a town that had churches. This person was in a town that had Christians. This person was in a town that preached Jesus. And have you ever asked yourself the question: I wonder if they knew a Christian? Or better yet: I wonder if a Christian knew them. I mean really knew them. In a way different than just saying hello on the way to the mailbox, did someone who had been transformed by Jesus know who that person was?

Sadly, I think the answer in most cases is probably going to be no. You know why? Because lost stinks. Because lost is dirty. Because lost in dangerous. Because lost is messy. And Christians, once they make their "decision for Christ" spend the rest of their lives trying to avoid all those things. Christians don't like dirty. They don't like dangerous. They don't like unclean. We become Pharisees. We become white-washed tombs. We don't care about the poor. We don't care about the un-educated. We don't care about the hurting. All we care about is how nice our church building is when we show up there on Sunday morning to talk to other people who don't care about lost and we can share our nice cozy gated community lives together.

And I'll tell you the people who are the worst about this are the people who grew up in church all their lives. They seem especially ill-equipped to deal with lost because they have been protected from reality their whole lives. Is it any wonder that the most on-fire people for Jesus and seeing their communities transformed are the people who were converted later in life. Who were saved from pits of hell unimaginable? Have you ever thought about that? And why that is? I know why it is.

Because they know what they have been saved from and they can't imagine anyone else having to endure that for one second longer than they have to. They have a compassion for lost. They have a love for lost. They feel drawn to lost to try and do whatever they can to redeem it.

Have you ever thought about what a difference you might make if you would just make one friendship with a lost person and get involved in their lives? Have you ever thought about what God might use you to do in that person's eternal existence? Have you ever wondered what the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ could do to a lost soul? Have you ever seen it? Have you ever felt it? Have you ever known it? For most of you, the answer is no…and that's sad. What's even worse, you probably won't do anything to change your current pattern. And you'll never see what the Gospel can really do in the life of a lost person.

October 15, 2007

It’s No Wonder

I'll start off this post by saying you can get mad all you want to. You can write all the comments you want. You can say all the nasty things you want anonymously. But the fact will remain that if you'll truly examine your life, you'll be guilty. You ready for the challenge:

Name three people in your life right now that don't walk with Jesus that you have a personally vibrant relationship with and that you are helping to walk down the road to an encounter with God.

Guess what, most of you, in fact 98% of you aren't even going to have one. Not a single one. You don't have a single lost friend. You may be able to name lost people left and right. You can throw out their names. But you can't tell me one thing about their lives. You can't tell me one thing about the hours you've spent with them just hanging out and building a relationship with them. You can't share stories of God working through you because you haven't put yourself in a position where God can do anything except watch the game with you.

And I hear a lot of people talk about evangelism. I mean a lot. Mega-Church pastors, Para-church presidents, Seminary professors, etc. You name it and everybody's talking about it. The problem is nobody's doing it. And nobody's admitting they're not doing it. It's easy to preach it. It's a whole 'nother thing to do it. And I bet if you peered inside the lives of the biggest evangelism proponents, what you would see are people who are passing the buck to their followers and leaving true evangelism up to the other folks.

Let's be clear on something. I phrased my challenge the way I did for a reason. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do the 3 minute Gospel presentations, but it takes a whole different kind of person to build a relationship with lost people. I want to know if you're building relationships, not giving pre-canned presentations to an audience you're trying to sell something to. You don't win this challenge if all you ever try to do is "lead people to the Lord on airplanes" because they are people you'll never see again and you can feel good that you somehow did your spiritual duty. Never mind you'll never have to invest in that person again so you could care less whether or not you actually loved that person or not.

And you want to know the people who are the most guilty of not building relationships with lost. People in ministry! Pastors, para-church ministry employees, church leadership etc. It's amazing how busy people get with "ministry" stuff that they forget that all the crapola they are wasting so much time on is pointless compared to the eternal souls that lie desolate just doors down from them.

I'll take it a step further and say that I would venture most Christian ministry people don't even know their own neighbors. Ooohh…we're doing big things for Jesus but those people on our street can take a flying leap. I'll let some other schmuck reach them. I got things to do. I got a booming ministry that needs tending to. I got speaking engagements. I got places to go, people to see. I'm in the ministry. Yea…and you know what. You're impotent for the cause of Christ as well because you are living a lie. You're preaching to choirs but not preaching to lost. You're rapping with Pharisees but shunning the poor.

And you find a nice way to justify it every day you continue to do it. This week, we'll look at the natural results of this attitude within Christianity. It should be an interesting week.

October 11, 2007

Don’t Call Me Eric Clapton

But I did buy this guitar yesterday. It's a Taylor 100 series that I purchased from Springfield Music Company. My good friend and strikingly good looking worship leader Dennis Smith assisted me with the purchase. Truth be told, he actually picked out the guitar and I just purchased it. I have no idea what I was looking for so I trusted his very good judgment.

I've started playing and I took my first lesson from Mr. Smith yesterday. And I have to say this: If you ever want to feel your left hand fingers, don't ever pick up a guitar. My hand hurts bad and I've only been playing for a day. I've also read that guitar players have a hard time picking their nose accurately so I'm not looking forward to that. I'm a frequent nose picker (like my schnaz to be clean) and the thought of not being able to feel the dirty elements that might collect inside my nostril is not appealing to me. I'll make due. I might have to find a nose squeegee or something. Not sure if there are actually things called nose squeegees but I've now given you a good idea for an invention.

So why did I spend $650 on a musical instrument. Well, two reasons really. And both are good and valid in my opinion.

  1. Because if I going to plant a church, I want to be able to lead small groups, big groups, the church, youth, kids, anyone in a time of musical worship. I've seen too many people resort to playing CD's or alike and I just think that it's important to be able play the guitar. It's a good sounding instrument, easy to learn comparatively, and just a Godly instrument in my estimation. Some of my fondest memories are sitting around a bonfire with someone playing the guitar and leading us in singing. I want to be able to do that.
  2. More importantly, I want to be able to lead my family in worship. I have to confess I haven't been the best in the world at leading a regular worship time for my wife and boys, but I wanted that to change. I'm not interested in the piano, but I'm fascinated with the guitar. Been playing an air version of it most of my adult life. I think it's important to teach and lead our families as men into worship. That's the responsibility God's given me. And I hope I can be faithful in fulfilling that responsibility.

And if I had my doubts as to whether I was on the right track, you should have seen my boy's faces when I strummed just a simple G chord for them. I think we're in for a dandy of a time. I want to leave a strong spiritual legacy for my family.

Pray for me if you think about it. Pray that God would teach me the guitar in record time. Pray that my fingers would feel numb faster. Pray that God use my time with the guitar as glorifying to Him. And thank you Dennis for going with me.

October 10, 2007

The Church And Childrens Ministry

We can't be content just to teach Sunday school, teach our midweek program, and have nice curriculum that we can teach the kids while we're there. We've got to move beyond and consciously equip the parents" – David Michael (Children Desiring God)

Have you ever wondered why, with the amount of time and energy we've poured into children's ministry the last 10 – 15 years, why we are still seeing church dropout rates among college age students at the levels they are at today?

I mean seriously. Wouldn't you think that somehow that investment would be paying off a little bit better? We've spent tens of millions of dollars in churches in North America on nurseries, children's wings, children's worship areas, children's sports programs, children's discipleship programs, VBS, children's choirs, children's this and that, and yet somehow they just aren't sticking. At all. And somewhere along the way, don't you think we should stop and ask ourselves why? Are we just spinning our wheels?

I think David Michael, and quite frankly a lot of folks, are understanding and now communicating that the church can only do so much. You can have all the flash, all the fighter verses, all the programs you want, but unless you consciously (or "intentionally") equip and teach parents how to guide and shepherd their children for Jesus, it will be largely ineffective and quite possibly counter-productive. The church was never given the responsibility to be the primary teacher of Biblical truth to your children. For that matter, the church was never meant to be the primary teacher of Biblical truth to you the adult.

Like father, like son. See we as Christians have abdicated our own personal responsibility of growing ourselves and learning right thinking about God to the church, so why wouldn't we do the same when it comes to our children.

If we won't look to ourselves for our own spiritual growth, we certainly aren't going to look to ourselves for our kid's spiritual growth.

And that is the primary problem with children's and youth ministry today – not that we aren't spending enough money on them.

David really does give a great message and you need to go here to download and listen to it. There are some things he talks about that certainly are good discussion topics and hopefully I will get to those sometime here on the blog. You may not agree with all of his thoughts on effective children's ministry but there's one thing that is for sure.

Without parental involvement, children's ministry will be a largely ineffective endeavor amounting to little more than teaching good moral principles and providing safe Christian babysitting.


October 09, 2007

Church Planting Meeting At LifePoint

Today was a great day at LifePoint. Twenty some folks gathered, some as far away as Oklahoma, to pray, worship, encourage, and discuss church planting. Jonathan McIntosh, from the Journey in St. Louis, spoke to us today about the centrality of the Gospel in church planting and exhorted us to make sure we were keeping the Gospel front and center in our churches. Jesus is the hero of every sermon, and the point of every passage in the Bible. All of the Old Testament and the New Testament point to and expound upon Jesus. If we lose Jesus, we lose the church.

Over lunch, we had the opportunity to do some Q & A and talk about how the theology of the Gospel fleshes out in practical terms such as giving, growing members to maturity, reviving passion in our congregations, and seeing our church folks truly grasp how the Gospel plays out in their entire lives. We talked about the importance of the folks in our churches grasping that all of life is worship and not just the hour we spend together on Sunday.

The cool thing about this meeting was that it was the first we have done in the Southwest Missouri region and we had a good turnout. Prayerfully, as we move forward, we can build this network to serve as a support, encouragement, and help to men who are in church plants, looking to plant churches, or thinking about church planting and discerning whether it's for them. Lane did a good job of laying out what the objectives of such a meeting were and challenged us to consider our own pride, arrogance, and insecurities as church planters when we come together and to really pray to see this network be all it can be. We're looking at getting together again in January. I would suspect maybe January 8th? Stay tuned…

It was a great meeting with great men. I look forward to continuing the friendships that were started today.

In his message to us, Jonathan McIntosh referenced Tim Keller quite frequently. For all things Tim Keller and more resources from Him than you can shake a stick at, you need to go here and check it out.

Thank you to everyone who attended today and to the folks who helped serve and make it happen. I'm grateful for a church like LifePoint who has a heart to see the movement grow.

October 08, 2007

Eternity Is One Step Closer

It's official. Yesterday, I was blessed with the honor of becoming the church planting intern at LifePoint church in Ozark, MO. The past ten weeks have been an awesome time for Jenni and I as we have gone through the process of being accepted into leadership at LifePoint.

Along the way we have gotten to know a great group of men who serve as the elders at our church. They are a wide-ranging group of businessmen and entrepreneurs but one thing is evident from the moment you meet them: They take very seriously their roles in shepherding, guiding, and protecting LifePoint and serving her well.

When Jenni and I interviewed with the elders, I must say it was one of the most interesting interviews I have ever been a part of. Mainly because of the focus and the probing into the strength of our marriage, our family, our beliefs, our devotional practices, our lives, etc. At every step of the way, we were asked hard questions, even at the last elder meeting before the announcement would make it official. I love that about people in leadership. If you are going to lead, and hold the office of overseer (in any organization) you had better be able to ask the hard questions of others and also yourselves. I've seen and am seeing organizations crumble from the inside out because they refuse to ask and answer hard questions and deal with the real issues at hand.

I also have to give some online love to Lane & Christin Harrison (Lead Pastor) and Dennis & Sue Smith (Worship Pastor). These guys and their wives have been awesome to get to know and even more cool to develop friendships with. They are men of integrity. They are men committed to the body of believers that God has brought to them. They are creative. They are energetic. They are passionate. They are in tune with God's vision for the church. They are focused. They are real. They are true. And they have welcomed me in and shown true Christian hospitality. I can't thank them enough for that. They are busy guys, but they weren't too busy to welcome us. I appreciate that and love them dearly for that.

And I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the great key leadership at LifePoint. Sarah (JazzyJo), Chris Austin, Micah Osborne, Heather and Dallas Gilion, Matt Solidum, Kellie Webb, and all of our Community Group leaders. They are great folks who want to see, and know God is doing something special at LifePoint. I have met and talked at length will almost all of them. It's a special group and LifePoint couldn't do what it does without them. They are truly the hands and feet.

And so, as a church planting intern, my dream of planting Eternity takes one more step to becoming a reality. I look forward to this time of learning and leading. Following and guiding. Listening and teaching. I can't wait to see what God is going to do over the upcoming year. I've learned that a year is forever and it's best not to think too far ahead. But I'm enjoying the ride right now.

Thank you Lane and Dennis. Thank you elder council. Thank you key leadership. Thank you community group leaders. Thank you LifePoint church. Thank you God.


October 05, 2007

Christian Identity

Should we only use nice words? Should we always be positive? Two very good questions! The answers to which will vary wildly based on the personality of whom you are asking. It seems as though we as Christians are having a hard time figuring out exactly who we are supposed to be. And not just in our individual lives but in our collective lives as well. Consider:

Right now the biggest schisms in the Christian church seem to be drawn along four distinct lines:

  • Warm Fuzzies – The Emergent Church (McLaren, Pagitt, et all) and Protestant Liberalism (United Methodism, United Church Of Christ, et all)
  • Captain Truth Defenders – John MacArthur, Hank Hannegraff, Apprising Ministries, et all
  • Jerusalem CEO's – Rick Warren, Perry Noble, Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, et all
  • Professor Know The Bible – The Reformed Church, Most Academia and Seminaries (Horton, Riddlebarger, DA Carson, et all)

You may agree or disagree with whom I have placed where but the fact remains that there are four distinct camps out there in Christianity right now. What's striking to me is the resemblance those four camps bear to the four distinct personality types common in almost every personality assessment you take. Consider Gary Smalley's personality breakdowns:

  • Dominant (Lion) = Captain Truth Defenders
  • Expressive (Otter) = Jerusalem CEO's
  • Solid (Golden Retriever) = Warm Fuzzies
  • Analytical (Beaver) = Professor Know The Bible

Is this an oversimplification? Probably. Is it pretty accurate? Yes.

So the question is: "Are you going to have a bent on how you view Christianity based on how God has wired you from a personality standpoint"?

I don't think the answer can be anything but yes. I mean we all have our default natures and how God has wired us to be. We have default emotions, moods, behaviors, words, feelings that are predominantly a product of how we are created. And while some of those are no doubt sinful. And while some of those no doubt need to be changed, they are not inherently wrong. And we will always view Scripture, the Bible, Jesus, Biblical commands, Biblical language, The Great Commission, Church, etc through the lens of how God has wired us. Our personality types will give us default modes of operating in our Christian life.

Now with that said, the problem comes when we cannot appreciate nor take the positives from the other three camps. What I mean is do Captain Truth Defenders have valid things that they are saying that need to be listened to? Absolutely! Are Jerusalem CEO's gonna feel like Captain Truth Defenders should lighten up? Of course! And you know that Professor Know The Bible is going to feel that both of them don't have a clue what they are doing because they can't tell you the exact morphology of the Greek word "phileo". Meanwhile Warm Fuzzies is just wondering why we're not all sitting down and having Starbucks together?

And the list goes on and on. Our default modes determine where we feel most comfortable. Our default modes determine how we read Scripture and the lens through which we process it. Our default modes determine the language we use, the words we choose, and the voice we speak with. It's not rocket science.

But the trick is, IMO, is to seek out the best of the all three and develop and build a little of all four default modes into you. All of us need to protect the truth, be friendly and outgoing to the world, want others on the journey with us, and know exactly what it is we are preaching to the lost world. The problem comes when we fall too far off the horse in one of the four areas and become dogmatic that our default mode is best. That's when we get ourselves into trouble.

So I'm curious…do you agree or disagree..what are your thoughts?


October 04, 2007

You Can Learn A Lot As A Substitute Teacher

At our local middle school, the PE teacher had a doctor's appointment, so I was called upon to instruct our children in the fine ways of physical fitness. I knew it would be a daunting challenge. It would take skill, precision, intellect, and poise. That and a large Coke.

I have to say that when I showed up at 7 AM, I really had no idea what was in store for me. I suspected that at sometime during the day, a good game of kickball or dodge ball would break out. And it did, for two classes of fifth graders. A word to the wise: Playing dodge ball with kids may be exhilarating at the moment it happens but your body will rebel later on in definite disapproval of your activities. Make sure you have two ALEVE ready to go at a moment's notice.

But it was the rest of the day that reminded me in a powerful way of God's presence, His love for me, His love for children, and His grace in putting up with my idiocy and rebellion. I want to tell you about three kids:

  • Emily is a special needs girl. I believe she is autistic and probably has several other conditions. Emily would not be what the world would consider normal. Emily cannot speak. She can make sounds which resemble the phonics you and I use but she cannot annunciate her words. I had the honor of going with Emily and her para-professional (a wonderful lady) to an adapted PE class just for Emily. We spent 25 minutes together. Emily bounced on a big rubber ball as we counted along with her. I played catch with her. We tried to get her to sit down on a rocking board meant to help her balance. She would have no part of it. We jumped across lines with Emily only after we asked her to "hop like a rabbit" because that's what she understood. We took Emily back to her class and I left to go back to another school.
  • Corey is a para-plegic. He is a little sixth grade boy confined to a mechanized wheelchair. He has an infectious smile. I'm not sure what exactly his condition is, his Physical Therapist couldn't tell me because of privacy laws, but Corey and I had the chance to play football. I would be the quarterback and he would "go out for a pass" in his wheelchair. He could catch really well. He could throw even better. I let Corey do some bowling which he really enjoyed. And then his PT (Brenda Cook) came in to stand him up and give him some time on his feet. Corey told me that next year, he was going to be the waterboy for the junior high football team. He was very articulate and a great kid. He was so happy and lively. He didn't for one instance show any resentment for the physical body he had been given.
  • Luke And Bradford – These guys were great. They were high schoolers. Luke had Down's Syndrome and Bradford – well I believe he has a number of conditions but one things was for sure. Bradford was a local celebrity in a high school of over 2,000 kids. Everyone knew who he was. Yesterday was "Walking Wednesday" so I had the privilege of walking with eight special needs high schoolers on the inside track. Luke and Bradford were my buddies. I would tell Bradford that he was the man. He would yell out "Luuukke…Luuukkke da man". And then Luke would take off running down the track yelling "Wheeeeeeeeeee"…all the while with the biggest smile on his face.

And then I finished the day singing the Alphabet rock song with ten preschool kids. We did the bean back boogie. And a lot more. It was a real hoot.

So why am I telling you all this. Because I want you to freakin wake up and realize how blessed you truly are. Quit whining about how busy you are. How overworked you are. How your wife doesn't understand you. How your husband doesn't know you. How you don't get paid enough money. How you're not appreciated enough at work. How your boss doesn't tell you how great you are enough. How your church doesn't feed you enough. How you don't have enough sex. How you drive a beat up car. How you live in such a small house. How you don't get to travel enough. How you don't get to experience life. How you can't get a date. How the pressure of ministry is getting to you. How you congregation doesn't understand. Blah Blah Blah…

These kids can't walk, talk, speak, or even make intelligible noises in some instances. Their families have to exist with little or no support. They'll never have the kind of opportunities afforded to you and me.

And yet we sit here and cry and complain about how bad our lives are. You know what. We're pathetic. We're pieces of crap sometimes stupid for our petty little attitudes we hold before God. There are people who will die today because they don't have anything to eat. What the hell in the world gives us the right to complain about anything. We woke up today in the United States in the top 10% richest people in the world. And yet we find a way to piss and moan complain about what we don't have instead of being freaking grateful for what we do have. And what we have been given. Have you ever thought about what you took for granted this morning

It is time for us to wake up and quit being sniveling little brats before God and get down on our knees and be thankful for the blessings bestowed on us each and every day. And I thank God that Emily, Corey, Luke, and Bradford, as challenged as they are went through their days with something I can't muster sometimes and that's a smile. They don't let their circumstances get them down. They just go about life. One day at a time and make the most of it and have fun doing it. I vow today to do the same. I'm sick of being a pathetic weasel before God. And I'm sick of other people being the same way.

If you ever want a dose of reality, go substitute teach for a day instead of sitting in your high fallutin position, office, corporation, or ivory tower. Go see what you're missing. I promise you, you'll leave the day understanding how much the Gospel really hasn't captured you and more aware of your pathetic spiritual condition before God.

October 02, 2007


Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. – Richard Foster

Are you ever amazed at the fact that most of your relationships you have with people don't go beyond knowing their name, their wife's name, and what the score of the game this past week was? I mean truly, think about the relationships you have in your day to day life and ask yourself: How well do I really know this person? Do you know their story? Do you know what they love? Do you know what they hate? Do you know why they are doing what they are doing? Do you know their wins? Do you know their losses? Do you know their triumphs? Do you know their tragedies? Do you know their fears? Do you know they passions? What do you really know about the people with whom you spend your day with?

I would say that for most of us, we don't know a whole lot. And the reason is that superficial relationships are safe. As long as you can keep people at a distance and never let them know who you really are, you don't have to worry about them a whole lot. They can't hurt you. They can't wound you. They can't turn on you. And to do this, we'll be cordial when we pass them. We'll ask how they're doing – and not really care what the answer is. We may ask how the weekend went, or we may ask how the kids are doing in school. But we certainly won't ever care to go any deeper than that because if I ask them the deep questions, then I'm fair game as well.

And so we go on about our day never really knowing anybody and never really being known by anyone either. Our families know us, they've had to live with us the longest, but other than that we remain a mystery to most folks. Never committed, never invested, never fully in, and yet somehow never fully out. And it's this very problem that is helping to destroy churches all over America.

When we are saved by God, and lay our lives at the foot of the Cross, we are called to a life of community with not only God the Father, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit, but also with one another as believers in the same body, burial, and resurrection. We are commanded in Scripture to love one another, bear one another, forgive one another, chastise one another, pray for one another, hear one another, serve one another, and even die for one another.

And I ask you this question: How in the world are you going to genuinely do all those things for someone that you don't' even know? The answer is that you won't. And you haven't been. And you never will until you start exploring people and yourself at levels you've never done so before. Until you learn the internal practice of introspection and the external practice of investigation, you'll never know yourself or anyone else at a level deeper than being able to rap about ESPN. (Or whatever common thread females rap about?)

And that takes practice, it takes vulnerability, it takes courage, it takes being willing to be rebuffed, it takes openness to looking foolish, it takes intentionality, it takes guts.

And as Richard Foster so eloquently penned above, it's not for lack of intelligence or gifts that people don't do these things. It's because they're not deep people themselves nor do they challenge themselves to be so. They just live life watching the greatest gift ever given them pass by in meaninglessness. They give their life away and never make a difference. They throw breath away and TV is the most important thing they had. How sad.

How deep are you?

October 01, 2007

The Jonah Syndrome Turns A Year Old

It was one year ago today that I did my first post from a hotel after attending The Supremacy Of Christ In A Postmodern World. I can still remember those days in Minneapolis very clearly. We all experience spiritual mountaintops and valleys in our lives, and at that time of my life, I was definitely on top of the mountain.

I've learned a lot about blogging in the past year. I've also discovered that I've got so much more to learn. Some of my posts have been of value, some of them I admit didn't add much to any discussion at all. But prayerfully, I hope to continue adding to discussions in lives and encouraging people to flesh out their Christian life in the interesting questions and situations of life. As I look back, I would say that my better posts from the last year have been:

I had 250 posts this past year – far less than 1 a day but right on track with my current schedule of posting Monday – Friday. It's been a good experience for me and one that has certainly forced me to keep thinking.

I've also had the privilege of coming across EXTREMELY helpful blogs in the last year since I started this endeavor. When I posted the first time, I had no idea what RSS was or what the blogosphere was about. Today I read 100 blogs a day and know a lot more about the different angles that the sphere presents. Here are the blogs I would say are the MOST helpful to me:

And there are hundreds more. But starting off with these certainly wouldn't put you on a bad path. Thabiti, the Pyros, Steve Camp, Milton Stanley, Brian Thornton, the Reformissionary, the Resurgence, Denny Burk, Andy Naselli, Adrian Warnock, et all are also names and blogs you should visit and track down. Build your list for yourself but make sure you tune into the right bloggers and not the wrong ones.

I look forward to another year if God would allow it. I'm learning and hopefully the next year will be better than the last in terms of blog content and effectiveness. Thank you for being on the journey with me…