Aug 30, 2009

Priesthood of Believers

The reformation did not take the priesthood of believers far enough. The hierarchy of the professional clergy and the rest of the believers remained intact even after the reformation.

Thus when many people think about the ministry, the clergy are the main actors and actresses and the rest of the church are the supporting actors and actresses who are there to enable the main actors and actresses to do their thing.

But what if we take the priesthood of believers seriously? What if we took Ephesians 4:11-12 seriously?

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for the works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:11-12).

How would it impact the way most of us do church and organize ministry if we saw the church as the field team, and the clergy as the support staff? How would we shape our ministry and church if we thought of the congregation as the Jack Bauers and the staff and clergy as the Chloe O'Brians?

Isn't this more faithful to the vision painted in Ephesians 4? Isn't this the natural conclusion to the priesthood of all believers?

What do you think?

Aug 26, 2009

Isaiah 58:3-14

I've heard many people say that they want to be an Acts 2 church. I do too.

I've been doing my QT in Isaiah and I want to be an Isaiah 58 Christian and be a part of an Isaiah 58 church.

"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

"Is this not the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please ir speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.

"The mouth of the Lord has spoken."
James <><
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Aug 20, 2009

Becoming a Church Where It's Okay to be Ugly

We all have problems.

We all have issues.

We all have our bad days.

We all have skeletons in our closets.

We all have a dark side.

If you are married, we all have those days when our marriage is just dreadful.

If you have children, we all have those days when we've absolutely blown it as parents, and when our children behave in ways that totally shock us to the point where we wonder whose children they might actually be.

Bottom line, we can all be pretty ugly.

But here's the thing. I haven't seen a whole lot of ugly in all my years of going to church.

I guess you can call me a professional church going person. I've been going to church all my life. And sure, in those years, I've seen some ugly behavior. But that's not what I'm talking about.

We're all messed up people who sometimes go through really messed up situations, and the question I am wondering is, "Would we ever feel safe and okay with bringing up our ugliness at church?"

My church experience has shown me that the church is the last place in the world where we would actually show our ugliness - our messed-upness, our sins, our failures, our pains, our wounds. And that's a crying shame. Because that I've seen that happen in neighborhood bars - in fact, I recently saw this happen at an airport bar in Chicago.

Shouldn't the church community - the community of believers who love Jesus and who accepts all for who we are - be the safest and most obvious place where people can let down their guard and show how truly human we are and get the support we need?

In all my years of going to church, there's never any time for people to be real with one another. It's so full of stuff and busyness that genuine community is impossible.

There's got to be better ways of fostering genuine community.

I want to see Trinity live this out.

I want to be part of a church community where it's not only okay to be real and genuine with one another, but that the church community becomes the safest place for people to do that and to get the support they need to make it through the ugly times of life.

That's the kind of church I want to be a part of - a church where it's okay to be ugly!

The Right Questions for Ministry in a Post-Modern World - Part 2

Wow! Thank you for all the comments on and thoughts on the Facebook page regarding the last blog.

There are several things I want to clear up.

First, when Jesus gave to the church the great commission - "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you," (Matt. 28:19-20) - there are two parts to Jesus' commission:
1) to do whatever it takes to bring new people to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior
2) to make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

The confessions and the creeds of the church are absolutely necessary. It is the creeds and the confessions that shapes us and helps us to understand who we are.

The church, for almost 2,000 years, has used the creeds and the confessions of the church as the entry point into the life of the faith community. That worked for the great majority of church history because we were living in a Christendom context.

In today's world, people will not care about what the church believes until the world knows that the Christ cares for the world through the church.

Those who do not know Jesus Christ represent an ever growing percentage of the population. It is safe to say that more than 70% of Americans do not affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior, and that number continues to grow on a daily basis.

In order to reach this ever growing number of the population with the good news of Jesus Christ, the church must start engaging people in ways that makes a difference to them. And in the post-modern and post-Christiandom world, folks come to saving faith in Jesus Christ not through the study of the creeds or confessions, but through involvement in causes that are alleviating suffering in the world, and through genuine and authentic communities of Christ-followers.

Once people have made that transition into the community of faith, the creeds and the confessions have a crucial role in articulating our Christian identity as a process of discipleship.

But here's the thing - belonging comes before belief, community comes before confession.

Only after we have earned the right to be heard, are people ready to be taught what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Creeds and confessions are absolutely necessary parts of the discipleship process.

Second, when it comes to reaching those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the traditional models of sharing the creeds and confessions (ie the four spiritual laws, evangelism explosion, etc.) are not as effective as they were a generation ago.

The Christiandom model of church and evangelism is all about bringing people to the church (the building). That's why we're always inviting people to church, rather than inviting people to be a part of something that's actually making a difference in the world and being a part of a genuine and authentic community.

Most of the church's energy and effort is built into bringing people into the church.

But if the majority world who doesn't know Christ as Lord and Savior come to know Christ first through a common cause and genuine communities, then the church must devote its resource of energy, finance, and creativity in developing opportunities for Christ to alleviate suffering in our world and in developing genuine and authentic relationships if the church wants to reach those who don't know Christ.

I know this has been a long entry, but if you've read this far, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Thanks again.

Aug 19, 2009

The Right Questions for Ministry in a Post-Modern World

People today come to know Christ through involvement in a cause that makes a difference or in a community of people that impacts their lives, and not through the acceptance of some creeds or confessions.

Yet if you were to look at most of the church's strategy to share people Christ with others, it still assumes the that what we need people to do is to believe the right things about God and Jesus Christ. While beliefs are certainly important, if the primary ways in which this generation of people are coming to know Christ is through causes and through community, shouldn't most of our effort be poured into being engaged in with the community in causes that are alleviating suffering in the world, and with creating genuine and authentic communities?

How do we break free from the need to produce a "great" weekend experience and free our leadership to be engaged more in thinking about how we can mobilize the church of Jesus Christ to be the leader in the world and in the community to alleviating suffering and in creating opportunities for genuine communities?

Don't have answers, but I think these are the right questions.

What do you think?

Aug 16, 2009

Amazing God - Amazing Mac

Had a great weekend relaxing and playing with my family at Possum Kingdom Lake. I had not realized how nice it would be in a place where there was no wireless signal.

I think that's interesting that my Blackberry receives a signal in the middle of Siberia and in the jungles of Uganda, but there I could not get a signal in Possum Kingdom Lake. Maybe that was intentional.

I rode my bike there because I accidently double booked the new Form of Government Task Force meeting with our family vacation time at the lake house. So the family went up early and I joined them for the last day and half at the lake.

The ride home was beautiful - wide open Texas country roads with sweeping views. And then, I made it Denton and got on I-35 to get to the office while my family continued on to our home.

The day was going beautifully, until two sudden bumps on the road, and the next thing I see is my briefcase tumbling on the freeway in the middle of traffic...and then poof! A car had hit the briefcase and my Bible, a book, and Franklin Covey planner were strewn about the entire freeway.

I raced my bike to the side of the freeway and ran back to what was remaining of the briefcase.

And here's the thing - I lost Bible with all my sermon notes (sorry God), my Franklin Covey planner, and a book, but everything else made it - my mac book laptop, the kindle, and my journal!

God is good!

Amazing God and Amazing Mac.

I love this thing, and I love God!

Aug 12, 2009

Just the Facts - Why Sometimes the Facts Don't Tell the Whole Story

Just the facts, mam!

It's hard to argue with the facts.

It is what it is.

So it seems.

But, sometimes the facts don't tell the whole story.

Fact - The Joseph had been sold off by his brothers, wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit, forgotten to rot away in jail.

Fact - The Jews were defeated, the temple had been destroyed, and most were taken captive to Babylon.

Fact - Jesus was tried and crucified, his band of 12 followers had disbanded, all seemed lost.

But that's not the end of the story.

God had taken what was meant for evil and saved an entire generation of people through Joseph's leadership.

While Daniel and his friends were captives in Babylon, God used Daniel and his friends to demonstrate His glory.

Jesus rose again from the grave and the band of 12 within one generation became thousands upon thousands of faithful followers whom God used to establish His church.

The facts of our lives tell of similar hardship.
- we are facing one of the greatest financial meltdowns the world has ever seen
- our church has plateaued and has been struggling to find its way out of the malaise of difficulties
- we've had to make some tough and difficult decisions.

The facts all seem to be pointing in the wrong direction.

But sometimes the facts don't tell the entire story. Because when you add the ingredient of faith into the equation of life, God can take a band of 200-250 faithful followers of Jesus Christ to transform the world as we know it just as God has done countless times throughout the biblical narrative.

The last three to four years, and particularly the last year of our life together, has been the most difficult year of my life.

But I am confident that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. God is not done with us yet. There is more to be written. And as we step out on faith, I am confident that the God who has acted in history to turn terrible situations for His glory will do that once again in our life time, in our church.

And that is the reason for my hope, our hope. Jesus is faithful. And that is worth praising!

Aug 9, 2009

The Church - Has to be more than the Gathered Faithful

The church has been worshiping in the same format for pretty much the same format for the last 17-18 centuries since the church was institutionalized.
- we gather
- we sing
- hear a sermon
- sing some more
- collect offering
- and go back home to gather to do the same thing again the next week

This is the pattern whether we are Presbyterian, Catholic, non-denominational, etc.

The question is, when does the gathered church ever do and become the church? I mean, when do we actually start doing the evangelizing, the mercy giving, the grace extending, the ministering to the poor, praying for our neighbor thing? Are these things that Christ-followers are supposed to do on their own? When does the gathered church ever live out its mandate to be the church?

Our generation, more than ever, is an activistic generation. The only thing that gives the church street cred is when we actually live out the ministry and the mission of the church.

The church is great at gathering and huddling. But when does the church break out of the huddle to start being the church?

I am beginning to question the way we've been doing church. Maybe, when the Bible lesson is about sharing our faith, we ought to hear that message, and then go out to the Starbucks, the Walmart, and our neighborhood and actually start sharing our faith. Maybe, when the lesson is about meeting each others' needs, we break right from the huddle right there in the church and the church gathers with one another to start meeting each others' needs.

The church needs to do and be more than the gathered faithful. The church must become the sent faithful into a world that needs what only God can offer.

Aug 7, 2009

The Leadership Summit 2009

I don't even know where to begin...

I needed what God provided through the Leadership Summit.

I was so bone dry. My bucket was empty. I was running on empty. Hope, enthusiasm, passion was running on empty. I was empty.

Today was so exhausting. The content, the amount of information, the ways God was speaking and was almost too much to absorb.

The things God revealed to were refreshing, exhilerating, and disturbing.

And I am thankful for every moment of it.

I will be processing what I experienced in the days to come.

Looking forward to seeing what God will continue revealing to me.