Feb 28, 2011

Three Kinds of People Around Jesus: Crowds, Groupies, the Core

In the next three days, I will be writing about three types of people that gathered around Jesus: the crowds, the "groupies", and the core.

We begin today with the Crowds.

As Jesus went about his public ministry, his popularity was soaring through the roof. The stories of healing, casting out of the demons, the feeding of the multitudes, the all the other miracle stories made Jesus the greatest spectacle ever to hit the Judean countryside.

The crowds gathered around Jesus because they found Jesus to be interesting. 

If you had heard that cousin Joe's crooked nose was straightened out because he met Jesus while hanging out at Simon Peter's house, wouldn't you be curious? Wouldn't you make the time to show up if Jesus came through your village? 

Jesus was the biggest thing on the scene. There was no one bigger. Jesus was the most happening event wherever he showed up.

The crowd gathered around Jesus to see what they could get out of Jesus. They were consummate consumers.

However, as soon as Jesus was to be found uninteresting or of no more personal benefit, the crowds soon returned to their own lives - just as if Jesus never existed.

The marching song of the crowds would be "What Have You Done for Me Lately" by Janet Jackson.

Jesus was only as good as what he could do for the crowd.

Crowds - Curious Interest - Consumers.

Tomorrow, we examine the "Groupies".

Feb 26, 2011

Popular Support to a False Understanding of Jesus Undermines Genuine Faith


Who doesn't like being popular? 

And I think that's sometimes one of the biggest problems with trying to live our lives as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Some of the things that Jesus demands and stands for are not very popular.

Sure, no one has problems with the love, the grace, and the mercy of Jesus. But there's more to Jesus than just love, grace, and mercy. There's also holiness, righteousness, and justice.

Sure, Jesus promises eternal life and all that goes with heaven. But Jesus also tells us that the only way to gain this life is by forfeiting our current life with our current hopes and dreams.

There's a real danger in confusing popularity and popular support with genuine faith. Because popular support to a false understanding of Jesus undermines genuine faith.
  • The false Jesus who says it's all about our comfort and security destroys Christian mission.
  • The false Jesus who says it's okay to turn a blind eye to the suffering and the pain of the poor and the neglected in our inner cities and ghettos as long as we raise our children right undermines Christianity.
  • The false Jesus who says it's okay to keep accumulating goods and bank accounts at the expense of investing ourselves fully to the cause of alleviating the suffering of our brothers and sisters in our communities and in the world around us repudiates everything the Christ of Scriptures lived and died for.
  • The false Jesus who says it's okay to remain inwardly focused in our churches and institutional ways all the while the non-Christian majority in this world continues to remain ignorant of the unbelievable good news that God sent his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life denies Christ.
If that's what being a Christian and being a part of a church means, we've got to ask ourselves, “Is what we're doing in our churches even worth doing? multiplying? Worth imitating?” 


Compulsive - Persistent
Obsessive - Committed
Foolhardy - Brave
Dreamer - Imaginative
Simple-minded - Dedicated
Inflexible - Principled
Hostile - Aggressive
Bullheaded - Resolute
Desperate - Inspired
Autocratic - Tough-minded
Ambitious - Courageous
Domineering - Confident
Egotistical - Self-assured
Insensitive - Determined

All the words on the left-hand side describe the same person as the words on the right-hand side. 

Same person. The only difference?

Perspective - How a person chooses to view another.

If you choose to see the best in others and choose to give others the benefit of the doubt, you will have a positive outlook on their actions and intentions.

The same is true for if you choose to see the worst in others and are always second guessing other's motives, you will have a negative outlook on their actions and intentions.

It's all a matter of perspective.

A final word for people in positions of leadership. If you are leading, you will receive both praise and criticism. 
  • Don't let the praise get to your head 
  • And, don't let the criticism get you down. 
It comes with the leadership territory. Just continue doing your best to lead the people where God would have you to lead. Whether you are praised or criticized depends on your follower's attitudes and perspective.

Do your best and let God be the judge.

Feb 25, 2011

Everyone Wants Progress. It's Change We Don't Want

Everyone loves progress.

I don't know of a single institution, church, organization, company who isn't for progress. I don't know of a single church, organization, or company that says, "We are totally opposed to progress."


We all want it. We all need it.

Without progress, we are dead in the water.

No one has problems with progress. What people have immense issues with is change.

Everyone wants progress but very few people are prepared for change.

But the reality is that no progress will ever be made without change.

I have been learning a very important lesson about change. In institutional speak, change = criticism. Any suggestion for change is perceived as criticism of the past and past systems.

It's not that people don't recognize that change is necessary for progress. It's that change is experienced as criticism by those who were integral parts of the past that is in need of change.

One of the key leadership tasks is discerning how to integrate change while at the same time honoring the past.

Feb 24, 2011

Re-entry. First Blog Entry in a Long Time

It feels like I haven't written a blog forever.

I took a voluntary hiatus from blogging and twittering.

I found myself writing things just so people would read them. I know that that's partly the point of the blogging and twittering. But what happened to me was that I was writing blogs so it would get picked up on Presbyweb, I was twittering so that it would get retweeted. And when it wasn't, I'd be somewhat disappointed.

The first thing I'd check in the morning is to see if my blog was picked up by Presbyweb, to see how many hits were on my blog, to see if my tweets were being commented on.

Instead of writing because I had something to say and because I wanted to express my thoughts somewhere, my purpose became so that other people would read it.

And I didn't like what it was doing to me. I didn't like me trying to be a major people pleaser.

I still think the regular exercise and discipline of regular writing and reflecting is a good discipline to maintain. I am ready engage in this discipline again.

So I will continue to write about stuff that interests me and that I think are worth reflecting about. I am no longer going to get caught up in the "popularity" and the "followership".

Feb 11, 2011

Egypt - Reasons for Praise and for Prayer

I rejoice with the people of Egypt for an opportunity for a new beginning.

I rejoice for the protester's resolve to a non-violent voicing of their strong resolve.

I rejoice that President Mubarak has chosen to step down without resorting to violence.

I pray that his legacy in promoting peace and stability in the region will carry the day.

Along with the rejoicing, there is reason for deep prayer.

The fact remains that most of the people celebrating on the streets of Cairo are people who just weeks ago, considered America and her version of democracy and freedom evil.

What drove this protest, along with a desire for more freedom and democracy, is the disparity between the rich and the poor. While the middle class and the rich live fairly comfortable lives, the great portion of the country lives in abject poverty - living on less than $2/day.

Just because they wanted Mubarak out does not mean that the people who have been anti-America, anti-west, anti-anything not Islam are all of a sudden going to become wonderful friends of the west, friends of freedom as we know it, and friends of western democracy.

They still remain and will continue to remain Muslim.

Situations like this are ripe for radical Islam to claim that the failure of Mubarak's version of Islam is precisely his ties to the west, and what is required is a "true-er" version of Islam.

It is my prayer that the ferment of dissatisfaction in Egypt that birthed this new reality will lead to genuine freedom for all Egyptians - Muslim, Christian, Jew, etc.

Feb 9, 2011

White Paper, Tall Steeple Paper, Fellowship Invitation...Pick Up the Phone and Call Someone

It has been very difficult not to write a knee-jerk response to the original letter and the many varied responses that are on the blogging, FB, and the twitter world. I have found myself biting my tongue multiple times a day, typing things out only to delete them.

There are a myriad of thoughts and emotions swirling around, all depending on what I responses I am reading.

I just have one favor to ask anyone reading this.

If you took the time and effort to look up the different names and the size of the congregations of the people who signed the document, surely you came across some phone numbers to those names and congregations.

Please, pick up the phone and call.

Better yet, if you find yourself in close proximity to the the forty plus signatories, invite them out for coffee or tea, or for a scotch and have a face to face conversation.

Perhaps, when we start talking with one another instead of to each other...church happens.

It doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It's just that when two or more are gathered in Christ's name, he is really present. And perhaps it's his presence that's been missing in so much of our talking at each other.

White paper, tall steeple paper, fellowship paper, FB, Twitter, Blogs...please, pick up the phone and call someone.

I am always, always available for coffee or scotch anytime, anywhere.

Tea...I guess that's okay too.