Saturday, December 24, 2011


Christmas Eve Comic Art

For the sixth year running...
Merry Christmas From A Few Of My Friends

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Friday, December 23, 2011


Ministry Success

Mark Jackson @ MMI encourages small churches to limit their programs, but this is what typically happens:
  1. hear the need (which, please understand, I believe are real – youth do need small groups; adults need deeper Bible study; kids programs should be excellent)
  2. flail about looking for someone to lead this new ministry/program
  3. grab someone who is already overworked but easily feels guilt
  4. do a horrific job of planning for the ministry and/or recruiting other leaders
  5. launch without doing good publicity to the community or the congregation
  6. initial success is followed almost immediately by decline in attendance, rationalizing about why it’s not working, and a vow to continue despite obvious problems (which are ignored for “spiritual” reasons)
  7. depending on the church, either a staff person or a prominent lay person comes in to take over leadership as the program falters
  8. the program becomes dependent on artificial life support from the key leadership person – if they step out, the program dies
  9. due to the key leadership person and a fear of killing programs/hurting people’s feelings, the program continues on LONG beyond its useful lifespan
Fair enough, I've seen that cycle too. But JAckson's analysis rests on the presumption that success is measured by the long term viability of the program, how many people it attracts and whether it is financially viable.

Here's what I wonder though - what if success is measured in the things learned by the "failed" leadership, the relationships built amongst the leadership and those served. What about the one person that the ministry did touch deeply?
Matt 18:12-13 - "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? "And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.

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Friday Humor

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Thursday, December 22, 2011


Genuine Ministry

Frederick Schmidt:
People can be taught to observe boundaries and clean up their language. Organizations can even cultivate a respectful workplace, environment, or institutional culture—and many of the programs devoted to diversity and inclusion training use those terms. And when all else fails, leaders can even enforce appropriate behavior. (As Magill, observed, the pilot "knows what he did cannot happen again.")

But the task of becoming a person who is genuinely capable of respecting other people is an inside job that cannot be accomplished over the course of a day long workshop. The language that the pilot used reflected the mindset of a user and a narcissist—a frame of mind that sees other people as a means to an end or as annoyance. And the repair of workplace conduct—as important as it is—barely scratches the surface of the problem laid bare by the language he used.

That is why ancient conversations about virtue (or areté) emphasized not just inner disposition, but lifelong, reliable patterns of behavior. And that is why in religious communities where a capacity for respect is important, those values are grounded in the assumption that behavior of that kind is essential whether others can hear you or not. That is also why Christians have long taught that other human beings demand our regard because they, too, bear the image of God and are the objects of God's love.
If we approach Christ on a self-help basis we will get no farther than any of the uncountable secular programs out there. But, the power of the gospel lies in the the fact that it alone offers the kind of inner transformation that can produce genuine results.

We do; however, have to make ourselves available to that power. I think we try to make the gospel soem sort of self-help program becasue we are so afraid of how naked we are when we make ourselves available in that fashion.

And yet, there is nothing to be afraid of. We reveal ourselves only to the only one that loves us with true love.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Almost Christmas, Not As Happy As We Think

At Christmastime, Christ is all warm fuzzy and cuddly lambs, but the incarnation is one of the essential miracles of our faith, and there is nothing cuddly about being a Christian. Daniel Harrell at Patheos:
Alabama Methodist bishop Will Willimon, formerly the chaplain at Duke University, recounted a conversation he once overheard between two Duke students where the first told the second how he was a Christian, to which the second replied, "Well, whatever works for you." "You don't know much about Christianity do you?" the first student said. "It doesn't work for me. If anything Christianity works on me, changing me into somebody I don't always want to be."

Bishop Willimon went on to talk about how here in America, everything is so much about usefulness; or as he put it, whether or not something folds out into a bed. In order to make Christianity useful, he said, we reduce it down to sets of simple principles as if Jesus' main mission had been merely to make life in first century Judea easier.

But then you read Jesus' words and you realize that ease of life was the last thing he had in mind. "Realize that if the world hates you," he said, "it hated me first. You do not belong to the world because I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too."
Interesting approach. The first thought that occurred to me was that Christianity being about "making life easier" makes truth less important. And then I wondered how much we have contributed to our own demise, since of course, the current ideas of relativism so deeply reflect a concern about utility instead of truthfulness. But that is not where Harrell is headed:
Yet I'm intrigued with how for some Christians, the answer to such comparably painless persecution is not "rejoicing for being counted worthy to suffer for the name," but rather getting a Supreme Court justice nominated who will be sympathetic to Christian causes. It's as if the idea is to weave the gospel so tightly into the fabric of our culture that being a Christian will become natural and normal and not so countercultural, not so otherworldly.


I want Jesus to work for me instead of on me; yet he continually disturbs and assaults my soul so as to shape it back into his image. I think of the radical implications of being a genuine Christian and do wonder why anyone with a brain would follow Jesus. But then I think of his words of life and wonder how anyone would not.

St. Paul wrote, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, that I may attain the resurrection from the dead." I want that too. So I pray for some small measure of courage that I might submit to the gospel and not be ashamed of it; some small measure of courage that I might take up my cross and follow.
Does this mean we do not engage with culture for the sake of being persecuted? I don't think so, I do not think God intends us to seek persecution, but I do think it radically changes our approach to society. We approach as a missionary, not a member. We approach with humility, not demand.

IF it is not about you, or me, persecution is inevitable.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The Evangelical Elder

Desiing God presents a short video of DA Carson discussing the qualification to be an elder, as presented in Paul's letter to Timothy. He calls those qualifications "unremarkable." I wonder if that is the right approach in an age of rampant divorce and other "lesser" sins> I wonder if that is the right approach when the church works so hard at evangelism but so often neglects its obligation to discipleship and maturity?

As a former head of a nominating committee, I think it can be quite difficult to find people of this seemingly simple caliber. Should these things be unremarkable? oh indeed, but they are not - and therein lies the rub.

I want to lay out a very practical problem with this picture. Weak elders lead to domination by staff of a church. Wasn't changing that picture, in a very real sense, what the entire Reformation was about. Did we not struggle to take people out from between us and God and His church? Do we now, out of apparent laziness wish to put them back in between?

I, for one, want remarkable elders.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, December 19, 2011


"Reach"ing Balance

Douglas Groothius:
The church should be concerned with in-reach (teaching and formation) and outreach (mission) and upreach (worship), not just upkeep!
Well said and I have no doubt there are any churches so moribund that upkeep is all they concern themselves with, but I have to say most churches I know these days focus on outreach and a very shallow form of upreach and almost entirely neglect in-reach.

There is a real chicken-and-egg thing that goes on here, not to mention outreach being absolutely vital to a church when people are no longer culturally driven to participate, but I cannot help but note that if we do not work as diligently to produce maturity as we do to produce participation that soon there will be nothing for anyone to participate in.

Further, if we do not find real Christian maturity and nurture it, what we will be calling people to participate in will so radically drift from what it is supposed to be that I will wonder if we can any more be called Christian.

Groothius is right - we have to worry about ALL those thing.

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