Saturday, March 29, 2014


Comic Art


But come on - that is a comic villain if ever I saw one - you just have to love that!

Friday, March 28, 2014


Can A Church Close?

Carol Howard Merritt @ Christian Century writes of closing churches:
My first congregation was located in a diminishing rural area, but after a year, we were growing. We began a youth group. Families and young members began attending. More people started commuting from the larger city to attend the church.

Then the local governing body put a minimum salary in place that was 10k above what I made. I applied for a grant that got me enough money for the next three years, but a struggle at the church arose between those who wanted to “go out with a bang” and those who wanted to hold onto the little bit in the bank account. There was an idea that having money in the bank was going to keep the church alive for an eternity. So I got a better job. (And yes, it was a better job at a more stable church. I don’t want to spiritualize it too much by saying it was God’s calling.)

When I look back, I’m sad about how it all went down. Not to overblow my importance, but it was as if the church didn’t buy the prescription medicine that they needed to live well, because it would cost too much. The medicine was too risky. Instead they figured they would live with the disease for a longer time. They couldn’t get beyond that fear of losing the church in order to spend money on ministry.
What's wrong with this picture? It defines the church by its ability to support professional clergy, or at least staff. In an America that forces a congregation to also be a corporation, there are some important questions here, but changed a church's fiscal status is very different from "closing a church."

Lots of people have lots of ideas about what a church is and is not , and they cling to all sorts of things involved with the package that is a church. I have watched many churches go through many transitions and some have done much better than others. There is but one factor I have been able to lay my finger on that tells the tale of who does it well and who does not. That factor is the understanding of the members of the congregation that the church is about each other - not staff, structures or programs.

Perspective matters. With such an understanding, changes in staff, facilities or programs are secondary. You shut down the corporation and the people will still find a way to be together and support each other. ANy staff member, clerical or lay, that is not workign to build a congregation that will survive heir tenure, is doing it wrong.


Friday Entertainment

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Who Thinks These Things?

Why do you write and use written prayers I was asked at a recent workshop? Aren’t said prayers dead prayers? Aren’t spontaneous prayers the only living prayers?
When I first read that I was stunned - who would actually think a thing like that? Then I read on. This post is written from a charismatic perspective. But even if you take glossolalia out of the equation, it does not take much to see what is going on here.

Such sentiment is born of the thought that prayer is about us. It is about what we have to say and, in this modern and narcissistic age, about us expressing ourselves. Prayer, like pretty much everything else, is about God. The object is not for us to express ourselves, but for us to say what God wants to hear. Indeed, at times, God wants to hear our innermost thoughts and desires. But often he wants to hear things that have been better expressed by others.

And then there is the simple logical conundrum presented by the quoted sentiment. If God wants only "spontaneous prayer," why in the world did Jesus teach the apostles a "form prayer?" Why, for Heaven's sake, were the Psalms preserved through the ages?

I would have a hard time being understanding if someone came to me with such questions. The questions are so self-absorbed, and so ignorant of simple logic and Christian teaching that I would just want to tell the individual that they were not yet mature enough to do much but sit and listen. But then, that is probably what I need prayer for.

In the end this does raise an interesting question. We are so quick to grant everyone "equal standing" in the church. Have we forgotten there is such a thing as maturity?


Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Finding Yourself

Heady stuff this.Mule Chewing Briars, resident Orthodox @ iMonk writes about "Individuality and Personhood." YOu really need to read the whole thing to understand this pullquotes, so if you find yourself confused, take a minute:
I think the central pathology of that strand of Evangelical Protestantism that arose in the Great Awakenings in this country is that it is attempting to save this false self rather than putting it to death in baptism then resurrecting and nourishing the True Self which is being made over daily in the image of Christ in God. Now, I realize that is a big loud statement from The King Of Sinners, the Emperor of the Passions,....


Now, I’m not really making a plea to allow Orthodoxy to save the West. I want to see if it will save me first. But I am frightened, terrified, that the legal-economic golem the West has unleashed upon the world and which appears to proceed from strength to strength will eventually succeed in devouring every possible wellspring of our personhood and leave us in sterile anonymous isolation, crying out for each other through official descriptions and caressing each other only through the mediation of counsel.
That is potent stuff. We are saving the wrong self and isolating him/her. Christianity is about re-creation and community and we have turned into the exact opposite.

I truly wonder what God is thinking? This must all be part of his plan, and yet we seem to be wandering so far from it?

The answer, I think, lies in simply reaching out and being intimate with someone. That directly addresses the second concern and intimacy cannot help but expose the false self as false, thus indirectly addressing the first. This in the end is what I think small groups are supposed to do, but in this therapeutic age, they generally retreat into self-expression, not intimacy.

How can the church promote intimacy?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Depends on How It Matters

Jon Acuff says humor and laughter should matter to Christians. I am not surprised to hear Evangelicalism chief snarkist come to that conclusion. He is correct, humor is the stuff of Christianity, but humor, like everything else can be good or bad.

Let's face it, it is easy to be humorous in criticism, it is hard to be humorous and uplift. This is not to say that criticism is always unChristian either. But, when the object is to get laughs, it is easy to criticize relentlessly and indiscriminately looking for the laugh, not the context.

Laughter can also serve to deemphsize a point. I cannot tell you how many sermons I have heard featuring a really great and funny illustration. When people left they could tell you the funny story, but not what it was illustrating. Oops.

Christians should laugh more than anyone else. But like in all things we do, in the right time, place and context.


Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, March 24, 2014


How Clear Does It Need To Be?

Todd Rhoades
I think these are spot on:

  • Churches are afraid to define success.... 
  • Churches aren’t willing to go through the hard work of establishing and implementing a strategy....
  • Churches find it too easy to play the “faith” card....
  • Churches are filled with pastors who are not leaders....
OK - the last two I agree with wholeheartedly, but the first two have some very real, practical problems.

A church is an institution, but it is also much, much more. How would you define success? If you define it in purely institutional areas you reject the spiritual aspects of it and if you define spiritually, just how precisely do you measure progress?

And then there is the question of a strategy. If our strategy is to produce spiritual maturity in individuals, is not that highly individualized? How do you stratagise that which is different for every person?

Then we come to the overwhelming fact that churches are largely, and SHOULD be largely, volunteer organizations. Volunteers are unreliable, minimally committed and notoriously difficult to communicate with. The adoption of such strategic concerns has lead to the professionalization of churches. Thus the meembership enjoys the show and does not truly become part of the body.

The bottom line is this - the church can learn from business, but it cannot adopt whole hog.

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