September 10th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Tomorrow our nation, and our allies around the world, will pause to remember the events of September 11th. As a teacher, my wife Rochelle, will cease teaching science and spend the day guiding students through reflection about the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington. My daughters, in first and fourth grade respectively, will do much of the same.

In advance of September 11th (and since this blog post every Tuesday and Thursday), here a reflection on peace which I penned last year.

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There are any number of scriptures we Christians don’t take seriously, but maybe none are taken less seriously than Romans 12.18-20. Here, the apostle Paul instructs the church this way: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Living at peace is tough business and “Christian America” has particularly struggled with it in the wake of September 11, 2001. The reasons are obvious. We were struck! Hit! Devastated! All by an enemy that had long been at war with us, though many of us knew or cared very much about them. At the time it felt reassuring to hear President George W. Bush tell New Yorkers — and the rest of the world — that the people who did this would hear from us.

We needed protection from the twisted minds that could envisage, plan, and celebrate the kind of destruction visited New York, Washington, and Shanksville, PA. Innocent people were targeted, children were killed, families undone. It was a slaughter, pure and simple. And in some sectors of the world, there was dancing in the streets.

It was no wonder then that so many of us — Christians, that is — supported combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. I did! Full steam ahead.

And I wasn’t shocked to learn, even years after 9/11, that the majority of Christians supported torture in some instances. It’s not that we’re evil or vengeful, it’s that we’re human. We have spouses and children; parents and grandparents; friends and classmates; that we love, that we want to protect, and we have a country we want to flourish.

What’s more, many of us believe that God has blessed us to live in the best, most humane, most prosperous and healthy country in the history of the world. And we want the best of that country to live forever and would love for others around the world to enjoy the benefits and blessings of our system. In sum, the September 11th attacks came from a place of evil, and as scripture teaches, evil must be resisted.

But the scriptures teach us about peace too.

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August 20th, 2013 | 35 Comments »

This summer we’re revisiting some of the most popular posts from the first half of this year. This one was surprisingly talked about.

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There’s a reason your church isn’t more creative.

It’s not just that your pastor and worship arts director aren’t creative or visionary or forward-thinking. I’m sure that’s true in some cases, but most churches are boring because of The Olive Garden Problem.

But First a Story

A friend of mine who preaches for a fairly traditional Church of Christ recently ran headlong into a problem he hadn’t anticipated. For the uninitiated, Church of Christ worship services are typically a cappella and tend to adhere to a fairly predictable form. There’s not a lot appreciation for difference or, quite frankly, room, to explore, change, or interject creative elements into the worship service – even if those elements are historically Christian. For some, worship elements need to be historically Church of Christ (my Baptist friends tell me they have the same issue).

Anyway, my friend’s congregation went through an expensive and lengthy evaluation process and, long story short, “Inspiring Worship” ranked the lowest of all the areas evaluated. He wasn’t devastated, but he was upset. I get that.

The problem is that he’s hamstrung. Locked-in. Cornered.

Due to his particular church’s practices (some borne of belief, others borne of tradition, and still others borne out of a nonsensical allegiance to things that don’t matter), there’s nothing he could change to make his church’s worship better. There is no element of worship his church could add or take away without causing a firestorm. And as you know, upsetting people is the unforgivable sin (sarcasm mine).

That’s the Olive Garden Problem.

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Posted in church, leadership, ministry
April 9th, 2013 | 9 Comments »

There’s one secret we can no longer keep secret. It’s mental illness.

Perhaps, like me, you were saddened for Rick and Kay Warren when you learned of their son, Matthew’s suicide this past weekend. In a letter to his church, Rick acknowledged Matthew’s long struggle with mental disease and how it affected their family through the years. Matthew’s story, to the tragic horror of Rick and Kay, ended in suicide.

I don’t know the Warrens and have only been in the same room with Rick Warren twice, but their experience is the greatest fear of all of us. No, not all of us who have children – though I’m sure that’s true – but all of us who have mentally ill family members.

Without much detail, I confess that Rochelle and I have mental illness on both sides of our family. What makes that last sentence a “confession” is that people don’t talk about mental illness out loud, in public. Sadly, mental illness is rarely spoken of in churches and among Christians.

And that’s a shame, because I want it to be.

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Posted in church, ministry
September 20th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

You takin’ to me?

Seriously! Who are you talking to?

In our hectic, dog-eat-dog, workaday world, where so much rests on productivity, meeting deadlines, and getting things done, we cannot forget that the people we deal with everyday are people. Frequently people walk into my office, or I see them at my daughter’s school, or around town and behave as if people are means to an end.

No, “Hi.” No, “Good Morning.”

Nothing.

They launch into business – usually something they want someone else to know or do. A flippant and dismissive air of , I don’t care about you, I only care about my agenda is all too clear.

It comes across as rude. And you don’t want to be rude.

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September 18th, 2012 | 11 Comments »

This past Sunday, we began a new teaching series called, “It’s Your Move.” Over 4-weeks I’ll be presenting our church’s strategy for ministry in Temple, TX. It’s a simple church strategy. Thinking through the implications reminded me of this which I posted some time ago.

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I never thought about grass getting too much water.

There’s a place on our church’s playground that’s dead grass. As far as I know, it’s always been dead. It’s a small rectangle, a different blend of grass from the rest of the playground. It’s at the corner of the playground where two sidewalks connect.

I’ve always been puzzled by the mud and dirt that settled there when the rest of the play yard has always been so lush. I think I may have figured out the mystery.  As I walked a first-time visitor through our campus back to his car on Sunday, he almost stepped into that muddy corner. Flippantly, I said, “We’ve never been able to get grass to grow there.”

In an instant, he said, “Sure. It gets too much water.”

He went on to explain to me that it was evident that water from our sprinklers pooled in that corner and it was over-saturated. Grass won’t ever grow there.

Wow! The things an outsider can notice about your church.

Since Sunday my heart has had some clarity about factors contributing to the numerical decline of my faith family of origin – Churches of Christ. I posted some initial thoughts last week. While I still think those reasons are true, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to believe that we’re drying up because of too much water.

Here’s what I mean:

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