Archive for July 2010

July 24, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. July 23, 2010
“Ready For The Overflow?”

It was inevitable. We scheduled a church outing to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox baseball game this past Tuesday night. Every time we schedule a group from our church to go to a game it rains…or hails…or sleets…or is miserably cold…or all of the aforementioned!
Tuesday night was destined…it was summoned…it was mandated to be rained on. When I say “rained on” I’m being kind. It was “baptized”, and I’m not talking about “in the spirit!”
There was so much rain I passed four arcs being built on my drive home (Just kidding!).
There was so much rain that the sold out baseball game had almost no one there when it actually (I can’t believe it!) did start two hours late. We sat there for two hours watching the grounds crew squeegee the field, and then left 10 minutes before the game started. (What can I say? It was about my bedtime!)
The next day I discovered another place that had been baptized- the church fellowship hall! There was so much water that flowed down the ramps to the entry way by our fellowship hall that the drain couldn’t dispel it fast enough. There was debris residue about two inches high on the outside doors.
Let the waters flow!
“Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”
Could it be…Could it be…that God doesn’t shower us with blessings because we’re not equipped, ready, or able to handle the volume?
Please, put the water cannon down.
Think about it. What could your church adequately handle right now? How many people are ready and able to disciple and mentor another person who is new to the faith?
For example, our church’s day camp maxed out at 53 kids this summer. That’s all we could adequately and effectively handle with the staff and classes we had. We had to turn several kids away, because we couldn’t handle any more. If we would have taken more, to borrow a phrase used earlier, we would have been flooded!
But we were able to effectively minister to the 53!
Most of the time we long for our congregations to have a kind of “church utopia” where everything is perfect and awesome. The parking lot is crowded, and the baptistery is continually being used. The media send reporters to catch some of the spirit, and people are lining up to experience the moving of the Lord.
We have a picture of the vision, but are seldom ready for it. Disciples need someone able to disciple. Prayer ministry needs prayer warriors. Widows and orphans need people of mercy and compassion.
Could it be that God has a better idea of “how effective our drainage system is” than we do? Could it be he knows what we can currently handle, and what we would end up just soaking the carpet with?
My friend, Greg Davis, went to his family’s farm last weekend for “harvest”. Harvesting the wheat. His grandfather has more sophisticated farm machinery then he used to. The combine is bigger, so it takes less time. The mission is still the same- harvest the wheat- but the way its completed is a little different.
But it still doesn’t magically happen! Someone still needs to run the machinery and gather the harvest. It’s more effective how they get it done, and they get it done.
Could it be that God knows how ready we are, and effective we, to gather in the blessings? Dry periods may have more to say about our readiness than the quality of the harvest.

A Bag of Chips

July 15, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. July 15, 2010

I’m at camp this week, experiencing life with fifty middle-schoolers, some who think they should be in the high school camp instead…and others who are longing for a week back with the elementary kids because they seem to get to swim more.
Today’s lunch consisted of a corn dog, chili, carrot and celery sticks, and a bag of potato chips…Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream! I saved the bag of chips for last because I thought I’d scoop up the chili with it.
When I opened the bag and started to reach in my fingers grasped thin air, as opposed to a thin chip. Then I looked inside the bag. My vision almost echoed before it caught sight of some ridges.
Two chips! The bag had two chips! Do you know how I knew there was two chips? I counted them!
One! Two! Thr…What?
Do you know how disappointing it is to open a bag of chips and be able to count them on half of a hand?
I was struck by the contrasts. Why spend so much time on the packaging and just put two chips in it? Why have that nice colorful logo, list the ingredients, have a nice easy to open top for the bag, and even make them a special flavor- Cheddar and Sour Cream- just to drop two chips into the pocket?
Why spend so much time making the outside look fantastic, and leave the inside almost empty? Puzzling…concentrating on selling a product that we don’t have much of.
It reminds me of a story Steve Wamberg told me about going to a Rockies’ baseball game on Coca-Cola night. For $10 you got a ticket to the game, plus a voucher for a Coke and a hot dog at the game. About the third inning he went to get his Coke and ‘dog’ only to find out they had run out of hot dogs.
Wait a minute! It’s a special night where a hot dog was being expected by about 30,000 people. He was a little disappointed, and came back and yelled up to Annie “No, one told them we were coming!”
Disappointment when something is touted or promised and isn’t delivered doesn’t promote much brand loyalty.
Let it lay it out for you. A lot of people who follow Jesus focus almost all of their attention on the outside “Christian appearance” but don’t have much to offer on the inside. Consider how “prayer empty” a large percentage of Christians are. Think about the disconnect that happens between life experience and scriptural comprehension.
Churches have a tendency to focus on the packaging of “the product’, but be short on fulfillment. There’s a focus on programming, but neglect of going to a deeper place. There’s a desire to make our buildings look pleasant and appealing, but sometimes an absence of “being” the presence of Christ to our community.
To paraphrase what Rick Rusaw says in The Externally Focused Quest, there’s a difference between “being the best church in our community” versus “being the best church for our community.” That one change in preposition makes all the difference. Being the best church in our community is still more about the packaging. Being the best church for the community is more about what the inside of the package has to offer.
Perhaps these words are simply the ramblings of a disgruntled potato chip guy, but sometimes what happens that is labeled “Christian” leaves a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths.


July 9, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. July 9, 2010

Wednesday night about 5:45 there was a knock on our door. It was Patti, our next-door neighbor. She said to Carol, “I hope you haven’t eaten dinner yet, because I just won a free pizza party from 99.9 FM. Thirty pizzas are being delivered in fifteen minutes!”
A few minutes after 6:00 a Papa John’s delivery van, followed by a 99.9 FM vehicle parked on our block, set up a table for the pizzas and drinks, and our neighborhood had an instant block party. Patti even asked me to give a blessing prayer for the meal!
The music was pounding, the pizza was being consumed, and the event was crazy. A few minutes later it partially broke up because of lightning and rain, but it was good while it lasted.
The interesting thing is that I had just been reading The Externally-focused Quest by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson. They bring up the story that Jesus told his disciples in Luke 14 about a banquet. It’s a free banquet. Not one of those “Dinner on us, and then hear a presentation on how you can make sure your future is financially secure.” This banquet has no strings attached. It was just an opportunity to come and celebrate with the host. Think of it as a block party!
Then we read this.
“But they (the invited guests) began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ (Was the field going someplace?) Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ (Now there’s a party animal!) Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” (Okay! I admit that I don’t quite understand how Jesus connects marriage with property and oxen.)
At our free pizza block party there were a number of our neighbors who came, but there were even more who didn’t. Patti invited them all. There were “Thanks, but no thanks” and “Thanks” with the indication they’d come…but didn’t.
It was free! There was even garlic butter dipping sauce!
Rusaw and Swanson make the point that Patti could have said Emeril, Bobby Flay, and Paula Deen was arriving to cook up a free meal, and people still would choose not to come.
What they are getting at is that the church to often tries to be attractional instead of missional. Or as our region’s executive minister likes to say, attractional instead of “incarnational.” The tendency is to put our time, money, and energies into creating a “Disneyland” instead of “going to.” They make the point that in the early centuries of the church, the followers of Christ, through their compassion and kindness, served the people around them.
I’ll have to admit, I was looking forward to hamburgers that night. The patties were ready. But when someone invites you to a free pizza party, you feel obligated to accept.
Connecting truth! There are a number of people who come to our churches out of obligation. It would be rude to say no. Obligation, however, is a tune that can only be played for so long. At some time it loses its status toward the top of the spiritual iTunes list. As our culture becomes less inclined to go to church, but not any less spiritual, those who are in the sanctuary on Sunday morning or Saturday night in order “to be nice” will slide.
What’s the answer?
Wouldn’t that make it seem pretty simplistic, to have just one answer?
I’ll give one point towards the answer, though. The people of God must become less defined by our properties, structures, and Disneylands; and more associated with faith, love, and action. The church unleashed, instead of leashed.
Free pizza is great! Freed people is better!


July 1, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. June 30, 2010

The next time you hear someone make the statement “You’re so high and mighty,” it may be directed at one of the church officers of a Christian cannabis church.
The spiritual marijuana movement is growing . . . not just in secluded places away from any law enforcement officials, but also in a number of new churches that are springing up. A recent article in The Denver Post focused on the “Cannabis Church Revival Tour,” a three-event swing along the Colorado Front Range promoting the religious use of marijuana. You could say that “people are really high on it.”
Okay, I’ll try to keep the humor to a legal minimum. This is a quote, however, from Rev. Roger Christie, founder of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. He said, “I like to say that we get high to say ‘Hi’ to the Most High.”
His words, not mine!
Kathleen Chippi, a marijuana dispensary owner who is starting a cannabis ministry, said she will ask new church members to take cannabis theology classes. That should get high marks! Sorry! I couldn’t help myself.
The article closes with a quote from a 41-year old man. He says, “My whole life, I’ve been smoking weed, and I just thought it would be good to join something I believe in.”
Puzzling and troubling. There’s even a view that cannabis is a new sacrament right alongside communion and baptism.
I know I’m becoming increasingly old-fashioned, but my mind just keeps asking “What’s next?” Jim Beam at the Lord’s Supper? A church geared towards Denver Broncos fans that sticks pins in Oakland Raider dolls? Casino Christian Revival movements? Porn Addicts for Christ? Chicago Cub Spiritual Pilgrimage Tours? Pretty soon donuts will become another sacrament.
Our culture seems to have this tendency to start the foundation with something other than Jesus, and then throw Jesus on top of it to make it look spiritual. It’s the equivalent of slapping some deodorant spray on top of a body that is reeking of B.O. We can hide the source for a few minutes, but eventually the nasal hair-curling truth will rise to the surface.
If our relationship is not based in Christ we’ll substitute what we really worship deep-down, and then try to make it look spiritual with a few references to Jesus.
Cannabis ministry? It gives new meaning to the verse about the potter and the clay.
Pastor Bill