Archive for September 2010

The Risk of Being Unattractive

September 22, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. September 20, 2010

I was reading an article recently that consisted of an interview with Alan Hirsch, regarded as being at the forefront of a movement in the thousands of congregations today called “missional churches” or “missional ministry.”
Hirsch makes the point that the church is declining in attendance and needs to find different ways to speak and new innovative forms of “church.” He writes that almost all churches in our country are “attractional” in their nature. In that form they are attracting 40% of the population. It doesn’t mean that 40% of the population is attending church; it just means that 40% will entertain the possibility of attending. That means that 60% of the population aren’t interested in the attractional form.
That’s hard for us who were raised in the church, and have been attending church our whole lives, to hear. Hirsch’s point is that it doesn’t matter whether a church is contemporary in it’s worship, offers a Saturday night service, serves gourmet coffee, and has a paid professionally staffed praise band. We’re drawing from the same percentage of the pie…the 40% piece. In essence, the church’s addiction for being attractive to our culture has made it, ironic as it sounds, more unattractive to many of the people who need to be introduced to Jesus the most.
In going back to Acts 2 in recent weeks, and looking at the beginnings of the first church, I’m struck by the fact that they were Christ-centered. That might sound like a simplistic statement, but it might also be what churches today are missing. We’ve focused so much on what the wrapping paper looks like that we’ve smothered the Christ-child on the inside. The early church was willing to risk being unattractive to the culture if that’s where God was leading them to go.
I agree with this statement that Hirsch makes:
“ I was trained in a formal liturgical tradition, where I got the impression that we were meant to be helping people make life decisions and telling them how to live their lives. It’s exhausting if you make decisions for everyone. I really sense God is saying, “You’re not meant to tell people how to live. That’s my job. Your job is to introduce people to Jesus and a true understanding of who Jesus is. You don’t have to control their lives.” And I find that incredibly liberating. When I play Holy Spirit, I usually do a very, very bad job.”
The Cross will never be known for its attractiveness, but it will always be a sign that points to a true understanding of Jesus. If we don’t wrap it up in that thin department store tissue-like paper that results in both hiding it and protecting it, but rather let it speak the truth it holds…our purpose, individually and collectively, will be fulfilled.

The Moment of Focused Prayer

September 17, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. September 16, 2010
There is a time when we seem to seek the focused attention of God.
It has been said that God wants our attention, and that he may put something in our life to get it. I don’t totally agree with that. Sometimes in the Bible it happened that way…like with Paul’s Damascus Road experience, or numerous prophecies from Old Testament prophets (like a bleached-out Jonah).
But sometimes we use that “line” as a way of keeping us “in line.”
I think more often than not we experience a crisis moment that has us seeking the attention of God. It’s that moment in the ER when a loved one is wavering between life and death. It’s the journey in a car through an icy winter storm. It’s the point in the month when there is nothing left in the check book, but there are still “past due” notices in a pile on the desk.
It’s a math test!
It’s the birth point of a new child.
It’s the parents of a teenager who has not come home one night.
It’s the scene of an elderly uncle who has suddenly slumped over in his chair.
It’s the call from someone related to you, and it’s originating from the police station.
It’s the denial of a follower of Christ that there really is a God.
It’s the long trip back home in response to a dying grandparent, and the urgency of making it back to say one last goodbye, and “I love you.”
This moment of focused prayer came center stage for me today as our oldest daughter, Kecia, eighteen weeks pregnant, had to go to the emergency room after an unfortunate series of events occurred at her grade school. She spent many anxious and emotional moments lying on a gurney waiting to hear that the baby was okay.
For me it was moments filled with focused prayer. “God, let’s get focused on this child!”
Thank God, he isn’t ADD. God doesn’t need me to tell him to focus more. He’s focused all the time on each one of his created. He understands the finger nail biting habits of anxious parents and grandparents. He knows the situation before we even realize it.
Bad things sometimes do happen. That’s not because God is off playing Play Station 3 for a few hours, and as a result the whole universe is in chaos. Bad things happen because Eden disappeared a long time ago. Bad things happen because evil is alive and often seems to be prospering.
Too often we end up judging God (ironic as that sounds) on the basis of which way the weigh scale is tipping…experiencing happiness or experiencing sadness. When it seems that the negative is winning we wonder what God is doing!
Bud God desires the best for us, and he desires a life that is filled with joy and peace…and even happiness. If I believed in a God who desired less than that I would become increasingly cynical and suspicious…and, over time, bitter.
As Carol and I waited with our daughter today I knew that God knew every detail, and I thanked him for it!


September 10, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. September 9, 2010
This week has seen a Florida pastor make national news with the threat of his church burning copies of the Quran on September 11. He backed off of that today, but the damage has been done…another blow has been received…another hit to the image…of what Christians are all about and what the church stands for.
I realize that the media is quick to look for a front page story that makes people shake their heads in disbelief. That’s the communications culture we live in. Herbie can post a YouTube video of a senator caught picking his nose. Text messaging is now used by thieves to successfully pull off a heist. Everything is quickly communicated these days, which also means “the story” really has be to a bizarre story.
“Lunacy” is what comes from Florida, but lest we think that is an isolated example, it also comes out of Kansas with the Westboro Baptist Church protesters. And lest we think that is just another isolated example from the middle point of the nation remember that a pro-lifer recently murdered a physician who performed abortions, and the pro-life advocate killed him in church. I’ve had a few sermons that should have been put to rest, but no one has ever died in the midst of a Sunday worship service.
In other words, our culture has seen too many media-blitzed examples of Christians and churches doing incredibly bizarre acts in the name of Christ.
And now there’s the other side!
In the Thursday, September 09, 2010 edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette there is a story about a group of a dozen churches on the south-side of Colorado Springs that plan to raise $125,000 to operate the Meadows Park Community Center in 2011. Because of budget cuts the city has been actively looking for partners to help them keep community centers open, which provide multiple services to the people who live around them. The dozen churches are all in close proximity to the community center. It’s a match made in heaven! It’s the people of God coming together in service and action, and, best of all, their funds!
But another community organization that has the same vision for the community center is opposing the churches help.
Here’s where it gets interesting…and disturbing!
The President of the Community Partnership Project, Eric Phillips, says that the churches being involved in the community center will keep people who need the services of the center the most away because of the “stigma” that churches carry. Phillips goes on to say, “There’s nothing wrong with churches. They are doing their best. But that stigma might have stuck with them.”
Lunacy and stigmatized. On one hand the actions of a few get planted on every Christian’s forehead; and on the other the offer to help, to make a positive difference, gets viewed with suspicion.
It’s easy for us to stay uninvolved, ineffective, uncaring, and apathetic…in the middle!
Which is exactly where the Deceiver wants us to contentedly stay!

“Free Sunday”

September 6, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. September 5, 2010

Dear Friends,
Last Sunday’s celebrating of “No Church Free Sunday” was so well received that we’ve decided to do it again this Sunday. It’s not every week that we hit on a ‘smokin’ hot new idea, but this one lit it up. We received many text message comments from our faithful congregation members encouraging us to do it again. We know that not having the worship service or any classes at the church building last Sunday morning freed a lot of people up to go about doing all kinds of fun things with no guilt strings attached.
And boy, did we learn some things! Here’s a few of the learnings from last week that will help make this Sunday even better.
Offering- If you drop your financial gift off in the mailbox by Monday morning it will arrive at the church by Wednesday. Plus, a lot of you took to heart the additional ways you can give.
• Adding $10- You can sleep as late as you want.
• An Extra $20- Tailgate late morning before the 1:00 abseball or football game.
• Add $15- Enjoy the breakfast buffet at Golden Corral. Stay as long as you want and go back as many times as you desire.
• Add $10- Look at the cover of your bible for a minute and correctly be able to say that “you’ve been in the word.”
• Add $20- Take in the NASCAR cable channel all morning long.
• An Extra $30- Go right from your PJ’s to swimwear as soon as you wake up.
• Adding $100- You can do whatever you want!
Music- Depending on your music preference, here are YouTube videos to spiritually inspire you at home.
• Contemporary Christian- “Bring The Rain” by Mercy Me
• Country Gospel- “There Will Be Peace In the Valley” by Tennessee Ernie Ford
• Christian Heavy Metal- “In God We Trust” by Stryper
• Favorite Hymns- “Great Is They Faithfulness” sung by D.W. Crooner
• Black Gospel- “He’s an On-Time God” by sung by Dottie Peoples
• Christian Rap- Not sure it has a title, but check out Lordside Gangster
• Chanting- “Music for Paradise, Music for the Soul by Stift Heiligenkreuz
All you have to do is go to YouTube and type in the name of the song, and “Praise the Lord”, there it is. No having to listen to someone else’s style of music. And if you like the video you can even have it sung again just for you.
Donuts and Coffee- Starbucks has great mini-donuts, four for $1.95, but, hey!…they’ve got tomake a profit. And the coffee is fresh brewed by paid baristas!
No Volunteers Needed- In not using our building there’s no need for ushers, nursery workers, sound techs, flower arrangers, a praise team, greeters, communion servers, children’s workers, youth leaders, class teachers…whew!…just think of all the manpower hours we’re saving!
Children’s Story- Pop in a Veggie Tales DVD. You can even sit on your couch with your pre-schooler and watch it…or not!
Scripture Reading- The Bible on CD’s is all you need…and think about it…the person reading the scripture will say all of those hard to pronounce biblical names correctly. No more embarrassing moments as the pastor stumbles over “Eliehoenai” and “Shephatiah”.
Create Your Own Sermon- Most people check out when our pastor starts talking anyway, so we suggest putting on ear phones and enjoying twenty to thirty minutes of silence.
Greeting One Another- See Starbucks suggestion above. Take donuts and coffee and sit down at a table.
Now…some might say we’re getting away from Hebrews 10:25 which talks about “…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…”, but everybody needs a Sunday off, right?
If you feel the need to be in the building this week, we’re having bingo on Friday night. Bring a friend and get half off your card!