Saturday, July 30, 2005

I heard this works

Friday, July 29, 2005

Doing history

Right now I am in the process of an Independent Study in Church History, which entails quite a bit of reading and research.
I am studying the life of someone who is not very publicized, but made an enormous impact on Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in the 20th century, and even today.

I am literally trying to "do history", meaning immersing myself so much in the context of the times that I get a "feel" for why this person thought the way he did, or did what he did.
It's hard to do because I want to begin judging actions based upon the hindsight of many decades.
This requires patience, discipline, and much, much study. So far, I read (skimmed) one volume of a newsletter this person published in a tabloid format just this week. Volume one began in the mid-1930s and each issue is 8 pages. I have one volume down and a few decades more to go!
I doubt I will be able to read every single one, but I do think that looking at these primary sources is a good key to judge this person, as opposed to reading the judgements of others. It just takes longer.

And no...I am not publishing my subject here because the person is unique enough for my (hopefully coming in 3-5 years) dissertation.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Be excellent

We are told from pulpit and publication that Christians are to be the best employees-the hardest workers, the most honest, etc, etc and so on.

What about Christians being the best employers?

The reason I bring this us is because a few things have been running through my head concerning this topic based upon personal observations.
First of all: I believe that Christian business owners should be:
1. The best business people
2. The best employers

For instance, if a landlord is a Christian, then it is incumbent upon them to treat their tenant's with respect and dignity. They need to show that they are aren't only vying for a profit. I am not saying that there is no room for profit, that's completely silly, however, a Christian landlord would be one who took care of problems quickly and makes sure that maintenance and upkeep are timely and quality.

This also goes for the way that a Christian employer treats their employees. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, for instance, I think that the Old Testament and New Testament show many clear examples and guidelines how an employer should be. For example, there are many Christian "ministries" that are quite profitable in their operations. That's not a bad thing at all, but what is bad is when a Christian company, or ministry is profitable, yet the employees are paid poor wages and subject to poor benefits and subpar treatment when compared to "secular" organizations.

This should never be the case. Christians should be leading, not trailing, and in many instances, falling off the map in this area.

If a Christian owns a business, they should strive treat their employees better than businesses of comparable size and profitability. I have met many people who work(ed) for organizations which were church or "christian" related/oriented, yet in talking with them, their employment experience did not resemble what one would expect. One such person worked for a major Christian broadcasting company which is extremely profitable, and was paid minimum wage for a job that would have paid more than twice that amount for any "secular" company of comparable size. This person was also told not to look at or speak to the "Christian" leaders who were being taped for the broadcast when setting up prior to the program.

I could point out other examples as well, but I do not believe it is necesarry in order to make my point because I am sure that many of us have had experiences or know people who have had experiences with Christian business that are poorly managed, or operated.

We must not tolerate this because it is offensive to the cause of Christ and is antithetical to the Gospel. Pastors need to emphasize this in their applications in sermons which deal with work, or vocation, and people need to begin practicing this outside the halls of the sanctuary.

Christians are supposed to be a different type of people. Christianity is a "new way to be human" and because of this we should expect not only Christian employees to be the best, but also Christian employers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Trinitarianism

From time to time, I think it is good to slow down and connect with early Christian expressions of faith. Obviously, many Christians are familiar with the Apostles' Creed, but sometimes it's refreshing to read other creeds as well. This Creed is an excellent statement of the need for a Trinitarian (Biblical) view of God. It also was needed at its time to fight against wrong understandings of God. This is something that represents a catholic (note the small c) expression of basic Christian truth, and something we today should take heed and see that there are times we must put aside certain differences in order to come together to affirm essentials of the Christian faith.

The Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;
so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.
But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.
So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.
Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.
One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
And shall give account of their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lessons on parenting

Last night my wife and I were at the Cardinals - Cubs game in St. Louis. As expected, it was a long, intense game with many ups and downs, and for Cards fans, a sad ending.

Anyway, there were two families near us, one with four boys, ages 6ish-13ish, and the other just one son who was around 6-7.

The larger family was not disfunctional, but quite unruly and annoying. The kids cursed loudly, made rude comments throughout the entire game, yelled the whole time, encroached upon other people's seats, and were all around brats.
Each time one of the boys made a rude comment, if it was "funny" enough their dad encouraged them in their behavior. He would say, 'good one'. We experienced this from 6:45-11:15pm, which made for a less than enjoyable environment, even though we had excellent seats.

The smaller family was different. The dad was teaching his son about baseball. He was guiding him through a scorecard and explaining everything to him in a calm manner. The boy was well behaved and seemed to be interested in the goings on of the evening. I smiled as I saw them together, thinking that would be an activity I would love to do with one of my children whenever we have them. (I'll have to learn how to score a game myself first, but at least my wife knows how!)

So, what did I learn from these two families?
Well, (my dad will appreciate this) I see the need for discipline and order. I do not mean so rigid in a way that children are drones, or robots, but rather so they act in a respectible manner.
I also see that people make assumptions on families based upon how they act.
The noisy family gave me the impression of a household in which the children run the show and the parents are "friends" who give them money and what they want. There is no control and the parents do not lead in a way that commands respect, and their family is not one worth spending time with socially because of the way everyone behaves.

The quieter family gave an impression of a well ordered house where God intended roles are respected.

Now, these were only impressions I received from the two families. For all I know the 2nd family could be disfunctional, God haters, or anything, but it was the impression they gave. And who knows, maybe the loud, annoying family attends a church and outside Busch stadium they act more organized. I do not know.

What I do know is that people make assumptions and judgements based upon the way families interact in public. This may not be completely fair, but that's what happens.

I know this post makes little sense and doesn't go anywhere. I have no real point....but I do think that I learned something.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Not as good as I once was....

Yeah, I'm ripping off Toby Keith again with the exception of using the word "ai*'t" which I cannot bear to write.

I have come to a realization that at the meager age of 28, that I am not even as close to my physical self of 10 years ago.
I have aches and pains almost everyday.
I just got an X-ray back of my left knee and there is a piece of chipped boned hiding behind my kneecap.
My feet hurt more these days.

I'm getting older.

Yes, I realize that I haven't hit the big 3 0 yet, and that is almost 2 years away, but the aches and pains of life make me realize that I'm not a kid anymore.
I can't jump as high, or run as fast (i am able to lift more though) because my body is breaking down.

Why does this happen?
Well, everything in the world is not perfect.
We live in a fallen world and we are fallen people. Each pain we experience, each ache we feel serves as a reminder that we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. While, God's creation is still good, it is still marred by sin and death.
The beauty of this reminder is that it also serves as a reminder that while things are fallen, we will experience renewal. God will renew all things.
I cannot wait for that time to happen, but until then I guess I'll let my aching knee, back and feet remind me that one day they will not hurt.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Not a happy camper

I'm not in a good mood right now.

I will probably post something tomorrow or maybe later if I simmer down.

I could be upset over something that is silly, but still it's been moving into this direction over the past few months.

No, I am not feuding with my wife.

She's too awesome to ever argue with!

Monday, July 18, 2005

A slice of home....

This past weekend my wife and I caught a Cardinals game and some interesting things happened.

First of all, we had seats next to some obnoxious Cubs fans. So what you say? Well, it would have been okay had the Cards been playing the Cubs, as it was they were playing the ASTROS!

Also, I often long for the comfort that Oklahoma offers me. I have missed that place since we settled into St. Louis and I think that it's because I am used to being around friendly, rural, types of people, and St. Louis just isn't that way. The people are okay, but just not as friendly as Oklahoma, or being in the South for that matter. (or even Western PA where my wife is from) Sometimes, it's annoying, but I got a little slice of home at the Cards game. No, it wasn't the obnoxious Cubs fans, but this family sitting behind us.
They were Cards fans, but they had familiar accents, probably southern or rural Missouri. But what made me think of home was the little kid behind us. He was probably five, maybe six, and the whole game when a Cardinal he recognized was batting he said, "GIT R DONE!!!!!"
The whole game.
It was funny the first five times, but after that.....it was routine.

But it really reminded me of a more simple place where people aren't competing with the city of Chicago for better pizza, jobs, baseball and life, and people know how to slow things down a little.
And all it took was a little kid cheering his team on with "GIT R DONE!!!!"

I still wonder why my wife thinks I'm a redneck........


Oh yeah, if anyone wants tickets to the Cards vs Cubs game this Sunday night go here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Niche versus community context

In my last post, I discussed niche churches and why they can be a harmful thing because of the isolation which can be experienced, etc. I think it's important to distinguish the difference between meeting a community where it is at, and establish a niche.

When I talk about a niche church, I am speaking of a church which is planted with a detailed, specific subgroup within a community, such as a "skater church" within a certain neighborhood, as opposed to a church planted in a neighborhood which is planted with the neighborhood in mind, and able to minister to all the types of folks within the neighborhood.

Why do I make that clarification? Well, different communities have different styles and are made up of various interests and people.
For instance, many in a neighborhood may not be "churched", so therefore, it would not be appropriate to plant a church in that community in which only Christianese is spoken and only unfamiliar types of music, styles of worship are incorporated.

If, I as a white Presbyterian go into a predominately Afro-American neighborhood and plant a traditional Presbyterian type church, it would utterly fail because I do not take into account the neighborhood, and would expect the neighborhood to worship "like me" with "my" music, etc. However, if I, as a white Presbyterian, planted a church in this same neighborhood, and took into account the context of operation, and used music which is familiar to the people, and took into account that the neighborhood responds/worships a certain way, and incorporated some of those aspects into the service; I do not see anything wrong with that. This would work in any neighborhood where various social, racial, ethnic groups are living.

That is different from a niche, which is designed solely for the purpose of bringing a group from the community, as opposed to bringing the community as a group.

I think this is why there is a varying degree of styles of worship, preaching, etc in various areas of the country. Farming communities relate differently than suburban communities and urban communities, etc.

Churches have to relate to the community where they are planted in order to be able to meet the needs of the area.

Sometimes this is hard to grasp because there is a hesitancy to not want to adapt to the context God has placed you in. I am extremely comfortable with traditional hymns, maybe a little contemporary music, but mostly traditional, with traditional uses of catechism questions and the ancient Creeds incorporated into the service, but in certain contexts much of the content can stay, but my preferred mode of interacting with the content may not. I may have to sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God in a way I'm not used to. I may have to clap my hands (it's Biblical) even though I lack good rythym. I may have to sing a chorus more than once a verse, even though I don't prefer to.

But what must be realized is that adapting to a neighborhood is not creating a niche. Creating a niche is doing something in a way to only attract a certain subgroup, not the neighborhood, or community as a whole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Niche churches

I was listening to BOTT radio network this past weekend and heard an interesting story about niche churches. This particular story dealt with a Cowboy Church which was planted in the Denver, Colorado area to reach out to cowboys with a service that was geared toward that demographic.
Now, I have no problems with outreach to any particular group, and I think that there are times when churches need to have specific ways to reach to various groups. This does not mean that we need to "throw out the baby with the bath water".
Why?
I think that it can be dangerous to the Church at large, when we begin to divide ourselves based upon niches. We have cowboy churches, Gen-X churches, biker churches, post-modern churches, spiritual warfare churches, and so on and so on. The reason this can be harmful is that it creates a disconnect to the broader Church because members of niche churches are in a very homogenous group with people they share, possibly, too much in common.
We know from the Bible that Christ's church is made up of people from all different sorts of groups. This is not only racial, but social and other demographic statistics as well. And that is a beautiful thing because we know that the Gospel is so powerful it allows a biker and a cowboy to worship with a CEO, a professor or senior citizen, while in the next pew is a skateboarder.
The Gospel crosses those lines and unfortunately, in "traditional" circles, as well as niche circles, we lose site of that and create unfortunate barriers that really have no business existing anyway.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Work blahs, but should that be the case?

Last week I celebrated my two year anniversary of employment at UPS. It's been an interesting two years, and lately, I have come to the point where I am counting down how many months I have until I am finished with seminary and able to quit in order to move on to something else; better, and more in line with my degree and expectations of calling.

Because of this anticipation and impatience, I have been experiencing a sense of lethargy and dread when the clock gets closer to 4:00pm, because that means it's almost time to leave for work. I must say that my attitude has been awful concerning work and I have lost the concept that everything I do is to glorify God. It's the chief end of man, but sometimes I don't want to glorify God in my work-I just want to get it over with and do a good enough job that no one will bother me about my performance afterward.

I don't think that's the right attitude. Sure, I make excuses about being so busy in life and that's why I really don't feel like I can enjoy UPS, or I'm so eager to quit, but really I know that my perspective is wrong. Part of me sees this job as menial employment because I am better educated than most of my managers and have more non-UPS experience in management/professional business employment than many of the people who are my bosses, etc. So what? That shouldn't make me look at my job like it's something insignificant. Not because of what I do, but because of who I represent.
I think I've let myself lose that perspective lately.
It's time to get it back.

Below is a great article from www.byfaithonline.com and it really helped me when I read it yesterday. (I am posting the entire article because I could not get the link to work)

Everyday Life
Making Dog Food for the Glory of God
By Dick Doster
If you’ve been to a PCA church more than a few times you know by heart that the goal of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
But for Christians in business the Chief End of Man is often wishful thinking or a passing thought. Most Christians, including presumably, those in our denomination, spend eight, 10, maybe 12 hours a day at the office. On a good week we take Saturday off, but with email, cell phones, and the Internet, work is always close by. In fact, a number of surveys over the past few years report that Christians spend 60 to 80 percent of their waking hours at work in the secular world—selling, meeting, planning, and composing memos and emails. And when asked, “what’s the point of all that effort?” their answers suggest that the chief end of most men is “to make money.” Few Christians—and “few” is a generous estimate—believe their work in the world brings glory to God. And fewer still believe that selling, planning, and meeting are ideal ways to find His pleasure.
When and how then, laboring in a thorn-infested world, do God’s people do the things that eternally matter?
There may be clues in the secular press. The business magazine, Fast Company, recently identified the Fast Fifty—peak performers, the magazine says—who executed great ideas and made last year a good one.
Jeffrey Ansell, the 45-year-old president of the Iams (pet food) Company, is first on the list. He is, the magazine reports, an innovative leader who has worked hard to improve pets’ lives. Last year Ansell’s company developed a high-end food formulated to develop smarter, more trainable puppies. It created a pourable gravy to make dry food more appealing. And Ansell extended his company’s brand into veterinary services, developing two medical-imaging centers that allow vets to limit exploratory surgery on dogs and cats.
There’s no evidence in the article that Ansell’s a Christian, but if he were—if a believer had his job—could manufacturing and marketing dog food bring glory to God? And could it deepen his enjoyment of the Father?
Seems unlikely. And the idea probably strikes most as silly, if not heretical.
But what if…? What if a Christian intentionally climbs the corporate ladder, not because he covets money or power, but because he’s convinced that he is a redeemed descendant of Adam who has been given dominion over the earth and the animals? Every morning he pulls into the parking lot reminding himself that, “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds. ... And God made the beasts of the earth. ... And God saw that it was good.’” What if he delights in God, joyfully working 60 hours a week making dog food because he actually believes that he’s a regent of the King who, “… out of the ground … formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them … ?” What if he can’t wait to get to work on Monday morning, not because he loves the power, but because he’s eager to research, explore, and make new discoveries that help us tend to creatures that God created, pronounced “good,” and entrusted to our care?
What if he goes to work intent on gaining market share, expanding distribution, and improving profit margins—not as ends, but as means—as critical tasks needed for the company to expand service, develop more innovative products, and hire more smart people? What if he works harder than his competitors, not simply to win, but to take a more expansive role in God’s renewing plan? He doesn’t know what life with the animals was like before the Fall, but he does know, when Christ consummates His plan, that, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. … The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD … ”(Isaiah 11:6-9). With Isaiah’s prophecy vaguely in mind maybe, when he saw photos of labrador retrievers searching the rubble at the World Trade Center, he was intrigued by their perseverance and wondered more about why God made them. Or perhaps when he saw German shepherds at the airport sniffing for smuggled drugs or hidden bombs he was fascinated by the fact that God, for some reason, gave them a sense of smell that is a hundred times greater than ours. He might have visited his mother in a nursing home and been touched by the way golden retrievers comfort widows who’ve been left all alone. Or, more likely, he simply delights at the way his own sloppy mutts lick his face every night when he comes home.
Whatever the case, when he goes to work because he’s the caretaker of God’s creation, when he labors as a regent of the King who is reconciling all things to Himself—he performs work that eternally matters.
D. Cole Frates is on the Fast Company list. Frates, 36, is the president of Hydrogen Car Company (HCC) in Los Angeles. He created HCC, he told the magazine, “because there was nothing we could buy that we wanted to drive—a fast, powerful car that’s clean-burning, and sexy, and cool at the same time.” Last year HCC released a hydrogen-powered Shelby Cobra whose internal combustion engine has been modified to run on compressed hydrogen, which produces no carbon emissions.
Could a man glorify and enjoy God by modifying car engines?
Perhaps he sensed God’s call after memorizing Colossians 1:16, 17: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. ... And in him all things hold together?” Perhaps, as a member of Christ’s body, he believes he’s part of the plan to keep the world working, to keep it functioning safely and productively. And perhaps he believes that God has given him gifts and abilities and thereby equipped him to help his neighbors get to all the important places they have to go—without poisoning the air and their own lungs. Maybe he can’t get Psalm 19: 1, 2 out of his mind: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” When he sees the smog hovering over our cities he’s grieved. And he hopes, using science as his tool, to restore God’s masterpiece.
Or maybe all of that is beside the point. Maybe a Christian builds “cool” cars because every minute of his conscious life, he is aware that he is made in the likeness of the One who arranged constellations, designed rainbows, sculpted mountains, and composed the songs of 9,537 species of birds. As the image bearer of an all-creative God, he cannot bear the sight of unimaginative cars. And he has committed his life to reflecting the nature of his creative Father.
Or maybe he is a scientist determined to follow the clues that God left for us to find. He has explored the chemical composition of the world and unlocked the secrets of hydrogen. He has subdued them, harnessed them, and combined the elements in new ways for the sake of God’s world.
For any of these reasons he has acted in obedience, underscored God’s glory, and—no doubt—thoroughly enjoyed His pleasure.
In an earlier issue of Fast Company, Cheryl Rosner, the president of Hotels.com, told the magazine, “I remember when I decided to be in the hotel business. I was 11 years old and on vacation, watching all these people serving other folks, smiling and bringing smiles to customers’ faces. From then on, it never occurred to me to do anything else.” Later in the article Rosner says, “Our business is so dynamic, you have to get everyone to think, to be strategic, to create, to innovate, and to always think about what our customers and suppliers are looking for from us.”
What if a Christian had methodically worked her way into Rossner’s position because she really believed what Jesus said about the law: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” What if someone aspired to run a hotel company because, having inventoried her gifts and talents, she concluded that it was the most concrete and practical way for her to love her neighbors—especially when they are away from home, often apart from loved ones, after they have been herded into the coach section of a packed plane, and spent the day in grueling meetings.
And what if, in her efforts to make her neighbors smile, she recruited strategists who brainstormed 40 hours a week, pooling their creative energies to come up with better ways to serve? As hoteliers create new ways of meeting their neighbors’ needs, and as they harness new technology to make life more comfortable won’t they, at the same time, enjoy God as He works through them to care for His people?
We don’t know why Cheryl Rosner wants to make people smile, or why D. Cole Frates builds hydrogen cars, or why Jeffrey Ansell spends 70 percent of his waking hours making dog food. But we do know this: (1) whatever we do, we’re to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians). And (2) God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose (1 Corinthians 12:18). In his providence God has placed most of this magazine’s readers in business, doing the same kinds of work as Ansell, Frates, and Rosner.
Because that’s how He intends for them to glorify and enjoy Him.
Dick Doster is the editor of byFaith magazine. You can reach him at editor@byfaithonline.com.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London is calling

This morning (in the U.S.) London, England was attacked by terrorists. Nearly the entire world is familiar with 9-11-01 and the events that happened in the U.S..

Today it was London that was attacked, and it is time for the Church to respond.
Many in this city and in the UK will be clamoring to churches and other forms of spiritual places to fill that inner need to answer the inner question, "why?". The Church must respond and we must be prepared to meet the needs of these people at this time.

In NYC after Sept 2001 church attendance skyrocketed, but after a few months attendance was about the same as before. Why?
Some research points to people saying that the churches could not explain what God had to do with tragedy.

We must not be afraid of this.
We must explain that Christianity and the God of the Bible is true, and can meet the pain and suffering that happened on 9-11 and happened today in London.

I pray that this disaster will be a time for Bible believing churches in the U.K. to rise up and minister to these hurting people with compassion and the Gospel.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Two ignored aspects of crafting a sermon

Did I get your attention?
As someone who listens to lots of sermons, sometimes too many, and who listens to sermons from various theological persuasions, I have noticed what separates the sermons that really hit you from the sermons that make you say, "he made some good points."
It's not illustrations, though they are important.
It's not introductions, even though many times we can blow a sermon with a bad introduction.
I think two ignored areas that we often don't think of are application and conclusion.

Why do I bring those up today?
Lately in some sermons that I have listened to, the one preaching has made the arguments necessary to prove his points, but still leaves you hanging. It's like getting tools to fix a car, but no instruction manual that tells you how or where to use them.
I know from experience that coming up with application is difficult, but too often we can leave a congregation hanging. We may make great points about the Holy Spirit's help in time of trouble, or relying upon God in a difficult time, but when we do not give any specifics and speak in generalities, we can leave people in a place of confusion and wondering how they become this "mighty person of faith." We can give lofty goals on how the Christian should live, but without a good application, there is only defeat.
We must remember to keep our sermons fresh and our applications relevent. I think that's the hardest thing to do. The more I prepare and deliver sermons, the more I must scrutinize this area. So what if I tell the congregation about the beauty of God's love. That has no meaning until I show them areas in their life where they can see this, experience this, and rely on it. Then I need to think of specific situations......the avalanche then begins. Ideas....life....application. It's beautiful.

Secondly, and this is a hard one when you're in the puplit, never say "In closing"....you would not believe how many Bibles shut and how many sets of keys come out of purses. And yes, this happens at good Bible believing churches too. (even retirement centers) When you say, a catch phrase such as that, people stop listening and start thinking about lunch, the closing hymn, the benediction, what the Cardinals score will be when you get home, and so on and so on.
Build a climactic point to spiral down to the conclusion. We never read good books and see "in conclusion to my thrilling mystery".

In closing...just kidding.
These were merely thoughts in my head which are the result of about 8 sermons I have delivered in the past 5 weeks and listening to too many sermons on the radio and internet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Critiquing the critiqued and those who endlessly critique and critique

It's easy to judge, critique and see how people or groups match up to your standards. Chances are, most people do not match up to your standards or my standards. We love comparing.
Ecclesiastically, this happens a lot. Movements critique others movements to make sure we are aware of why we need to be separated from this movement or that movement because we must be pure and follow standards X, Y, & Z. Denominations critique other denominations, telling us why they are more pure and what problems the other denomination(s) has/have.
When was the last time you saw a pastor or leader in a church, movement or denomination get up and publicly say, "we have some things we need to take care of...."?
THAT would be shocking.

Sometimes, though, I think we must do this. This morning I read this familiar passage from Luke 6 for a Bible study :
6:41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

There is so much to unpack in those few words, but something that I believe is very applicable on a macro-level.

First of all, I have been in my share of "movements" as I have journeyed through life. Everything from being Southern Baptist as a child, later to a form of Landmark Baptist (and also being heavily exposed to Independent KJVO Fundamentalism during college), to flirting with the Emergent Movement for a short time in 2001 (before it was cool) to settling in as a conservative Presbyterian (PCA).

In every movement, there are always problems with other movements and it seems so easy to point those problems out.
Reading materials or listening to lectures from various movements, whether it be a firey sermon by a Landmarker on why Presbyterians are Papists in disguise, or reading an Emergent essay on why the author loves JESUS, but hates the church, or even reading things by Presbyterians on why Dispensationalists are stupid, there is always something missing----self-critique.
When we approach a topic that we may differ with other Christian groups, we must be willing to see where we are blinded by our own pride and traditions before we lash out at fellow brothers and sisters.
It's so hard to swallow at times.
There are so many times I want to lash out and critique people endlessly and point out why they are so wrong, but rarely do I wish to confront ways of thinking in my life where I am open to criticism.
I need more self critique, movements and denominations need more self-critique.

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