Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Deviation from the Series – A Word on Websites

April 12, 2006

Tony Morgan had an exceptional entry this morning on Good for Nothing Websites on his Simply Strategic Blog. Read it yourself, but the bottom line question is what purpose does your church website serve, and how well is it serving? I agree that too many churches today throw up a site because everybody has one, but they fail to make it a value to those who they hope will use it. A website should be an asset, not a liability. If you, or your board are looking at it with disdain and contempt, your probably not ready to commit the time, resources, and energy to move it from the latter to the former, and you will do yourself a service by waiting until you get there.

That, and I love the Pontiac Montana analogy!

Church and Society – part 2 of ? – Christians in Business

April 12, 2006

Ok – We recently talked about how the Church, and Christians in general, should be effecting society and should have a presence in the world. The next question to pose is: What does that look like? Also, is there a right and wrong way?

Enter my drive home the other day… I am heading down a main street in suburbia, and suddenly my eye is drawn to a full 4×8 readerboard with 1′ Neon Yellow lettering screaming “CHRISTIAN”. Driving closer, the finer print becomes readable…” BANKING IS COMING”.

Christian Banking

Alright. I get it. I know the bank immediately. I know that they have had great success with this marketing strategy. They promote themselves as the “Christian” alternative to normal banking. They have drawn a percieved line in the sand that the “Big Banks” can’t and won’t cross. I don’t belittle them for repeating what has proven to be a successful strategic positioning decision. My curiosity, and my initial thought, was whether or not this positioning was solely self-serving. Does it in any way help the cause of the Church? (which I am asserting to be the fulfillment of the Great Commission for the purposes of this discussion) For that matter, does it need to?

It seems to me that while this may be a plus for them, and their business, it has a counterproductive
“Christian ghetto” effect in polarizing the rest of the world. What is “Christian” banking anyway? Is it merely giving your money to a “Christian” management team? Are those going to non-Christian banks expecting anything less than honesty, integrity, and fair treatment from their bank? Is it merely to say “if you’re not a Christian, you’re not our target market, and if you are, we are the only bank that will make you feel special about it…” I believe, and I think the success of the bank in their opening of the second branch proves, that it is the latter. For some reason, that saddens me.

I will stop there for this moment. I reserve the right to add my own commentary to my original thoughts as I see fit. But how about your thoughts? After all, isn’t that part of what this is for?

The Church in Today’s Society – Part 1.5 of 3

April 10, 2006

Lunchtime Revelations, but not quite part 2.

I took lunch today, as it was a beautiful day, at a local park/nature conservation site known as Kathryn Albertson park. It was built as a memorial to the life of, who else, Kathryn Albertson (of the Albertson’s Grocery family). On my way to that park, I passed by a graveyard full of tombstones and grave markers, tributes to hundreds whose lives have now ended in this world, and have moved on to eternity, one direction or the other.

Cemetary

As I drove towards Albertson Park, I was struck by the following curiosity: “How many people whose names are on rocks in that cemetary had plans for their lives and for the Kingdom that they never executed on?”

Thought II- It was this thought that was still on my mind when I rounded the corner at Albertsons parking area, where you are greeted by not one, but several rocks, engraved in memory of Mrs. Albertson. Quite the memorial. Whatever she did in this life, those who thought her worth remembering did it in a big way.

Albertsons Park Entry

Now immediately, some will say that it was merely the money that made the difference in the representative lives here, and I’m sure, to some degree that is valid. But lets go a little deeper. I’m sure that there are those who had equal financial opportunity as Mrs. Albertson whose memory is restricted to that cemetary, and those few who go there to visit it. Yet, for some reason, Mrs. Albertsons memory was taken beyond the space where she may have been laid to rest, and brought to the community at large for its consumption. They made a place where everyone can enjoy remembering what she did, or learn about it, or ask the question “who was she??” (remember, I’m don’t need the life of someone to be spiritual to learn a lesson in a spiritual context from their life… that’s where I’m coming from here.)

Point or Proposition- The Church should be making such a memorial through our actions that causes the world to want to visit, learn about, and ask the question “who was He” about the man whom we believe so deeply in, that we are willing to make our lives a living memorial to what He has done for us. And when we do it, our memorial should be a park with acerage, not an indestingushable plot next to 2000 others. Your comments??

The Church in Today’s Society – Part 1 of 3? (at least 3 at this point)

April 10, 2006

Christianity and Black Holes Christianity and Two Black Holes in Space

And so we begin… While my wife was reviewing for me the things that made headlines of late, she mentioned one that stated "Pair of Black Holes Locked in Death Dance" (from cnn.com) Stick with me on this one. It takes a little while, but like a good mystery novel, there are clues to the plot along the way, and if you haven't gotten it yet, I give it all away at the end…

Here's the money quote…

Black holes can't be seen. Their presence is inferred by their gravitational effects on their surroundings and by radiation from near the black hole, where a feeding frenzy superheats gas so much that it emits X-rays.

Determining that these two black holes will collide involved other indirect evidence, drawing data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

OK!!!! Did you get it? What on earth (bad pun) does a black hole have to do with Christianity, the Church, and Today's Society? Lets look at the first sentence in the quote. Remember that this is a major international news source talking about something that "Can't be seen" and whose existence "must be inferred by their "effects on their surroundings". You there yet??? Try this on for size…

The Church is not a building. It is not merely a person, nor even a collection of people, for if it were, every collection of people could be called a Church, and rightly so. It must, therefore have a distinguishing characteristic that separates it from a mere "gathering". What is it?

How about its EFFECT on the society in which it exists? Paul said to the church at Corinth in 1 Cor 2 4-5:

4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

He was asking them to have faith in something (Heb 1:11 – Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen) they could not see (God, God's Power) based on evidence (demonstration) that was given them in support of that something's existence. He was basing its existance on a purponderance of the evidence. For there to be evidence, there must have been some resulting effect. Lets see Exodus 4:29-30 for another example of the EFFECT of the unseen force of God, through His people, on their surroundings…

29Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, 30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, 31 and they believed.

I find it no small thing that the statement "and they believed" comes after the performance. The evidence begat the belief. Ok…. Summing up before I start preaching…

I believe the key point of the black hole is that the world, whether we believe it or not, is willing to accept the existance of something that they cannot and will not ever see with their naked eye if we are willing to give them enough evidence of its existance. To do that, we need to be living lives that have an effect on our surroundings, and as a Church, our grouping and gathering needs have the same, if not a magnified effect.

May it be said that there was enough "other indirect evidence" in our lives and our churches that it causes others to ask, ponder, and maybe even, to join us and believe. Who knows. Maybe we will see the Church in a headline on CNN that says that "a collection of great bodies with a super-supernatural power that you cannot see appear to be coming into allignment to potentially effect millions of the bodies within the scope of their unexplainable gravitational pull" — And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. -John 12:32

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. – Mat 7:20

Up Next: Christians in Business

I Feel a Series Coming On…

April 7, 2006

Today I will begin the creation of what I know is going to become a theme for at least a few days on Christianity, The Church, and how we as Christians present ourselves to the world. I have been inspired of late by seemingly every little thing I trip across that there is a thematic continuity to all of this, but I've not yet been able to put it into a basket so to speak… Just know that its brewing, and coming soon.

Investments and Returns – God Economics

April 6, 2006

Mark Wilson recently posted a comment about "Making the Investment" into our relationships with Christ, and the rewards that come from doing so. Making the investment is the key to growth and confidence in Christ. To parallel the financial world, it is not until we place that which we have in the “trust” of another that we begin to see a “return” on that “investment”. As always, with any scenario, there is a seemingly large amount of “risk” in placing your life in the hands of another. However, as we spend more time in His word, getting to know Him, fellowshiping with Him, (hey- there is that “investment” again…) we come to realize that, in reality, He has already taken all the risk, and we are left with nothing but assurance and gain… “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (investment) and all these things will be added unto you (reward)”. Sounds like a we get a great deal on our side!

Ejection Seats of Divisiveness

March 29, 2006

The United Church of Christ has recently released their newest ad campaign zeroing in on growing their congregations by focusing on those rejected by the church. The ad is featured on their website, "RejectionHurts.com" and shows people being selectively "ejected" from the pews. Those ejected include a mother with a crying baby, the man of whatever ethnicity he is (at right), a homosexual male couple, and a handicapped person, among others, and then follows with the screen text: "God doesn't reject people". The site is supposed to have testimonies, of which there were only 8, (mind you that all 8 of these are valid and deserving of attention) however I was curious if they would post my opinion that I took the time to share with them. For editorial integrity, I have posted it below:

First, to all of those who have shared their absolutely valid testimonies and stories of how they have been wronged by the church, Thank you for your openness, and on behalf of myself and my family who call ourselves by the name Christian, we are sorry for your experiences.That said, to the directors of the "United" church of Christ, can you explain to me how this website, this commercial, and this campaign is anything but divisive? You are not solving the problem, but merely propegating it by drawing the "Us and Them" line even further apart.

I am saddened by the fact that you have chosen to attack the ecumenical church as a whole in order to grow your own cause in the name of tolerance. Poor practice in my book. I am curious – since I disagree, will you have the integrity to post my opinion, or will you yourselves choose to play the role of that which you so disdain, and "eject" me? If you truely want to effect change, than engage in the dialouge that creates it. Otherwise, you are doing nothing more than adding to the noise. Lets see where you stand, as the ball is most respectfully in your court.

I will post any replies I receive to this blog, so check back.

Please feel free to do the same, and to comment. This was brought to my attention by Todd Rhoades on his Monday Morning Insights blog. Thanks Todd.

Creating THE PURPLE COW

March 28, 2006


Church Goes Monster Truck – Listen to the Radio Spot

Every once in a while, someone comes up with an idea that "scrapes the proverbial skin off the top of the pudding" and brings a fresh new stir to church marketing. Though this was "just for fun", I love the concept, and feel like we need to be able to have a little fun once in a while, even if it is ourselves that we are laughing at. Also, there are some interesting opinions on the Anglican Postmortem blog

Hats off also to Granger Community Church in Granger IN for their "My lame sex life" website and the Pure Sex series. Well done. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Apparently, these guys are also doing some church training as well to discuss the ideas behind the series and the motivation. Check out the training at wiredchurches.com, or go to Tony Morgan's blog, who is part of the team behind the concept.

The Lost Children of Uganda

February 25, 2006


(additional information can be found in this BBC article from 2004, or by searching LRA, Night Commuter, or Uganda Crisis on Google)

Imagine a war that is fought by children, some as young as 7, against children their own age. Imagine being abducted and then forced under threat of death to kill or maim your own siblings. It sounds barbaric and obscene, yet it happens today. Organizations like World Vision, Save the Children, and others are engaged in center of a political and cultural war that is claiming the lives of thousands of children in Northern Uganda.

Take the time to look at the articles above. They are eye opening – or google the LRA or Ugandan Children

What do we do? The greatest travesty would be to sit idley by and do nothing. Spread the word. Talk about it at school and at church. Lets ask our politicians why something as inhumane as this can be allowed in our world today. Children by the thousands are walking up to 8 miles per night just to sleep in safe compounds to avoid abduction by the LRA, then walking home in the mornings to try to go to school.

Some excerpts from the Christianity Today article:
Even while LRA terrorism directed against children has intensified, the U.S. government has not made the conflict a high priority. Many believe that without U.S. involvement, the abductions, killing, and maiming will continue.

In August 2004, the U.S. government enacted the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act, which essentially calls LRA terrorism a great tragedy, offers limited support for a negotiated solution, and warns Sudan not to support the LRA. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said, "I will remain committed to stopping the horror that has stolen the innocence of so many Ugandan children." The Bush administration has placed the LRA on tier two of its Terrorist Exclusion List, which means the LRA is judged not to be a threat to U.S. interests.

The people most familiar with LRA terrorism agree that the best hope for ending the carnage is putting it on the radar screen of the Western world. Akello Lwanga, a physician, spent two years treating LRA victims at an internally displaced persons camp in Pader. "If Americans saw this on TV as often as they see the Middle East," he said, "it would stop."

"There are a lot of sympathetic [members of Congress], but no significant leadership to move the issue to the point where there are congressional hearings, and hearings are one of the first important steps to focus administration and congressional attention on the severity of the issue," said Rory Anderson, senior Africa policy adviser for World Vision. "Hearings will not happen unless people contact their members of Congress and demand it."

Please… sign in with your thoughts.

Be your Kid’s Search Engine

February 25, 2006

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a man the other day who likely has a greater personal understanding of evangelism than most people unfortunately will ever strive to obtain. He is the director of a national ministry that introduces the general public to their need for Jesus Christ, and has led thousands to a relationship with their Savior. One of the most poignant memories of the discussion, however, is a comment that he made with regards not to that relationship, but to his relationship as a father with his own son.

He told me about a scenario wherein he had been, as a good parent should, monitoring his son's activities on the internet. He came to find some history that suggested that his son (under 12 for the sake of discussion) had googled a term that led to him viewing some unacceptable explicit content. He knew he needed to discuss the situation with his son. Here is how it unfolded.

He sat down with his son, and started a discussion. He asked about what they were doing at school, and what they had been talking about at lunch. He took the time to ask the questions, and (important note here) they had enough of a history of regular conversation that his son was not put on an immediate defensive because of dad's "sudden interest".

After a little well-directed discussion, his son said that he and his friends had in fact gotten onto some "stupid" discussions, one of which had led the son to search for a term that he didn't understand by googling it. To understand it in context, he clicked the resulting links, and found himself in a place that he knew he didn't need to be. Just like that – a confession without an accusation! His response to his son, instead of "why did you do that" or "I thought I taught you better" was, quite wisely, "In the future, why don't you let me be your search engine first". Way to go dad.

A couple key notes for this story:
1. This would not have worked had he been a disengaged father. I think that too often we fail to take the time to have relationship with our children, and then we punish them for doing things that we should really be blaming on our own parental shortcomings.

2. We need to be keeping track of our children, not only to hold them accountable for what they are doing, but also to be there to safeguard them when things like this do happen, and to be ready to take these opportunities and turn them into positive learning experiences as we see here. This young man didn't get "punished" because he already knew that the space in cyberspace was the wrong place for him to be, and of his own volition, hadn't returned there since. He did, however, solidify that his dad was a rational person who he could trust to understand, and will be more likely to come to him as a result.

3. This dad took the time to calmly think the situation through. Simply reacting to the initial data he saw on his reports would have likely built a wall between he and his son that would have taken years to break. Instead, the situation drew them closer, and increased the son's faith and confidence in his father's interest in his well being.

4. The software that made this situation possible is called PCTattleTale, and is available online for $49.95. that's cheap for what it can do.

To the man who shared this story with me…Thank you for the fine lesson on parenting. You know who you are.