This week’s edition of the First Church Year series brought something different. Once again we didn’t go to our church. No, we didn’t skip church or take a break. This week we visited another church.
Don’t worry. We aren’t getting ready to begin a new church search. Been there. Done that blogging series. Don’t want to do it again.
No, this week we visited my daughter’s boyfriend’s church.
The reason we did this was because Lauren’s boyfriend (let’s call him John since that’s his name) John recently returned from a mission trip to India.
Just about everyone who went on this mission trip spoke. I didn’t take notes, so I don’t know what each one specifically spoke about. However, each one expressed what I would call several themes. These included:
- The poverty in India
- The love within the Church in India
- The focus on Christ in the Church in India
There was much more that could be said. However, I get asked sometimes why anyone would want to go on a mission trip to another culture when there are so many to help here. The fact is that in many ways followers of Christ in another culture like India can teach those of us here in the USA much more than we can teach them.
Have you ever gone to a foreign culture on a mission trip? Would you like to go on one?
Normally on Monday you tune in to find the First Church Year series. Don’t worry, that will be back tomorrow. Today, however, I have something different. Way different.
After last year, they said it wouldn’t last. The powers that be said it couldn’t be done again. What happened?
Rob and Ricky upped the game.
It’s time for the 2nd Annual Blogging All Stars Challenge.
What is the Blogging All Stars Challenge? It’s only the most awesome contest in the history of the internets. It’s Team Rob vs. Team Ricky. It’s Rob’s team of heavy hitters, with a small time guy vs. Ricky’s team of great guys and gals that we will soon call losers.
I am honored to participate in this. Honestly, I was taken by surprise when Rob contacted me to participate. Then I saw who was on our team. Here is the rundown of Team Rob.
Tyler Stanton — C’mon, dude is a legend with all of the great videos he makes with Tripp. Average’ is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Tyler Tarver — Tyler is, well, like the only rapping math whiz I’ve ever seen. He has revolutionized the To-Do List. Plus, he has one of the greatest accents ever.
Jon Acuff — What can I say about my boy that I haven’t already said. Best friends? Check. Forever memories? Check. Unicorns and rainbows? Check.
Carlos Whittaker— I don’t know Carlos very well. I may be one of the few that don’t follow him on a regular basis. That is to my detriment. Carlos is a ragamuffin soul pursuing the Lord with all he’s got.
Leanne Shirtliffe — Yes, the Ironic Mom herself. I don’t know her all that well either, but she is Canadian and I love her bacon. We had a Twiter conversation once where we shared our love for the old days of SCTV.
Tamara Lunardo — Tamara is the only person I know who has actually made it to Freshly Pressed on Word Press. She has a few tattoos, uses more colorful language than many of us, and love the Lord. I also submitted a guest post to her, didn’t make it and created my own non-guest post about the experience that worried her for a few days.
Bryan Allain — This guy has the mojo. Blogging mojo, that is. And he can show you how to get it in 31 days. Plus, he’s got a Killer Tribe just for you. Bryan lives in Amish country and never fails to disappoint.
Knox McCoy — Knox loves the Batchelor. And the Batchelorette. I’m not really sure why, but hey, I’m sure he would question some of my TV choices too. On top of his own blog, which brings the meatloaf on Mondays, he runs TV Asylum with the aforementioned Tyler Stanton.
Stephen Haggerty — Stephen is bearded and an idealist. He brings us other great beards on a monthly basis and great humor every time he puts character to screen. He leads worship and will soon call Chik-Fil-A his office.
Then there’s me. I look at this list of heavy hitters and I’m just glad to be riding their coat tails in this whole shebang.
If you want to know about the competition, you will have to visit Rob’s site and check them out. You will be checking out the losing team of the contest, but you need to go over there anyway. (Note: I love everyone on the other team. I just love to trash talk.)
Now, about this contest. I need your help. Follow the link and head on over to Rob’s place and vote. Vote for Team Rob. Vote early and often. If you have a dog or cat, get them to vote. If you have a cemetery nearby, get those folks to vote. Retweet this blog post and share it on Facebook. I want to win. Because that will make me a winner. And I don’t want the consolation prizes like Turtle Wax and Rice-A-Roni.
Will you vote for Team Rob? A vote for Rob’s team means you love puppies and order in the universe. And go visit the blog sites for all of the great bloggers in this contest.
On my way to minister, I step onto my deck. To the left, I can see trees lining a long ditch. Just to the right is a rocky knoll. Nine miles beyond it I am reminded why these are mountains of smoke.
I love studying the word of God.
I love to dig in and look at the sentence structure. I love to find out what the words mean. I love to divide up the paragraphs and outline chapters.
I love the trees of studying the Bible.
What I don’t love is missing the forest for the trees.
Sometimes that’s what I think some of us do. Sometimes that’s what I think I have the tendency to do.
I run around looking at all of the variety of pretty trees. And sometimes I can miss the forest.
I can tell you everything there is to know about a certain passage of scripture after I study it for a while.
What I might miss and forget to tell you about is the point.
What is the point of the scripture you and I may study? We might see it in the detailed study of a section of scripture. We just need to be sure to not miss the pont of what we’re studying.
Do you ever miss the forest for the trees?
Jeff Goins recently wrote a blog post that encouraged those of us who read his posts to be dangerous. After all, we write our little posts and, at the end of the day, we want people to read them. We want to engage an audience.
I have thought about that and wondered what being a dangerous blogger looks like. What does a dangerous Christian blogger look like?
Jon Acuff is a dangerous, Christian blogger. I have written several posts about how Jon and I are practically best friends. We hung out for, like, 30 seconds at The Walk in Knoxville, TN last September. We had our picture made together. I need to send that to Jon so that he can put it in a frame and keep it on his desk.
Jon writes a Christian satire blog. He pokes loving fun at us because he is one of us. He laughs at so much of the crazy stuff we do in our churches because he goes to church and has for his entire life. Hey, he’s a PK.
But it’s dangerous. Satire is dangerous. I can’t do it. I tried. I failed. I had to switch churches. (Well, that’s not the entire reason, but it helped move me in that direction.)
I ground my axe for some time, fussing and complaining about what happens in churches and the Church. That didn’t make me dangerous. That just made me negative.
So, now, I try to be a dangerous, Christian blogger. I think about some of the stuff we do. I wonder if we shouldn’t change some of it. And I try to make you think about it.
Sometimes that’s dangerous.
Do you know any dangerous bloggers? Christian bloggers? Dangerous Christian bloggers?
I have not always written this blog or any of my previous blogs for the right reasons. I have used this to grind my personal axes. I have thought it was my responsibility and duty to let everyone know what I thought was wrong and screwed up in the Church and churches. I have even written a few blog posts in the past after someone or something made me angry.
And I am not unique.
I read a lot of other blogs. I check some out just to see what is going on out there in this massive world we call Christianity.
Guess what I find?
I find a lot of angry bloggers.
I can tell that some of them try to hide it. Some of them, at least, don’t try to pretend. They let their readers know every time someone out there writes or blogs something that they disagree with.
A few of them like to take on what I call celebrity preachers and writers. They read these guys books and blogs. They follow them on Twitter. They listen or watch their videos that are posted.
And then they react.
They write their reactions.
They write their rebuttals.
They take on these guys head to head.
I don’t know.
I can guess. But I don’t know their motivation. Perhaps they know this will drive readers to their own blogs. Maybe it’s because they have a book deal and they want to sell books. Maybe it’s because someone will consider them an authority on these subjects and they will get to appear on CNN or NPR.
I don’t know. I don’t know them and probably won’t know.
I wish more of these folks would take the attitude Ronald Reagan did when he ran for president against Jimmy Carter. During a debate, President Carter began stating a position completely opposite of Reagan. I think his hope was that Reagan would get mad and display his temper. What did Reagan do? He laughed and said, “There you go again.”
I wish that my brothers and sisters in Christ would take this attitude more often. If someone says or does something that they don’t like, just laugh and move on. Convince me and the rest of the world of your position instead of fighting someone else’s.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe they don’t have a position worth persuading anyone to. Maybe they just want everyone to be caught up in their outrage.
These folks don’t make me angry. I get a little sad when I read them. They are talented. They have tremendous ability. They just seem angry all of the time.
Do angry bloggers turn you on or off?
I read a blog post recently about when a pastor changes his theology. It really shouldn’t surprise any of us when the theology of a pastor shifts. Do you believe exactly the way you did when you were 22 or 32? I don’t. John Piper’s doctoral dissertation is being re-released and in the preface he says that he would write it differently now.
Pastors are human and they change and they grow. But why do they pastor?
I think many pastors out there pastor for all the right reasons. Actually, I think most pastors pastor for the right reasons. They are called by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their churches and to those that do not know Christ as savior. They love their congregations and shepherd them.
However, there are also many that do not pastor for the right reasons. Here are some of those wrong reasons:
Some see the ministry as a profession. They may start out in a small church, but their next move is to a bigger church. Then their next move is to an even bigger church. At some point they reach the church they will finish up at. What you don’t see as often is a pastor moving to smaller churches. I suppose that happens, but you don’t see it as often.
Somewhere in their life, some people had the expectation put on them that they should be a pastor. Perhaps their mother or grandmother told them they would make a great preacher. Perhaps their father or grandfather was a pastor and the expectation is that they will follow in their footsteps. They are put on the path early in life and begin preparation early.
Along with both of these is the fact that at some point in their lives, some pastors have not developed skills that would allow them to do anything else. I happen to know of one pastor who went to school to prepare for a lucrative, professional career. After a short time in this field, he moved into ministry. Following a few decades in ministry, scandal and divorce drove him out of the pastorate. Now he works in sales just scraping by.
Finally there is the pastor who is done. They have had a good run, but they are older. They aren’t putting in the effort any longer. They go to the pastors conferences. They make a few visits here and there. However, you can tell they’re coasting. They are just waiting for the one thing to happen so they can retire. It may be for their retirement to hit a certain point. It may be for them to reach the age for Medicare. They are tired and want out, but the time just isn’t right yet.
Let me re-emphasize that I don’t think that most pastors are like this. However, I think there are enough to cause us some concern.
Have you run into any pastors who are in the ministry for the wrong reasons?
This week the pastor search committee at our church was gone. I know this because I didn’t see any members of the pastor search committee and our interim pastor announced they were off listening to a pastor somewhere. (Hey, what did you think? That I just automatically know stuff?)
This caused me to think about whether we do this sort of thing right in our churches. I’ve been on a pastor search team before. I’ve seen it done. The question I ask is why is it done this way and if it is the way it should be done?
We call the Church the Body of Christ. That indicates to me that the church is a living organism. Now, I’m not a biology major or anything, but as I remember, the body is capable of reproducing many things on its own, like cells.
So, why aren’t our churches producing their own pastors? Why aren’t churches providing a pipeline for people to fill these roles? Even in my job where I work, we produce our own leaders. If a secular company can do this, why can’t a church?
I don’t lay this at the feet of just the church I belong to now. I have never really been a part of a church that produced its own pastors. I think it would be pretty cool if they all did.
What do you think? Should churches be producing their own pastors?
Today we finish up John 18 with Jesus facing Pilate. The Jews have handed Christ over for Pilate to decide what to do with Him. There are 3 concerns that take precedence in everyone’s mind over Christ Himself in this sequence of events.
Concern With Religion
The Jews come to the Praetorium, but will not enter Pilate’s house due to the fact that they want to be defiled and be unable to eat the Passover.
This is interesting because there is nothing in the Law that would prevent them from entering a Gentiles house. The defilement that they would face is an addition to the Law that they have made. It is a religious addition.
This seems to be a problem that still rises in our churches today. We have people who want to add things to what it means to be a follower of Christ. It may be that everyone signs a church covenant. It may be it is decided that certain behaviors will cause exclusion while another behavior is accepted. It may be a type of music. Whatever it is, we can become too focused on our “religion” than the One our faith is about.
Concern With Kingdom
Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus did not want to give a straight answer. This is not because Jesus had something to hide. In fact, He had nothing to hide at all. He stated later that He had come into the world to “testify to the truth.”
However, Jesus is trying to avoid speaking on the same terms as Pilate. He knows that there is too much misunderstanding over the term King in reference to Himself. He tells Pilate that if His “kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
The difference between Jesus and the Jews and Pilate is that the kingdoms they are focused on are completely different. Jesus is focused on a kingdom of rule and of the heart. Pilate and the Jews are concerned with a kingdom of power.
Too often, we too are concerned with the wrong kingdom. Too many of us who follow Christ try to combine God’s kingdom with the earthly kingdom we occupy here today. We try to achieve God’s kingdom with earthly kingdom practices.
Concern With Others
What Pilate is ultimately trying to do is appease all sides. He knows that there are no legitimate charges against Jesus. He knows the entire thing is a kangaroo court. He wants to wash his hands of the entire thing, which he eventually does, and move on.
Pilate questions Jesus hoping to make the Jews happy. He attempts to release Jesus, thinking that will be enough.
The problem is that pleasing the crowd is never enough. You simply can’t do it.
Pilate gives the crowd a choice: Jesus or Barabbas. The irony of this is that Barabbas’ name means “Son of Abba.” So, you have the true Son of the Father and one named son of the father. The crowd has their choice. As they will when it comes to the truth, the crowed makes the wrong choice. Barabbas is released and Jesus is given the death penalty.
When we boil it down, there was a choice in three areas in this story: religion, politics and popularity. This was going on 2,000 years ago and it’s going on today in our lives.
Have you ever found yourself concerned with the wrong side of religion, politics and popularity? What did you do?