Spiritual Experience in the aisle at Meijer

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Last night we went to Meijer. Lindsay heard that they were having great sales on kid's clothes. I hate shopping for clothes, so we split up. Isaac and Eli were with me. We went to the electronics and looked at video games. Then we went to the kid's books.

I saw right before me the book that I always used to read when I would go over to my Grandma's house. She lived right across the road from me growing up. That house now rests right across the creek from us. It seems like an empty shell of what it used to be when she used to inhabit the earth. I have a lot of fond memories from being there with her, one of which is Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel. Mike is a steam shovel that has become outdated by all of the new fancy equipment. Although he is outdated he creates a great basement for a city hall in a country town much faster than even the new equipment could because he works better when people encourage him. However, in the midst of all his hard work and getting caught up in the job, he forgot to create a way out. The town, Mike's owner, and Mike work with the situation they have been dealt and turn Mike into the furnace for the new city hall. Mike's use might have changed, but he was still useful. As a result, he finds happiness. Anyway, that wasn't the great experience. That was just a fond memory.

The Little HouseThen I saw another book written by Virginia Lee Burton. I picked it up. It was a book called The Little House. This book was about a magnificently built house that a man inteneded for generations of his children and grandchildren to live in. He built it in the beautiful countryside where the trees surrounded it and the sun and stars shown on it daily. Then the city creeped out, surrounded the house, and eventually overshadowed it. The house could only see the sun at noon and could never see the stars. It was a great book that reminded me how I abhor the city and love the country. I love the sounds of nature rather than the buzzing backdrop of the city. I love the stars in the sky. I love the beautiful trees. I love the creek. I just love the country life. The country always puts me in a worshipful attitude towards God. This book brought me to that place. I had to buy it.

Then I noticed another book. The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. It is the story of a boy named Nikolai who is seeking the answer to three questions: "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?"

He asks his friends, the heron, the monkey, and the dog. They give him answers that some people believe but are absolutely wrong. Then he goes to the old turtle and asks him. The turtle is hard at work, so the boy decides to help him. One thing leads to another and the boy eventually saves two pandas from a terrible storm. Then he is still frustrated that he doesn't know the answer to his questions. The old turtle gives him a lengthy monologue for a kid's book.

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"Yesterday, if you had not stayed to help me dig my garden, you wouldn't have heard the panda's cries for help in the storm. Therefore, the most important time was the time you spent digging the garden. The most important one at that moment was me, and the most important thing to do was to help me with my garden."

"Later, when you found the injured panda, the most important time was the time you spent mending her leg and saving her child. The most important ones were the panda and her baby. And the most important thing to do was to take care of them and make them safe."

"Remember then that there is only one important time, ant that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world. This is why we are here."

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8 NASB).

"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:7-8 NASB).

"Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" ((1 John 3:22-24 NASB).

"But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him" (1 John 3:17-19 NASB).

Bob wrote this after my post the other day: "John would argue that the one who doesn't love, doesn't know God. Is this the real root of the problem? That somewhere in our intellectual persuit of God, we've missed knowing who God is, and what his love really means for us as a person and as a people? If I don't feel loved by God, how can I love myself (sinner that I am). If I cannot love myself then I certainly cannot love others."

Our relationship with God is based on our relationship with those who we encounter that need our love. After reading The Three Question I was struck in the aisle at Meijer that I am not right with God. I am not loving to those closest to me. And the verse from John pounded my head. If I am not loving to those closest to me who I see, then I am not loving God. So I repented. And I'm trying to work on being loving.

My lack of love mainly centers on my relationship with Lindsay. Not that I don't love her, but I have become increasingly short with her. I've become a "no"-sayer when she asks me to help out. I've become a failure as a loving husband. So last night in front of the kid books, I made a decision to change that. I can't change anyone besides myself, so I decided to start right there. Afterward, we went to Steak & Shake instead of Subway because she wanted to go there. That might be a little thing, but in the daily battles of marriage it seemed huge. Throughout the night I tried to do other nice things for her. It was very liberating. Instead of telling her that she would be done a lot quicker if she would just do something instead of fighting with me about it, I need to realize that I will be done a lot quicker if I just do it and that by loving her I am loving God. I can't remember exactly what now, but when we got home I failed and it caused a little fight. I was reminded about my new commitment. If I love God, then I need to treat my wife as if she is Him.

I need to treat everyone as if they were God. If all of us who claim we have a relationship with God did that, I think the world would be a different place. We are given opportunities to love God every day. Many times we don't recognize them as such. May we all be able to see God in the face of our co-workers, loved ones, regular acquaintances, random strangers, and children.

Watch out for the potholes.

The changing face of comic book movies

Now, the movies look like they are getting more like the comics.

If you haven't seen it yet, go check out the Batman Begins trailer. Click on the picture. I'm getting hi-tech.

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I can't wait to see this one.

Nearing 1000

Yes, you could be the 1000th visitor to my blog. Keep checking back and post if you are.

Political College Education

I posted this in the follow-up comments on one of my posts. It scares me. I wasn't unfair. Anyone that I could think of that is powerful in Washington I included on the list. Nobody was excluded because they didn't fit my goal.

George W. Bush - Graduate of Yale
Howard Dean - Graduate of Yale
John Kerry - Graduate of Yale
Wesley Clark - Graduate of West Point and Oxford
John Edwards - Graduate of Princeton
Joe Lieberman - Graduate of Yale
Dick Cheney - Graduate of Wyoming
Richard Gephardt - Graduate of University of Michigan
John McCain - Graduate of National War College and US Naval Academy
Alan Keyes - Graduate of Harvard
Ralph Nader - Graduate of Harvard
Bill O'Reilly - Graduate of Harvard
Bob Dole - Graduate of Kansas and Topeka
Bill Clinton - Graduate of Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale
George Bush - Graduate of Yale
Al Gore - Graduate of Harvard

Ben Brown summed up in the comments why this is very scary: "You're right, that list is horrifically non-diverse. To think that the professors at those universities are really the ones pulling the strings behind modern american politics (in a manner of speaking). Pretty unnerving."

I watched Kerry last night. He did a good job. I won't be voting for him, so he didn't persuade me. But I also, probably, won't be voting for Bush. So don't get any ideas.

Also, Austin laid out the plans for his dictatorship. One of the things is that he wanted to ban people from being married until age 25. I think you would have to outlaw sex and not just marriage if the proposed result was his goal.

Anyway, I did a little research and found the following bit of useless statistics that was informative:

Data from divorcepeers.com:

Age at marriage for those who divorce in the United States

Age Women Men
Under 20 years old 27.6% 11.7%
20 to 24 years old 36.6% 38.8%
25 to 29 years old 16.4% 22.3%
30 to 34 years old 8.5% 11.6%
35 to 39 years old 5.1% 6.5%

Also, I spent the night catching up reading my comic books, so I have nothing spiritual to talk about. A very neat comic came out. I highly recommend it. It's the largest collection of comics to date. The complete 55 issues of the now cancelled series in one volume.

It's over 1300 pages of fun-filled enjoyment for the whole family.

Watch out for the potholes.

How the Church fails the hurting

Two blogs have recently dealt with personal pains and how the church responded, Bob's and Brandon's. Because it is so personal, I feel a little weird trodding on this ground. I hope I don't offend. If I do, please shoot some spitballs at me.

The alienation and lack of support they felt while in their deepest time of need was due to the structure of the church. I know I use that excuse for everything, but it is because we have designed the church in such a way to avoid all of the things that might make our faith "dirty" or genuine.

For starters, Bob and Brandon were both pastors. That means they had to be perfect. All that really means is they had to wear a mask all of the time. If you think your current minister is perfect, then I hope you enjoy seeing his mask. None of us are perfect. None us should claim to be perfect. But if we're Christians it means we are going to strive to be perfect like Christ. No more accepting sin or saying "God hasn't convict me on that one, so I don't have to change." We're in a struggle against our former selves. Sin is destructive. We now understand that. But when the destruction happens, the church should be damage control. They should be there to help in whatever way possible. Why doesn't that happen?

James Rutz, founder of Open Church Ministries, wrote in his book The open church: How to bring back the exciting life of the first century church some comments that I will try to weave into this discussion:

"If you've ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there's a good reason: "You are alone and unimportant."

"Bear in mind that the only time your church can truly function as one body is when they're all together, and that's during the Sunday a.m. meeting."

"We commonly say we're 'participating' in a worship service when actually we're mostly just watching...Particpants actually effect the outcome. Spectators don't."

"How did the primitive church ever make it without Sunday school?...or music committees?...or high school ski conferences?...or divorce recovery workshops? Answer: community worship met all their needs. Today's worshipless worship meetings, however, leave a vacuum. So to compensate, we create a smorgasbord of time-gobbling activities, each of which is designed to meet a specific felt need, to make up for the absence of something a full-orbed, open service could likely do."

"Rather than relying on programs designed to fill holes or meet isolated needs, go for an integrated menu of high-stakes activities that directly transform hearts and pound the gates of Hell into splinters."

"Though it was a model church in many ways, nothing much ever happened inside me. Their punctual 'worship' services were actually a warmhearted lecture series, plus songs and offering. Almost never was I allowed to particiate, except as the 387th voice in the singing.
If I'd never shown up, my absence would have been like a missing spoonful of sand from the Arabian desert. Without me, not one syllable would have changed-and that's about how significant I felt. Fact is, that's how significant I was. So I drifted away. Likewise, if your own church is typical, there's no opportunity for people to share their grief or joy or even the deepest needs of their short lives. They may die without anyone in church knowing the burning hopes and fears in their hearts-simply because the pastoral staff always has the spotlight."

"The one hour in the week when your Christian brothers and sisters all get together to interact is the one hour when they're prohibited from obeying the scriptural commands about interaction, like: Provoke one another unto good works, confess your sins to one another, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another, bear one another's burdens, encourage one another and build each other up, respect those who work hard among you, warn those who are idle...encourage the timid, and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

I'm left with frustration at my current church setting and a longing for the house church, now churches, in Lansing. I'm frustrated that I have to create small groups, and give away another night of the week, in order to have a glimpse of the Kingdom of God manifesting itself here in Antwerp. I'm frustrated that I prayed my whole life to be in a church like the one in Lansing, a church focused on only the will of God. When things finally reached a flowering point, we left. I'm frustrated that I don't have brothers and sisters locally who know my desires, my failures, or my longings. I'm frustrated that I don't know anyone, besides family, locally that are there for my prayer needs and to help me through the thoughts of my head (Unlike you, they have to listen to me all the time). I'm frustrated and burnt out.

All of the proposed solutions in my head for the church that I'm currently attending are just band-aids. Band-aids that will never heal the wound they are covering. Planting another house church is very tempting. But I'm not there yet. I don't want to do something because it's Regan's desire but because it is God's. But in the meanwhile I will remain frustrated that none of my relationships with brothers and sisters manifest the elements of Christian relationships (see the list in the final James Rutz quote). If something bad would happen in my life, I would be all alone. It hurts my heart that most Christians in America probably feel the same way.

Because of our unhealthy church setting, we are left with only one perceived option to live out the faith. We must individualize it. We must come to the conclusion that it is only between God and me. We must not share our failings with anyone else because they aren't part of the solution.

If we do believe that our faith must be lived in community, in most settings we're forced to create or join a group of friends outside of the Sunday church service. What role does the Sunday service play then? It's just a pep talk, a motivational speech. It is unable to provide or even allow the fellowship, encouragement, and accountability that should happen at church between brothers and sisters. I would choose a church with fellowship, encouragement, and accountability over sermons and good music any day of the week because the former are foundations to the Christian life while the latter are not. I would even propose that we can have a healthy Christian life without sermons and good music. Not that we have to go without them, but we must realize their proper place in the Christian life.

Back to the topic at hand, our brothers who went through tough times and were alienated by the church were just two out of millions of victims of the unhealthy church system we have in place. The system forced them to take their struggles outside of the church, either to the pits of individualism or to some group that wasn't their church. Either option is not healthy. The church needs to be a place of healing, a place of belonging. Right now, it is a place we need to escape from in order to be healed or belong. It is not what God intended it to be. It needs to be the place that even unbelievers view as a place to go to with their problems, not just believers. We have a long way to go, and I don't know if it can happen with the current prominent church structure.

I must give a disclaimer. A lot of people ignore the discussion because they don't want to worry about church structure. I understand their feelings. A discussion of church structure is meaningless unless it comes at the end of a discussion on how to be more loving. If we realize we need to be more loving as Christians and also realize that the structure of the church is a hindrance to expressing God's love for humanity, then we need to form the structure in such a way that it does not hinder, but actually stimulates, people to live out their loving faith. We need to make the church a place that is geared for those who want to share their lives and be held accountable to the life of Christ rather than to those who want an individualized faith. The former can't have the Christian life without a healthy church while the latter can have what they want without the church. Why is our church designed for the latter?

Watch out for the potholes.

My thoughts on the Democratic National Convention

I thought I would share my experience of watching the Democratic National Convention last night. Tomorrow, I hope to explain why the current church is inadequate to deal with brothers and sisters going through personal problems. That seems to be a theme popping up on everyone's blogs. So if you don't like politics, thanks for stopping by. Come back tomorrow.

I'll post each speaker and what I was thinking of during his/her speech. It might not necessarily deal with their speech. It was just what I was thinking at the time.

Ted Kennedy

The demon of the democratic party. This guy had a lot of good stuff to say. I began to think that if the Democrats didn't disagree with me on abortion I would be a democrat. The point that struck me as the most valid from his speech was a few comments he made on minimum wage. The minimum wage needs to be a wage that a worker can work at and not live in poverty. I see nothing wrong with that. I would actually vote for that.

If the Democrats actually stood up for what they believed in instead of pandering for the undecided middle, they would get more votes. This was appealing.

Dick Gephardt

I went to the bathroom. His speech was short. I missed it all.

Howard Dean

He didn't want to be on stage. He acted like a spoiled fraternity brother who was unhappy he didn't get elected fraternity president but had to support the one who was. Crappy and unintelligent.

Barak Obama

The headline at CNN says "Introducing the new star of the Democratic Party." They couldn't be more right. This was one of the most inspiring political speeches I have ever heard. This guy is one of the best speakers in the nation, right up there with Alan Keyes and Bill Clinton. It was refreshing to hear a good political speech after years of listening to one of the worst speakers in the world, George W. Bush. How can someone that would still be the worst speaker in one of my preaching classes be the President? Throw him in there with all of us first-time speakers and he would still be worse than us. And that is after giving speeches daily for the last four years. I don't understand why he hasn't improved.

Socially, I am more of a democrat except for abortion and stem-cell research. Fiscally, I used to be a Republican, but they seem to be cutting taxes and spending more rather than promoting fiscal responsibility. It doesn't go with my idea of cutting taxes and cutting spending. I like small government, really small government. And for those who don't believe that I'm really independent because of my radical conservatism that pops up during conversations, last election I voted for 4 Libertarians, 3 Republicans, and 2 Democrats. I doubt Libertarians have a presence in Paulding County, so I will be limited to the big two this time around.

Obama gave words to my frustration of the Republican party. He talked about viewing things as individualistic verses a communal. I can't find a transcript so, I will just say what I though he said. I wouldn't quote him on it. "When a boy downtown can't read, that effects me. Not because he's my boy, but because we are all worse off because of it." "When an old lady can't afford to buy her medicine, that effects me. Not because she is my mother, but because we are all poorer because of it." Stuff like that. It really touched me. In the end, I realized that my frustration with the Republican party is more of a frustration of lifting individuals above the whole. It's the same frustration I have with many churches.

The Democrats want everyone to have a safety umbrella, a standard of living nobody should fall below. I like that. Now, I don't know if the end result of what Democrats actually legislate is just another way of keeping the poor person down and getting their votes. The black community doesn't seem to be any better off despite the effort of the Democratic party.

Another great quote that he had was, "We need to turn our televisions off. We need to pick up books and read. Blacks need to stop saying to someone who reads that they are being white."
That was a Regan paraphrase. I think it goes much further than just the black community. Americans need to be educated. Too many just learn so they can pass the test and get the grade rather than to increase their knowledge. In the end, those test-passers are about as uneducated as someone who never took the class.

In summation of Barak Osama, listening to this speech was worth the time I invested in watching the convention last night. It was incredible. I would be tempted to vote for him, but he isn't running.

Ron Reagan

This was a speech on stem-cell research. He also is a very good speaker. Compared to all the others besides Barak, he would have been the best. But in the end he was overshadowed.

He said to base your vote on the party that would allow stem-cell research, a procedure that he pretty much claimed would save the world from every illness imaginable. I personally think we need to start eating right and a lot of these diseases would go away. But anyway, he also said that people like me and my wife who don't ethically believe in stem cell research "should feel ashamed of ourselves."

I personally will vote on the issue of abortion. It might be stupid to vote on one issue, but I can't think of a more helpless group of people in America than unborn babies. The poor come in a close second. After the abortion issue is gone (it will never be), then I will vote to help the poor. Until then, I can't go against the conviction in my heart.

Teresea Heinz-Kerry

This was one boring speech. Nothing to say here except I went to bed immediately after listening. Okay, I do have one thing to say. I thought it was kind of a weird situation when Mr Kerry and her two sons were on the stage. Here is a party that is supposed to be for the average man, but on the stage are people that have more money than me and all of my friends combined will ever make in our lifetimes. Harvard or Yale grads. Blah. Blah. Blah. I'm sick of all of our leaders coming from the same educational institutions. Can't a good leader come from another educational institution? Can't we get some new ideas out in the public arena?

Okay, I'm done venting and sharing now. I will not do anything about any of these political stances. I am more concerned about working on the church. But I did waste an evening watching the DNC, and now you have joined me in wasting some time.

Watch out for the very big potholes.

Effective Education for Effective Laity

The failure to truly educate the Christians in the churches is the reason the church is in the state it is today. We have the idea that certain items of knowledge are not to be consumed by the masses. The information needs to be kept away from them, so that their faith will be strong. Pastors are acting as gatekeepers to the ivory tower when God wants to pave the streets with ivory.

I'll wrap up the thoughts of Elton Trueblood today because I'm going to be passing the book on.

"The idea of the ministry of the laity is a great idea, but there is no magic in it; it will not succeed unless it is undertaken with great care. There is no doubt that the layman often has a signal advantage in the ministry, as against the ordinary priest or clergyman, but this initial advantage will not carry him far unless he has something important to say and unless he learns how to say it effectively. "

This is where I'm beginning to worry about the whole lay-led ministry being successful at the church I am currently attending. The people have not been trained for the responsibility. We have Sunday School classes, but I do believe that people can attend Sunday School classes across America for 50 years and still not grow in knowledge all that much. Sunday School, Sermons, and all other educational opportunities in the local church have become more of pep rallies and motivational speeches than they are about the dissemination of knowledge.

I also fear that things are going to get forgotten because the present leadership has not set up a plan of responsibility. I don't think anyone knows who is in charge of what. This will eventually bring conflict because two people will think they are in charge of the same thing. But that is another topic all together. The moral, before moving on, is to give people clear-cut responsibilities. The pastor of a church has multiple responsibilities. If you don't delegate who is in charge of those responsibilities when he is gone, chaos and failure will ensue.

This leads me to another quote of Elton Trueblood's:

"Many modern pastors, far from being the respected teachers of the Christian community, are chore boys, spending a disproportionate amount of time and energy as business managers. They give their major time to tasks for which they have virtually no training, while they leave out those tasks for which they are elaborately trained."

I think many churches hire paid pastors because they really don't want to do all of the work. It is more out of laziness than a call to have a paid minister. We hire youth pastors in churches that aren't really of a size to need them because none of the parents want to step up and fill the role. If we're going to hire a pastor for our church, it needs to not be because we are too lazy to do any of the work. Churches need to free their paid pastors from the mundane acts of financially running the church and free them for educating their flock.

"The truth is that there are countless churches in which no such educational program is followed or even proposed. Our shame is not that we have failed to live up to the Christian educational ideal, but that we have even forgotten what the ideal is...We have allowed thousands of adult classes to proceed on a trivial basis when they could have been the means, over a period of years, of remarkable growth toward an intelligently conceived end."

We need to quit sending people to colleges for their Christian education and start bringing the college to them. True, the education won't have the credentials to go with it. That's fine. Most of the laity already have jobs that they are trained for. They don't need credentials to do the most effective work they can do in a church; however, they do need education.

Elton Trueblood proposes a five year education program. The sad thing is that I feel I would be even more educated through this process than I was through my years at Great Lakes.

I will type the section in its entirety.

Year One. The Hebrew Prophets.
This course would introduce students to the scholarly study of the Bible, with documents read in historic sequence. The Biblical material would be carefully read in large units and studied with the aid of the best commentaries. Older works would be mastered as well as contemporary interpretations. A useful procedure would be to read, during the year, the Biblical material in the following order, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah 1-39, Micah Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah 40 ff., Jonah.

Year Two.
The Synoptic Gospels.
Each of the Synoptic Gospels would be read slowly, first Mark, then Matthew and finally Luke. The similarities and dissimilarities of the three accounts would be carefully observed, the chief documentary theories about the oral discourses would be considered and students might be encouraged to produce, with the aid of scissors and paste, their own harmonies, in three parallel colums. A general grasp of the life and teachings of Christ might be expected from this study, far more profound than anything known in previous experience.

Year Three.
The Christian Classics.
This course might follow the essential techniques of the Great Books Movement (this was a movement in the 50s where people got together and read discussion-provoking works like Plato, etc.), but concentrate on acknowledged classics of Christian thought and devotion. Since this is a field in which the average Christian is even less at home than he is in Biblical studies, interest may confidently be expected to be high. A good method is that of using the full time of class for discussion of the interesting material already read, with little or no time given to lectures. A tested selection of books is as follows: Augustine's Confessions, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, The Imitation of Christ, The Prayers and Devotions of Lancelot Andrews, Pascal's Pensees, John Woolman's Journal and The Prayers of Doctor Samuel Johnson. This makes an exciting study for one year, all volumes being easily available in cheap editions, so that each student can own and mark his personal copy.

Year Four.
The Intellectual Understanding of the Christian Faith.
In this more mature study the class should consider all of the major and cumulative reasons for believing in God as well as the questions concering God's nature and the Christian revelation. The hard problems should be faced without hurry, and every effort should be made to arrive at a coherent system of belief. The reasons for believing in immortality and the doctrine of the resurrection should be handled after the other subjects of the course have been studied.

Year Five.
The History of Christian Thought.
The greatest gap in the knowledge of most concerned Christians is the historical one between the Bible times and the recent past. Countless classes in Sunday School have studied various parts of the Old and New Testaments year after year, but very few have ever studied Christian history. The rise and decline of various heresies, the growth of the Papacy, the beginnings and completion of the Reformation, the origin of contemporary denominations, the conflict with science, all these and many more topics can be exciting for both teacher and student alike.

"Such a five-year plan may not be sufficient, but it would provide us with something so much better than anything we now enjoy that the results of following it faithfully might be revolutionary in the growth of the Christian cause."

A church that took education as seriously as Elton Trueblood proposed would be the type of church I would love to be a part of. What additions would you make to his plan? What would you leave out? Do you think it would be effective?

We need to begin viewing the education of the flock as one of the top priorities of the church. We need to stop gearing our education so that it can be understood by the least intelligent amongst us and begin educating the flock to maximize their knowledge about Scriptures and the call of Christ on their lives. True education would bring about an empowered laity that would bring genuine revival to our communities.

Watch out for the potholes

The Deadly Sin of Sermon Listening

Sometimes our biggest problem is feeling comfortable in our Christianity because we do things that feel spiritual while not doing the things that are really spiritual.

Here is another quote from Elton Trueblood's Book Your Other Vocation:

"Our heresy has been to look upon the church as a society in which a few speak and many listen. Consequently, there has arisen the strange idea that the primary Christian observance of most people is that of listening to sermons. There are many who, when they try to reform a bit, piously undertake to do some sermon listening. Now sermons may be wonderful and some actually are, but the notion that listening to human words is an especially religious act is very far from self-evident. In practice sermon listening may be a vice, because it may be a substitute for a more effective witness.

Elton Trueblook goes on to quote John R. Mott from Liberating the Lay Forces of Christianity:

"A multitude of laymen are today in serious danger. It is positively perilous for them to hear more sermons, attend more Bible classes and open forums and read more religious and ethical works, unless accompanying it all there be afforded day by day an adequate outlet for their new-found truth."

Elton Trueblood later writes:

"We need to understand that the Christian witness lies not in some passive attendance, but rather in sharing the missionary effort at some point in human contact. In this case, at least, it is more blessed to gvie than to receive and men learn more of Christian truth by what they share than by what they hear.

This reminds me of a section I read in one of Martin Luther's sermons. It's rather lengthy, but it is one of the best quotes ever written.

"Who stumble at Christ? All that teach you to do works, instead of teching you to believe. Those who hold forth Christ to you as a law-maker and a judge, and refuse to let Christ be a helper and a comfoter, torment you by putting works before and in the way of God in order to atone for your sins and to merit grace...For if you desire to believe rightly and to possess Christ truly, then you must reject all works that you intend to place before and in the way of God...Before God no works are acceptable but Christ's own works. Let these plead for you before God, and do no other work before him than to believe that Christ is doing his works for you and is placing them before God in your behalf."

"In order to keep your faith pure, do nothing else than stand still, enjoy its blessings, accept Christ's works, and let him bestow his loe upon you. You must be blind, lame dead, dead, leprous, and poor, otherwise you will stumble at Christ...But those who intend to atone for sins and to become pious by their own works, will miss the present Christ and look for another, or at least they will believe that he should do otherwise, that first of all he should come and accept their works and consider them pious."

If we would stop there, we would be able to believe what is said about Martin Luther being "faith only." But he didn't stop there.

"In the second place, Christ teaches us rightly to apply the works and shows us what good works are. All other work, except faith, we should apply to our neighbor. For God demands of us no other work that we should do for him than to exercise faith in Christ...After this think of nothing else than to do to your neighbor as Christ has done to you, and let all your works together with all you life be applied to you neighbor. Look for the poor, sick and all kinds of needy, help them and let your life's energy here appear, so that they may enjoy your kindness, helping whoever needs you, as much as you possibly can with you life, property and honor. Whoever points you to other good works than these, avoid him as a wolf and as Satan, because he wants to put a stumbling block in your way, as David says, 'In the way wherein I walk have they hidden a snare for me,' (Ps 142:3)."

"But this is done by the perverted, misguided people of the Papists, who with their religious ceremonies set aside such Crhsitian works, and teach the people to serve God only and not also mankind. They establish convents, masses, vigils, become religous, do this and that. And these poor, blind people call that serving God, which they have chosen themselves. But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend; whithout making any difference, whoever needs your help in body or soul, and wherever you can help in temporal or spiritual matters. This is serving God and doing good works. O, Lord God, how do we fools live in this world, neglecting to do such works, though in all parts of the world we find the needy, on whom we could bestow our good works; but no one looks after them nor cares for them...If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ's benevolence and work for you."

"This one clings to his religous ceremonies and his own works, that one is scraping all to himself and helps no one. Even those who gladly hear and understand the doctrine of pure faith do not proceed to serve their neighbor, as though they expected to be saved by faith without works; they see not that their faith is not faith, but a shadow of faith, just as the picture in the mirror is not the face itself, but only a feflcetion of the same, as St. James so beautfifully writes, saying, 'But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he behjoldeth him self, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was,' (James 1:22-25). So also there within themselves many behold a reflection of true faith when they hear and speaak of the Word, but as soon as the hearing and speaking are done, they are concerned about other affairs and are not doing according to it, and thus they always forgeth about the fruit of faith, namely, Christian love, of which Paul also say, 'For the kingdom of God is not in work, but in power,' (I Cor 4:20)."

We are at a crossroads. We can continueto go to church, listen to sermons, sing praise songs, and think that we are right with God. But none of those are things that make us right with God. They do not even matter to him.

Elihu, the young one who was not reprimanded in the end by God, said to Job:

(Job 35:6-8 NASB) "If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? {7} "If you are righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand? {8} "Your wickedness is for a man like yourself, And your righteousness is for a son of man."

If we want to do something for God, then we need to do it for our neighbors. Our righteousness and wickedness do not effect God. They do, however, build up or destroy others.

(Mat 25:41-46 NASB) "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; {42} for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; {43} I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' {44} "Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' {45} "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' {46} "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

God could care less if we listened to a bunch of sermons, sang a bunch of songs, or attended church every Sunday of our lives. We show him our love by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoners, and housing strangers. That's how we show love to God.

Let us put everything else in their proper perspective. The large gathering of believers needs to be an equipping time, but not just for the sake of equipping. What good would it do for a military to hand out guns and ammo every week to the same people that received them the week before when they never go out and use them? They would just have a useless, although maybe collectible, collection of guns. Many of us have a novel and intellectual faith, but we are called to much more than head knowledge about the Kingdom of God. We are called to live out the Christian life from the time we leave the gathering to the time we reassemble. It's not what we do at the gathering that shows if we truly love God; it's what happens in between them.

More political quizzes:

On this one I am a middle of the range Conservative.

In this one I am a traditional Conservative.

On this one I am a far-right Conservative.

On this one I am a fiscal conservative and in-between Conservative and Libertarian on social issues.

On this one I am a Christian Socialist. It seemed to be the most thorough.

I am beginning to think the first one was inaccurate. I'm not a liberal. Let me know what you test out as.

Watch out for potholes.

Find out where you stand politically

Go to The Political Compass to find out where you stand politically. Some of the questions are a little weird.

Here is where I stood.

Your political compass

Economic Left/Right: -4.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -0.41

I hate the formatting on this blog. I can never seem to get things right.

Watch out for potholes.

nothing much today.

The discussion will continue on Monday. I am going to enjoy my weekend. I hope you do too.

Watch out for the potholes.

Quotes from Elton Trueblood's Your Other Vocation

The following quotes are from Elton Trueblood's Your Other Vocation. You might not completely get it from these quotes, but he takes the stance that a pastor needs to train up and work alongside of an active laity. The paid pastorate does not need to disappear. With that in your head, let's begin.

"Our chief gains now come from the courageous ways of reacting to our losses. The strategy of wisdom consists in knowing so well the location of the points at which we are hard pressed that we concentrate our forces on these points and thereby actually turn defeat into victory."

"The Christian faith cannot survive and be effective unless it can present a coherent picture of reality which faces all of the serious difficulties and surmounts them better than does any alternative system of belief."

Those were just two good quotes that have nothing to do with what we have been discussing. Now let the games begin.

A quote from Henry T. Hodgkin: "Every great religious awakening has been a revolt against authority."

Now that one is powerful. I would love to just let it speak for itself, but I can't. Three great leaders of the church pop to my mind: Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Alexander Campbell. All of them had to become in rebellion to the church in order to remain faithful to the calling God had placed on their lives. The church is much better because of the faithfulness of each of them.

I'm sure the stories of countless servants who faithfully followed God's leading into rebellion to local churches or denominations have not been written. Following God into rebellion is a dangerous place to be, but every reformer has been there. We need to constantly check that we are really following God's calling and not just our own desire, whether we are in rebellion or not. Just as Ryan Dobson said in the interview I had with him, "It is never wrong to do the right thing. It's never right to do the wrong thing, yet we tend to do that all the time." If we are in a church that is not passionately going after God's will, that is not an excuse for us to be lazy and join in the apathy. If following God's will means we have to be in rebellion, then that is what we must do.
"The general assumption, all the more powerful because unstated, is that the position of the layman is the same in each of these situations (medicine, law, and the church) and that the important work in each field is nearly always done by the professional. The movement of lay religion in our time is, in essence, a conscious and widespread revolt against this tacit assumption."

I do believe some of the clergy/laity problems of our time stems from the desire of our clergy to be more legit in the eyes of the public around them. They have spent a lot of time on education to learn their profession. The difference, however, is that their practice can be done without a lot of education.

"If, by the ministry, we mean the religious service of our fellow men, it soon becomes clear that this vocation is potentially universal."

"Just as one man may be both minister and merchant another many be both minister and physician and there is no conflict between the two vocations. The vocation of the ministry is thus different from most others in its lack of exclusiveness."

"Whatever a person's ordinary vocation in the world, whether salesmanship or homemaking or farming, the ministry can be his other vocation and perhaps his truest vocation. Most vocations are mutually incompatible, but the ministry is compatible with all others, providing they are productive of human welfare."

"A second way in which the ministry is unique is that, in performing it, the amateur often has advantages which are denied to the professional practitioner."

"In many fields, such as natural science, the increased professionalism of the individual makes him more trustworthy whereas in the life of religion the increased professionalism may make him less trustworthy. In various succeeding centuries it has been necessary for the religious pioneer to oppose the professionals who had been made less sensitive to religious truth by the very acceptance, on the part of others and themselves, of their authoritarian positions."

"The amateur has certain definite and marked advantages of his own. The first of these is involved in the fact that the lay minister does not have to bear the stigma of being a clergyman. ..Most words of a clergyman are minimized simply because he is supposed to say them. A pastor's convictions are discounted because he is supposed to have a professional stake in the effort to make them prevail...The contrast in effect is often enormous when a layman's remarks are taken seriously, even though he says practically the same words. His words are given full weight, not because he is a more able exponent, but because he is wholly free from any stigma of professionalism."

I felt this minimization of my words and actions when I was a paid minister. People would just disregard what I had to say because I was paid to say that. They would disregard loving service because I was paid to do it. I have seen that response go away since I am no longer paid. It's amazing. I do think it is silly that people don't take the word of paid ministers as seriously as their fellow peers, but it is a reality we have to learn to accept and adjust to.

Quotes from Leroy Garrett on "the pastor system"

Leroy Garrett has a few pages in his book, A Lover's Quarrel, dedicated to the topic we have been discussing. As you possibly observed in my interview with him, he can pack a lot in few words. Here are some of the quotes followed by my thoughts. I don't mean any of my thoughts to be harsh. They are written in a calm state of mind.

"My objection to the minister system was related to the larger issue of the proper function of the body of Christ. Drawing upon Ephesians 4:1-16, I pointed out that God has set the church in order 'for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.' And that this is realized when 'the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.'"

What is the goal of the church for the members within it? Is it to build them up in individual spirituality, entertain them, and keep them satisfied? Or is it to build them up as part of a church, give them opportunities to use their gifts, and teach them that it isn't about their happiness but about following God no matter what? I would choose the latter. I think most churches would too. However, I think our culture has a tendency to push us towards doing the former.

"Based on this apostolic mandate, I saw the ministry of the church in terms of what I called 'body life,' where every member shares in building up the church, each according to his ability. When a professional is imported - brought in from outside the body - to do what the members themselves are to do, it is a harmful departure from the Biblical order."

One of the major drawbacks I see in using the "pastor system" is that we have designated roles that only the paid pastor can do. For instance, the only individuals that preach are, except for on rare occassions, the paid pastor(s). We ignore that it is the leadership's job to develop people's gifts and place them in ministries that match their gifting because they are ministries we have earmarked for the paid staff. We seem to have two categories of ministries in churches: Those ministries that are of a more important nature and handled by paid staff and those ministries that anyone can do because paid staff really doesn't want to waste their time on them. I challenge the paid staff out there to start handing over ministries. Create new ones that reach out to the community to occupy your time, then hand them over and start again. Train your church to function alongside you or, even, without you. Train the lay people of your church to be ministers. Train them to preach, do funerals, call on the dying, etc. Train them to be fully equipped ministers of the gospel if they have the calling.

It's is great to be the one in power, the CEO of the Kingdom of God, but I don't think that is anyone's calling. We are called to be servants, and that isn't just a trick to get more people to follow us. It is a calling into actual servanthood.

We need to stop the trend of sending people away to Bible colleges if they have the call to be a pastor unless that is their specific calling. This is commonplace because of the misconstrued belief that if you're called to be a pastor, then you need to be a full-time paid one. Where do we get this? The individual might be called to be a pastor while being an employee somewhere in the world. In many cases that would be more effective. They might be called to be a lay pastor right where they already are. In our current system that is not a valid option. Why?

I think we have enough churches in many regions of our nation. For instance, Antwerp is a town of 1,200. We have a Baptist, Church of Christ, Nazarene, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, and a Presbyterian church. There are also churches located in the country between our town and other towns. We really don't need another church. We need the churches we already have to be healthy. I think when we start expecting the members of our churches to take up the leadership in the church and lead, we will see the churches reach healthiness and see communities across America turn to the Lord. I mean lead not in the sense that it is done in most churches today. Most churches have a board of some sort that approve the vision that the paid pastor lays out in front of them. It needs to be different than that. The board needs to lead by coming up with the vision. They aren't just props to submit to and give more authority to the paid pastor.

I believe God is on the cusp on doing great things with all of us if we would just follow his leading and not force him to lead in a way that we expect him to.

Back to Leroy Garrett:

"One cartoon (of many that he published in his journal Bible Talk) illustrated how much of the church's money goes to the minister and edifices, and how little to missions and benevolence."

There are many benefits of the mutual ministry model. One is financial. I do think we need to be extremely careful and not make the benefits the reason for doing mutual ministry. We do it because we need to be faithful in training up disciples. It is great that we will have more money to love people in our church, outside our church in our communities, and around the world. That is just one of the many benefits that happen when a church is focused not on any structures we have created but upon the mission of being the Kingdom of God.

Quotes that :Leroy Garrett used from others.

Alexander Campbell - "To employ men to preach the gospel to a Christian congregation is a satire upon that congregation that employs them."

Wow. He's saying that a congregation really isn't a congregation if they employ people from outside to minister to them. If they aren't at the point of being able to do it themselves, then they aren't really a congregation. They're just a sadly humorous shell that acts like a congregation. That's some pretty bold words, Alexander. You shouldn't be saying stuff like that.

Guy N. Woods - "The elders are the pastors of the flock, and not the evangelist; and it is their duty to care for it and tend it. Evangelists are to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the lost, and preach the gospel in regions where it is not known."

The things that we currently expect pastors to do can be taken care of by the flock he currently ministers to. I'm not proposing that every paid pastor lose their job. I'm proposing that they spearhead the charge into winning the world to the Lord outside of the church. Let those within the church head up the internal ministries. Let the paid pastor, or local missionary, head up the external ministries.

That's all for today. I would love to hear some comments from people who disagree. A bunch of new people have visited in the last few days. Statracker tells me stuff like that. So please share if you feel so led. I would love to have some questions to answer about what is perceived to be problems with mutual ministry. You could email me your comments and I would keep your name anonymous if you so wished. However, you all retain the right to come to the blog in anonymity and just read my ravings like you would stare at a car wreck at the side of the road caused by the gigantic pothole you're about ready to run into.

Watch out for the potholes.

Pant on Fire Mobile

My real post for today is further down. I just couldn't believe this.

That is a picture of Ben & Jerry's Ben with his vehicle, the George W. Bush Pants on Fire Mobile. That's strange. You can find out more at their site.

They also have a list of all of George W. Bush's lies here.

Can someone else run for President?

Also, I found this crazy site, Boycott Liberalism. That's a link to the Heinz portion. They have boycotts of the week on their main page. I'm getting scared to live in this country.

Watch out for the potholes, especially if you're driving the Pants on Fire Mobile.

The first step towards a lay-led church?

Today, I have some exciting news to share. The church board had a meeting on Monday night with the District Supervisor to decide the future of the church concerning who will be the pastor. Although the district had never heard of a church wanting to do a lay-led ministry, even to fill the gap between pastors, they were open to the idea for the time being. Officially, it is just for the interim, but I know there are many people down here with hopes that it goes well and lasts longer. I'm very happy the people in the denomination were sensitive to what God has called the local flock to do. It seems like a strange calling to anyone that hasn't received it. I am thankful that others have received the same calling allowing me to be a part of this exciting time. So not only will this blog be a discussion of mutual edification, team leadership, and lay-led ministry, we will also have glimpses at how it works itself out in a church that has been operated in the one-man pastoral system. Please keep us in your prayers. I think the only reason we have made it as far as we have is because of the prayers of those who are faithful. Please continue.

Austin hit on the most important point in his reply to yesterday's post. "beside resetting the defaults, one must reset the standard, the goals, the mindset. i think a lot of this goes hand in hand with simplifying, reducing, focusing, rather than trying to do everything (which i have the tendency to do)."

The structure of the church only matters when it helps us achieve or not achieve the call of God in the community the church resides in. If we have a structure that prohibits us from doing God's will in our community, then we need to change it to one that is more effective at doing that. However, a good structure cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit. God has to be moving in order for the church to be effective. But it also makes sense that God would try to mold the church that he is moving in to be the structure that would be most effective for his work. My belief on what the goal is will not make sense if you did not read my post on the Kingdom of God.

This brings me to the goal. What is God's work? What is the overarching theme? It is to be the Kingdom of God. It is the church's responsibility to be the Kingdom that was foretold in the Old Testament and established on Pentecost in the New Testament. There are many elements to being the Kingdom: evangelism, discipleship, meeting one another's needs, praying together, learning together, being under one king, etc. The problem is that most churches choose one of the elements of the Kingdom and emphasize that to the minimalization or exclusion of all of the others. When we focus on being the Kingdom, the others should all fall in their proper place.

I also do not believe that Christianity is a belief statement to be believed but a life to be lived. One of my favorite books of all-time deals with this, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West...Again by George Hunter. In this book he deals with the battle between the Christianity of St. Patrick versus the Christianity of Rome. Rome took the stance that Christianity is a belief statement to be accepted. If you are to evangelize, it is by telling them the message of Jesus and having them accept it. Then we have the Christianity of St. Patrick. He started monasteries that live on the outskirts of the community. They would love those in the community. They would allow anyone who wanted to be part of them to join them. Eventually, the new people realized they were Christians and believed. One takes the approach of presenting the Gospel in words above presenting it as a life.

It goes along with what my pastor said last Sunday at church. He had been reading a book. I can't figure out through searches what one it was. The concept was the same as The Celtic Way of Evangelism. They just phrased it differently. They said that the church has been backwards for so many years. The church has been teaching "Believe, Behave, Belong." We need to be teaching "Belong, Behave, Believe."

If believing is the most important element, then we will make preaching the benchmark of a good minister. If belonging is the most important, then we will really change things up and maybe even not have a paid pastor at all. Having a paid pastor is essential if believing is the key, not as much if belonging is they key. I've heard many pastors say they don't like being in close relationships with the members of the church. In that system, belonging isn't even an option. We are the Kingdom of God, so we have something great and life-changing for people to belong to.

With that in perspective, I come to the conclusion that being a lay-led church in Antwerp is what God is calling us to do. I can't explain what it feels like to be called to something, but when you are called it is pretty convincing. It's a burden you just can't get out of your mind. I've experienced it at least three concrete times in my pastoral life. One was to move to Lansing and plant the church. The other was to leave Solomon's Porch. And now this one. When I first heard that Tom had resigned, I posted about my frustration on what to do and asked for your prayers. I really felt an overwhelming burden to call someone. I tried to resist because I wanted to just sit back and let the leader's make the decision, but the pull was impossible to resist unless I wanted to be utterly miserable. So I called and found out that God was working on the leaders in the same way he was working on me. It was an amazing moment. I was reaffirmed that the Holy Spirit is at work among his believers and guiding us to fulfill his will.

This town has many churches screaming from the rooftops telling people to believe. I want to be part of the church that allows people to belong.

Helping Out

Here is the deal.

Aleks is unemployed right now and needs to hire a lawyer for his divorce. If you have any extra money around, in your seat cushions, hidden in the back of your Bible, or saved up for occassions such as these, then feel free to head on over to his blog and donate. He needs a $500 downpayment to even secure the lawyer.

Mutual Edification, Lay-led Ministry, Team Leadership - The Quest Has Begun

If you're here for the pictures of Isaac going to the zoo, please scroll down.

From this point forward, until the issue is resolved to a comfortable state in my head, we will be dealing a lot with mutual edification, lay-led ministry, and team leadership. We will vacation to side issues and take breaks because my mind will need it. But these three issues will be central points for this blog.

I will define the terms so you know what I am talking about.

I will define the word "laity" because many non-Catholics don't even know what I am talking about when I'm using the word.

Laity or laymen - All the people of the church who are not licensed clergy or paid pastors/preachers.

Mutual Edification - the act of the people in the body ministering to one another. Sermons are preached by laymen. Lessons are taught by laymen.

Lay-led Ministry - The process of not having a paid person on staff at a church. The church is led by volunteers only. A church could have lay-led ministries within it but not have an overarching lay-led ministry. A major difference.

Team Leadership - The act of a church being led by a group of people rather than a single, visionary leader.

Now that the words have been definced and we are on the same page about what I am talking about, I will clarify my position on all of these subjects.

For starters, whether you are in a paid ministry position or not, I think we can all agree that it is the duty of the church to train it's members to reach a point of ministering to their maximum gift potential. I also think, and we can probably disagree on this, that the face of the church would change for the better if every minister knew he had to train up his flock and let them lead themselves in five years. If you are in a paid ministry position, would anything about your ministry change if you knew your church would be on their own in five years?

In my setting, rural America, I think the healthiest church model would be a church with a lay-led ministry, team leadership, and mutual edification. It is a completely different environment than the city.

Most everyone in town already knows one another. Hiring an outside minister (I sometimes refer to them as mercenary ministers) to come in and minister to a community like this is completely backwards and ineffective. They don't know anyone in an environment where everyone knows everyone. They sometimes think that we are backwards in the way we live and in the fact they we haven't gone to the cities.

We are used to working together because we have lived our whole lives together. All our social groups were with the same people. The people we played sports with were the people we went to school with, were the people we saw at the town fair, and are the people we see at the grocery store, the people that we go to church with. Putting a "visionary leader" above us is rather ridiculous because we are used to working together.

The last one is that people in rural America could care less about how much education you have. This is something I need to mature in. I'm sure it gets worse the higher up the education totem pole you climb. I sometimes think that it doesn't matter what people say because they aren't trained to be ministers. They haven't studied their Bible as much. I realize that I am an ignorant, pompous jerk when I think like that. People's comments should not be based upon their education but upon the content of those comments. If we disregard comments because of the education level of the one making them, then we are not really in a quest for knowledge but in defense mode about the value of our education.

Church planting and church health still seems to be linked to having a building and a paid pastor. They are the default. A church automatically hires a pastor and makes plans for a building on day one. I want to propose that the default needs to change. The default needs to be lay-led ministry, team leadership, and mutual edification. Then a church could be called to hire a pastor. The default needs to be going buildingless until a church is called to build a building. We need to examine and change our defaults. Perhaps there are more. We need to begin viewing churches that don't have a building or paid pastor as being just as legitimate as a church that does. Legitimacy of a church should come from actually being a church. I think there are a lot of buildings out there with the word "church" on the sign out front, have people come in at scheduled times, yet fail to be a church.

I do believe you can be a healthy church and not have completely lay-led ministries, complete mutual edification, or team leadership. I am not saying that all churches need to have them. I do believe that for a church to be healthy they need to have lay-led ministries and allow for laity to teach one another at times. I want to clarify that in the beginning, so we don't argue about that.

Many people have the tendency to just disregard ideas as being radical and don't give reasons why they take that stance. If you think my views are too radical, explain why - if not here, at least to yourself. Although, in my quest for answers, I would love to know why they are wrong. I think we often label things as radical because we don't know how to deal with them rather than that they are actually wrong.

I didn't really go into reasons why I believe these things today. That journey will begin tomorrow. More will follow in future days. It's just a little temptation for the palate.

I recently ordered some books that deal with the subject. Here's a list if you feel like reading one with me.

Mutual Ministry: New Vitality for the Local Church by James C. Fenhagen

Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal
by Christian Smith

Building the House Church by Lois Barrett

The open church: How to bring back the exciting life of the first century church by James H Rutz

The Power of Team Leadership : Achieving Success Through Shared Responsibility (Barna, George. Barna Reports for Highly Effective Churches Series.) by GEORGE BARNA

The Naked Church: Revised Third Edition by Wayne Jacobsen

If you know of another good book on the subjects, please let me know.

There will be another post today. Probably later this afternoon of an important matter. I need more information on it before that one comes.

Watch out for the potholes.

Kangaroo Dance

Isaac busting out some dance move with a scary face. He was looking at kangaroos, so maybe he was trying to hop like one. It's reasons like these that I am happy I have a digital camera and didn't waste money to have this developed. Sorry for wasting your time but feel pride in the fact that no money was wasted for this one. Posted by Hello

Owls behind glass

This was one of the rare times that I wasn't scared for Isaac's life at the zoo. The owls were secure behind the glass. Okay, they aren't owls. But they sure look like them and I can't remember what they are called. Posted by Hello

Peacocks - the chase is on

Isaac and a peacock. Whenever we see them at the zoo Isaac chases them down and tries to pet them. I wonder if peacocks would peck a kid's eye out. Posted by Hello

Contraband Cheerios

Isaac feeding the snuck-in Cheerios to the ducks. Ducks love stale Cheerios much more than humans. And humans, as you can see in this picture, love feeding stale Cheerios to ducks. Posted by Hello

Maybe it was the staleness after all

After a while, Isaac got bored of the whole ordeal and dumped the Cheerios out. Posted by Hello

Holding chicks

Isaac petting a baby chick. We washed our hands after this. Sorry, I don't have a picture of that. Maybe next time. Posted by Hello

Demon Goats

I don't understand why they let children feed the goats. I'm sure there is an injury every week. As soon as you give a child a cone, they start to maul him. A few times I had to grab the cone from Isaac so they wouldn't kill him. I'm sure they were demon possessed goats. Look at the eyes on that one staring at Isaac. Posted by Hello

First Time Bouncer

Here is an artsy photo of Isaac jumping around in a bouncy inflatable thingamajig. It was his first time in one of them. When we were putting his shoes back on he broke away and sprinted to the entrance. He really wanted to go again. We are parents, so we said no for no other reason than the fact that we didn't want to have to wait in the line again. Looking back on it I feel guilty for not being patient enough to let him enjoy it again. He would constantly stop, go to the entrance, and poke his head out to make sure we were still watching. I love being a dad. Posted by Hello

Killer Kangaroo

Isaac and a Kangaroo. He was much closer to Isaac at one time. Part of the entertainment of the zoo is that you think your child could be killed any second. It's a thrill that seems okay to have at the zoo. Posted by Hello

Spider-Man Nightmare

This picture should be reason enough to not let your child watch Spider-Man 2. They were running along the top of the train acting like Spider-Man. Isaac is in the bottom left, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of a kid who thought he was Spider-Man. I kept wondering, "Which one of these people is this kid's parent and allows him to do this?" I kept my camera out in case he fell off and busted open his head. That would have increased the hits to my blog tremendously. It didn't happen, so this is what you're stuck with seeing. Posted by Hello

That Really Is Them In The Boat

Isaac and Lindsay on a boat ride. Isaac had a great time riding the boat. Posted by Hello

Eli Was There

Just in case you were wondering where Eli was in all of the zoo pictures. He was in a stroller or being held. We still love him. Here is a picture that was taken of him the other day while he was chilling out on the couch. Posted by Hello

Learning From Kids At The Ft. Wayne Children's Zoo

I learned a lot at the zoo today. It didn't have to do with the origin of animals or what they can do. It had to do with humans. While looking at animals from around the world I realized how much I have lost the heart of a child.

They have many fountains at the Ft. Wayne Children's Zoo that children can play in. Isaac loves to play in the main fountain as much as, if not more than, all of the other great features of the zoo. For some reason, I didn't take any pictures of this. I just sat there and wathced. I think I was worn out.

At the water fountain children make instant friends with one another. Isaac would immediately splash a new person in a loving, playful way. They became as good of a friend as any he has. I couldn't help but examine all of the defenses I have built into myself through growing up. I can't trust people because they will betray me. I can't open myself up because they might hurt me. I have to carefully watch the becaue they may be manipulating me. None of the defenses we have built up through the years is visible in the kids at the water fountain.

I also noticed something in Isaac. There was a giant cement frog to climb on. Isaac tried to climb it and fell. It looked from where I was sitting that it hurt. He tried again and fell. We, being the paranoid parents we are, didn't want Isaac to climb up it because he might hurt himself. We started telling him not to climb it. He continued climbing and reached the top of the frog. He was happy at his accomplishment. We were quick to tell him to get down.

I give up quickly after a failure. I don't keep trying and trying. Isaac did. Children don't give up.

So today I was reminded that I need to be more friendly to new people and to never give up. They might be little things that I already know, but if I can do them, my life will be much better.
By the way, if you're ever in the Ft. Wayne area, know me or my wife or want to get to know us, and want to go to the zoo, we have a membership. It is the best zoo I have been to for children. True, I have only been to the Toledo Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Potter Park Zoo, the zoo in Battlecreek, and Ft. Wayne's zoo, but I am not alone in my opinion. It was ranked in the top 10 zoos in the nation for children in Child Magazine. Toledo is ranked one above Ft. Wayne, but they must have been on crack when they decided that. Ft. Wayne has more interactive exhibits. We love taking Isaac there because he loves it so much. The only bad thing about going today was getting Isaac to get back in the car at the end of the day.

Prayer Request - On another note, the leadership of the church meets with the district head tonight to decide what they are going to do about our minister. From discussions with many of the members of the leadership, I feel that we are being called to have a lay-led pastorate. The question is whether the district will allow that. Tomorrow, I will know more. Please pray for God's guidance at the meeting.

Watch out for the potholes.

Christology in Gattaca

Now onto the themes of Christ in Gattaca, the world's greatest Science Fiction movie.

In Gattaca we see Vincent Freeman try to reach the stars in a warped future using the DNA of Jerome Morrow.

If Christ figures are what you are looking for, then look no further for a twisted representation of Christ than Jerome Morrow. Jerome literally gives his blood for Vincent to reach the heavens, symbolic throughout the movie for salvation. His life, for all intents and purposes, ended when he was in an accident that made him loose his legs. He began to live solely to provide Vincent with his blood. Vincent and Jerome shared a life.

The movie has two uses of Christ and God in the spoken word. Upon hearing of Vincent's assignment to go into space, Jerome says, "They're sending you up there, for Christ's sake! You! Of all people!" I tend to think it was not used in a vulgar way, it was literally for Christ's sake that he would be sent to the stars.

Then we see in a scene where Vincent is giving blood that he says "God damn!" His blood was damned. Like all of us, we need the blood of Christ in order to reach heaven. It was only through using Jerome's blood that Vincent could reach the stars. Blood provided by the Christ figure of the movie.

That's it. After all of these years, I have been able to unleash my frustration and talk about the Theological and Christological themes of Gattaca.

We'll be back to more normal discussions on Monday.

Watch out for the potholes.

On Gattaca

Another One

Yesterday I received an email regarding a divorce. No, it's not the same one as I posted on yesterday. It's another one of the Great Lakes crowd. It's on the internet, so it's public.

The tough times of Aleks and Kristi.

Also, if you know of a good Christian lawyer in the Branch County area or can offer any words of encouragement, feel free to head on over to his website and do that.

Now onto Friday Night movie night.

Gattaca is one of my favorite movies of all time. Along the lines of our discussion yesterday of Spider-Man 2 not being the greatest superhero movie of all time, I will propose that Gattaca is the best science fiction movie ever. The reviews at Amazon seem to confirm this. However, those reviews are like blogs. Anyone with one finger, an internet connection, and the time can say whatever they want.

Gattaca is full of theology like the book of Esther is full of theology. For those who do not know, the book of Esther never directly references God. It's a story of God being at work and in control even when you don't see his hand directly. It's the same with Gattaca.

In Gattaca, you have the main character, Vincent Freeman, who was born as the result of natural conception. This is fine and dandy except for he lives in a society that genetically engineered babies and placed everyone in positions based upon their genetic sequence. If they weren't born with the proper genetic makeup, then they wouldn't rise to the stars, symbolic of salvation, as Vincent desired to. He proceeded to take a life on the black market and live through a disabled man who had good genes.

It's a story of hope. It's a story of tragedy. It's a story of bigotry. It's a story of failure. It's a story of salvation. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it.

Those of faith being able to overcome the bad situation they're in is one of the themes of the movie. Those who place their trust in a God who cannot be seen in the civilization around them can reach salvation. That also parallels Esther. In Esther we see the Jews, who are in Persia, approaching a day of slaughter that is the result of a wicked decree proposed by Haman. Esther, being a Jew who had found favor with the king and became his wife, was perplexed by what to do in that situation. Mordecai had the following to say to her:

(Est 4:14 NASB) "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"

I find two comforting things about this verse. For starters, if Esther failed, God would still deliver the Jews. His will, in action, is unstoppable. Second, God placed her in a position to be used by Him. The finest thing in life is to be an active part of God's will. I believe God is still doing amongst us the same things he did to Esther.

Esther, like us, had a choice. She could either step up to the plate and do what God, who wasn't so obvious, wanted her to do, or she could sit back and miss out on being part of the works of God. We are placed where we are at to do God's will where we are at. What does God want you to do? The stars are waiting.

Tomorrow, I'm going to discuss the Christology of Gattaca. It really frustrated me when a group of people used this in Theological Themes class at Great Lakes and George Brown said it didn't have any. Not only did it have theological themes as stated above, it also has Christological themes. I do think that the class should have been named Christological Themes rather than Theological, but that is another topic all together.

Any thought from those who took that class would be greatly appreciated.

Watch out for the potholes.