Total Pageviews

Monday, June 30, 2008

The ideal and the real

Here's what I know. The grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

Sometimes we can get into the "if only."

If only I had another job.

If only I had another friend.

If only I went to another church.

If only I had another spouse.

Sometimes we need to pause and realize that what we really want is what we already have.

I read this true story this week that illustrates this:

Suleyman Guresci, of Izmir, Turkey divorced his wife of 21 years after a bitter six-year court battle. In an effort to find the ideal woman, Guresci turned to a computer dating service--the kind that evaluates your written profile and suggests matches for you.

Ironically, from a list of 2000 prospective brides, the computer selected his former wife, who (unbeknownst to Guresci) had signed up for the same service. Guresci's response? He decided to remarry his wife just nine months after their divorce.

He said, "I did not know that my ex-wife had been the ideal counterpart for a marriage. I decided to give it another try by being more tolerant toward her."

The ideal mate might just be the one you've already married.

The ideal job might just be the one you are working at.

The ideal friend might be the one that you are hanging around with.

And....the ideal church might be the one you are going to. Why not begin watering once again?

Just a thought.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be

The Commodores used to sing a song entitled, "Easy". Part of the lyrics goes like this:

"Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be
And I´m not happy when I try to fake it yeah"

I heard that this morning and the words just kind of hit me. Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be.

Do you ever feel that way? I do. Everyone has their own idea of what they think a pastor should be like.

I've always felt uneasy with that.

There's a line from the movie "Elephant Man" where the main character cries out, "I am not an animal!" There are times when I want to cry out, "I am not a pastor (in the way some think a pastor should be) - I am a person! I am a Christian! I am a father! I am a friend! I am a husband!" I am all of these things.

Don't try to pigeonhole me into what you think I should be.

Over the years the ideal of a pastor has changed -from generation to generation.

In today's culture, we are gravitating toward the pastor being a friend, a counselor, a fellow servant of Christ, a teammate in the kingdom. I like that.

I am pleased that we are beginning to put away this idea of a pastor being someone who is aloof, distant and authoritative.

I am learning that we are drawn to one another as we exchange our victories and defeats, our joys and our sorrows, our ups and our downs.

I'm not saying that a pastor should not operate in the spiritual authority that God gives him/her. I'm not saying there are times when the pastor is called upon to lead and leadership can be lonely.

I am saying that along with being a leader, a pastor is a brother in Christ, with the same kind of needs and wants as all of us in the kingdom.

I'm thankful that our church is filled with family members who feel the same way I do. I'm thankful that Debbie and I are already beginning to establish some great friends. I'm thankful that we are learning to relax and take off our masks and accept one another as we are. People filled with flaws and imperfections. People needing and wanting love, acceptance and forgiveness in the midst of an intolerant world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Married or single

I am teaching from Paul's writings in First Corinthians 7:25-40 this evening. We will explore marriage and singleness.

Here are four marital myths that we will talk about.

Myth number one: Marriage is the only God-ordained lifestyle. God looks favorably upon singles - as in the case of Jesus himself. He wasn't married and lived a fulfilled life (now that's an understatement).

Myth number two: The grass is greener on the other side of the matrimonial fence. Singles can think that if they get married - things would be better; and many married couples wish they were single again.

Here's something we need to know: If you get to the other side of the fence, you will learn that life is good and bad no matter which side you are on.

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, the grass is always greener on the side of the fence that is being watered.

We need to rest in the Lord. Adam went to sleep and God brought a wife. What a great picture of waiting on the Lord. Singles are to commit their lives to serving the Lord and God will bring someone alongside who has the same heart.

To those who are married - we need to wait on the Lord and trust Him to work in our marriages for His blessings.

Myth number three: Your life plus someone else equals happiness. Our culture says that if we can just get the right person in our lives we'll be happy. Not true. If your aren't happy single - you won't be happy married.

Marriage does not create problems, marriage reveals problems. We are to be content (as Paul writes in Philippians 4:11,12) in whatever state we find ourselves in. And really, isn't our ultimate happiness only found through Christ?

Myth number four: Singleness produces loneliness, while marriage produces intimacy. There are many singles that are not lonely and there are many married people who are.

They key: we are to find our fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 13:5, "Be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Just some thoughts....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Healing and faith

Let me come back to the subject of healing. I believe that God can heal. I desire that God heal. I desire that we see the manifestation of healing in our church family. Not for the sake of a thrill or a chill but for the real deal - which draws me closer to God and gives him glory.

Healing has received a bad rap in recent years because of all of the goofy stuff that goes on, even today. I trust and hope that we don't dismiss it because of some goofiness out in the kingdom - even well intended goofiness.

Dean Merrill writes, "I was sitting at a lunch table at the Canadian Fellowship of Christian Assemblies Conference in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, in early October 2005. Paul Vallee, a pastor in Red Deer, Alberta, was recalling his early days as a youth pastor in a town far up in the northeastern part of the province. Another younger pastor at the table had been a member of Vallee's youth group back then.

Vallee and the younger pastor were talking about the time they loaded up a bus for an 11-hour ride to a youth retreat with the FCA church in Fort St. John, British Columbia. One girl in the group had said she would not be going, because she was prone to migraine headaches—especially when riding long distance in a vehicle.

"Oh, come on," her girlfriends pleaded with her. "We really want you to go with us. You'll be okay." In the end, the girl was won over.

About three hours into the bus ride, sure enough, the girl began to experience a fearsome migraine. She had told the group, including her youth pastor, that once the attacks started, there was no relief. She would be in agony for three or more days.

What was Vallee supposed to do as the leader of the group? Well, he did not ask for the shades to be drawn or for the kids to lower their noise level. He didn't take up a collection of Motrin or Advil. Instead, he called for prayer. As the bus kept going down the highway, the youth began a "rolling prayer meeting." They fervently called out for God's intervention on the girl's behalf. About 30 minutes later, her head came back up, her eyes were clear, and the migraine had stopped! "This is incredible," she said. "This never happens. I've never gotten relief until it ran its full course." But what was even more remarkable was that, as the following months and years went by, this girl never had a migraine again. God had healed her permanently that day on the bus."

I like that story. I say, "pray and go to the hospital at the same time." I believe in balance. But I also believe that God heals and that faith does play a part in that.

May we have faith today and believe God for healing!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baseball and football

George Carlin passed away yesterday. A master of comedy. A master of words. Some of us stuff is irreverent but a lot of it is true and funny.

He brought out what you know to be true but just haven't put into categories or words.

For instance, I found the following below and would like to share it with you. He compares baseball and football.

From George Carlin:

"Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball.

In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he's out; sometimes unintentionally, he's out.

Also: in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you'd ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform, you'd know the reason for this custom.

George Carlin knew. Baseball is a walk in the park. Football is war.

Now, I've mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.

Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!

Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.

Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying.

In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs — what down is it?

Baseball is concerned with ups — who's up?

In football you receive a penalty.

In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.

In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.

Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog...

In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.

Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end — might have extra innings.

Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too much unpleasantness.

In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you're capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun.

With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! — I hope I'll be safe at home!"

Great stuff....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Harmony Holiness Church

I went out to see Russ Bettenhausen today at Silver Cross Hospital. I encourage you to pray for Russ. The doctors said that he is going to lose his foot due to diabetes. The operation is Monday.

On my way to the hospital on route 6, I noticed a church whose name is "Harmony Holiness" church. I couldn't help but pause in my spirit and wonder about that title.

Hopefully the church is a church united and walking in holiness.

But I can't help but think that they are steeped (and I hope I am wrong) in legalism and rules and do's and don't and that if you don't believe as we do or walk as we do or think as we do - than we won't live in harmony with you.

It almost sounds like an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp" or "junior high leader."

If they aren't walking in "harmony" could a person claim "false advertising?"

If they aren't walking in "holiness" could a person claim that they weren't living up to their billing?

That's one of the reasons why I don't put "Jesus stickers" on my car - just in case I blow it and become angry at someone as I drive. I wouldn't want Jesus to be tagged with a bad reputation because of something stupid I did.

I'm not saying that a church shouldn't proclaim one of their values in the title of their church. I am saying that if you put "Harmony Holiness" on the front sign, I would hope and pray that you truly are walking in harmonious holiness before God.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do I get married or not?

A lot of young people or single again people struggle with whether to be married or not. I hear the questions, "How do I know if I should remain single or get married (remarried)?

Some thoughts:

I should remain single if:

1. I am tempted to marry an unbeliever.

2. The person I marry will hinder my spiritual growth. That could be someone on a lesser spiritual plane this us or someone who is on the same or even greater level, spiritually, but does not see any reason to continue to grow spiritually.

3. I marry for the wrong motive. The only reason to marry is for love. Marrying for money, power, prestige, fear of growing old alone, or simply because it is the cultural norm is an equation for disaster.

4. I am unwilling to give myself to another person completely. Selfishness is something that none of us can get away from completely. All of us are selfish to some degree. But unless I am willing to sacrifice my wants or needs to meet the wants and needs of another person, every day of my life, I shouldn't marry.

I should get married if:

1. My life would be more complete with a spouse. Being married does not solve problems. Being married reveals problems. If I am not happy single, I probably won't be happy married. Happiness is an internal things - not dependant upon outward circumstances. However, you or I may not have the gift of celibacy as well. Paul describes celibacy as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 7.

2. God leads me to someone I love and who loves me.

3. I am confident that my relationship with that person will illustrate Christ's love for His Church. I am to love Debbie as Christ loves the Church - in a sacrificial way (although that is not always the case - sometimes I can be selfish).

4. I am willing to spend the remainder of my days giving more than receiving. Again, I fall short in this a lot of times. Living successfully with someone takes a lot of time and practice and

One thing I do know. That God can always take my plan "B" choices and bring about plan A results.

I'm thankful that Debbie was and is God's plan "A" for my life. She was and is the one for me.

But if you think you have married the wrong person, know that God can always bring about plan "A" results out of your plan "B" choice.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

End times

In a recent article in The Futurist magazine, writer Laura Lee catalogues some of the worst predictions of all time:

"Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments." —Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus, A.D. 100

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." —John Eric Ericksen, surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1873

"Law will be simplified [over the next century]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed." —journalist Junius Henri Browne, 1893

"It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." —Albert Einstein's teacher to Einstein's father, 1895

"It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology." —computer scientist John von Neumann, 1949

"The Japanese don't make anything the people in the U.S. would want." —Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, 1954

"Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years." —Alex Lewyt, president of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company, quoted in The New York Times, June 10, 1955

"Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail." —Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General under Eisenhower, 1959

"By the turn of the century, we will live in a paperless society." —Roger Smith, chairman of General Motors, 1986

"I predict the Internet . . . will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse." —Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld, 1995

The one source that we can trust concerning predictions for the future is the Bible.

Talking about prophecy and the end times is kind of mixed bag. There are those who become obsessed about the subject and read and discuss it continually. Then there are those who rarely, if ever speak about what is coming in the future under the guise that we have enough going on right now - "why concern ourselves with something that may or may not happen?"

I like to stay some where in the middle. Keep and guard a good biblical foundation of what prophecy means.

Here's what I know: There are seven signs of the end times.

1. The return of the Jewish people to Israel. That one particular event is a prophetic "tipping point."

The Bible predicts over and over again that the Jews must be back in their homeland for the events of the end times to unfold (Jeremiah 30:1-3; Ezekiel 34:11-24; Zechariah 10:6-10).

2. Jerusalem establish as the "ground zero" for the end times.

A total of 802 verses in the Bible speak of Jerusalem and of these, 489 are prophetic.

As the end times near, we should expect to see mounting tension and conflict between Israel and the surrounding countries.

3. The reuniting of the Roman Empire.

I still stand back in awe of the fact that Europe is now basically united around one currency: the Euro. Having lived in Europe, and knowing the sense of nationalistic pride that each country has, you can't help but believe that somehow there is a prophetic hand in all of this.

4. The Middle East peace process (or lack thereof)

Continual conflict in the Middle East sets up the party for the rise of the Antichrist. Don't forget that the Bible in 550 B.C. predicted that Antichrist would come to power on a platform of peace for Israel.

5. Iraq

Zechariah 5:5-11 prophecies that Babylon will be rebuilt in the end times.

6. The World is Flat

Thomas Friedman has written a book entitled, "The World is Flat" signifying the fact that all nations are now on the same plain because of the Internet and other business tactics such as outsourcing.

We truly give in a global world that is moving toward a global economy, a global religion (Christianity and Islam duking it out) and a global government.

7. A turning away from God

1 Timothy 4:1 tells us that, " later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."

Jesus is coming soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Organism versus organization

I have always struggled between the fact that the church is an organism and an organization.

We welcome diversity, yet we long for unity.

We want everything to be done with "excellence," but yet strive to allow everybody to operate within their spiritual giftings no matter how "excellent" they are.

We are a living, breathing, growing, (or non-growing) group that functions as does our own bodies. At times we work hard, at other times we need rest.

Yet at the same time we function within a set of rules that only organization can bring.

I came upon some words from Philip Yancey that help explain the dilemma. While that dynamic tightrope between the two will always coexist, there are ways that we can cope with the two.

Yancey writes, "Without a doubt, my all-time favorite animal is the duck-billed platypus. It appeals to my nonconformist instincts because it breaks so many rules of biology. Consider: The platypus has a flat, rubbery bill, no teeth, and webbed feet, like a duck. Yet it has a furry body and beaver-like tail, and nurses its young like a mammal.

But wait—it walks with a lizard gait and lays leathery eggs like a reptile! And the male can use venomous hind-leg spurs to strike like a snake.

The strange animal stymied scientists for years, and in fact the first platypuses shipped back to England in 1800 were judged frauds. Europeans were still reeling from an expensive and popular fad item: imported "genuine mermaids," which turned out to consist of monkeys' heads stitched to the bodies of fish from the China Sea. They were not about to fall for a bizarre concoction of duck's bill, webbed feet, and beaver's body.

The platypus holds a certain charm precisely because it does break all the rules. Somehow or other, it still works as an animal. I like to believe that, in designing the platypus, God had fun stretching the limits of natural law… .

I like the platypus for another reason: its combination of so many incompatible features in one humble animal gives me hope that we humans, too, can break some of the rules that govern the "organisms" in which we are involved. I am thinking particularly of the local church.

The New Testament's favorite metaphor for the church, "the body of Christ," describes an organism, and pastors use organism-type words in speaking of their congregation: the flock, the body, the family of God. But churches also function as organizations; most have a formal governing structure and involve themselves in personnel management and supervision. Even churches with single-person staffs must supervise volunteer programs. Like it or not, every church becomes a Christian organization. Those two words thrown together set up an immediate tension. …

All [my] exposure to Christian organizations [through the years] has convinced me that the church, like the platypus, is a whole made up of contradictory parts.

Organizations, such as the army, government, and big business, follow one set of rules. Organisms, such as living things, families, and closely-knit small groups, follow another. The church falls somewhere between the two and attracts criticism from both sides. Organization people accuse it of poor management, sloppy personnel procedures, and general inefficiency. Organism people complain when the church begins to function as just another institution and thus loses its personal, "family" feel.

I have concluded the tension between organism and organization is unavoidable and even healthy. I would feel uncomfortable within a church that tilted too far toward either model. A healthy church combines forces normally found in polar opposition. We must strive to be efficient and yet compassionate, unified and yet diverse, structured and yet flexible. We must live like a platypus in a world of mammals, reptiles, and fowl."

Good stuff.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ministering in spite of our feelings

Here's what I know: we act our way into feelings; we don't feel our way into actions. So much of our lives consists of a series of choices that we make that are not dependant upon how we feel.

For example: It's always interesting to me when it comes to the responses I receive when I approach someone concerning a ministry opportunity.

When I hear, "George, let me pray about it," I know that is a no.

When I hear, "let me talk to my spouse about it," I know that is a maybe.

Every once in a while someone has said, "I don't want to." While I appreciate their honesty - it causes me to pause and to reflect on the fact that much of our lives consists of doing things we really don't want to do.

What better time to do something "we don't want to do - than when it's in ministry?" There is a lot in life that "I don't want to do," yet I do it knowing that it is building up the kingdom of God.

As I said last Sunday in the first service, "when will we ever come to the point where we do something in the kingdom of God, not for what we get out of it, but for what we can put into it?"

Brennan Manning has written:

"I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.

When somebody is aware of that love—the same love that the Father has for Jesus—that person is just spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We're not joyful and then become grateful—we're grateful, and that makes us joyful."

May you be blessed today in making wise choices, not matter how you may feel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being a father

Last night I sat down with my son, George, and watched some home videos of when my kids were young. It was great fun.

I watched as Christie played the piano and did a routine with a baton.

I watched as Becky was a lead in a church play and sang a song with Debbie in church.

I watched as George sang a solo in a church play and generally acted throughout each video as only he can.

As I went to bed, I paused and realized how quickly time marches on. In one sense it seems like yesterday that they were all born. In another sense it seems like it was a lifetime ago.

I also paused and reflected on those times and hope that I was a good father. I think I did okay.

I made my mistakes, I know. But if I remember right, I tried to apologize for those mistakes and go on.

My favorite vacation? The one we went on together to Washington D.C. in 2001. It was pre-911 and we had access to the White House (tour) and the Capital, etc.

I can remember each birth, each graduation, each day that they left for college. I remember recitals, games, concerts and a wedding. And now a grand baby on the way.

I guess I want to get sentimental here, and that's okay.

I love them all very much. There's nothing like having great kids.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Voting and unity

The church is meant to be a theocracy to be governed by Jesus.

Jesus is the head over all things in the church. The church is not an ecclesiastical dictatorship to be governed by the pastors and church board. The church is not a democracy to be governed by the majority.

The church is a theocracy where the pastor and leaders and the congregation itself may vote form time to time; but in a theocracy voting serves a very different purpose than it does in a democracy. In a democracy, we vote to determine government and policy. In a theocracy, we vote to determine unity.

So that when the pastor and the board/congregation vote, the most important thing they are discovering is, do we have enough unity in the church to act on this matter without fractionating the Body of Christ?

I am pleased to share with you that at our congregational meeting last night, our church family voted to release prematurely a parcel of land, and that the vote was 87"yes," with 1 "no" and 1 "no vote".

We are rejoicing together at the show of unity that the vote indicates!

It's one more step to our church moving out to 183rd street. One more step of faith. One more challenge to meet.

It's exciting!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Too busy to pray?

I've been problem solving all week. Nothing really negative, just typical church life stuff. More will come today before I come home this evening.

Your life is probably like that also.

One of the solutions is to be in continual conversation with God.

Sometimes we think we are too busy to talk with God.

Recently I found the top 10 reasons we think are too busy to pray:

1. You wake up feeling rested, then realize your alarm should've gone off an hour ago.

2. Your spouse is away on a two-day business trip that's lasted all week.

3. None of the clean clothes you were able to find match.

4. Your teenager shaved…the left half of his head.

5. Your bills are due, and your toddler hid the checkbook.

6. A strange fluid is dripping from your car.

7. You accidentally delete your quarterly report ten minutes before a meeting with your boss.

8. You're in charge of games for the church youth night tonight.

9. Your dog is throwing up.

10. Your toilet's overflowing, but at least you found the checkbook.

Life is fun, isn't it!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Measuring the success of a meeting

I am in a lot of meetings. I spend a lot of time in the "common room" of our church. It's an important place.

Staff meetings are held there.
Deacon board meetings are held there.
Lunches are held there.
Ministry leadership meetings are held there.
Spiritual formation classes are held there.

On and on it goes.

I came across a few thoughts on "how to measure the success of a meeting."

There are basically three dimensions (like a triangle):


Process Relationship

All three are important.

All three are to be implemented if a meeting is to be a success.

For some a meeting is a "success" if there were results. Did we come up with some informed decisions? Is there a clear understanding of who is responsible for certain follow-up tasks?

For others a meeting is a "success" if there is a process? Did everyone participate? Was there time taken to facilitate information exchange and decision making?

Lastly, some consider a meeting a "success" if everyone gets along. Has there been openness and honesty? Have we shown respect and courtesy for one another?

Again, all three are important.

Myself, I tend to lean (at least in my perception) on results and relationship. I need "process" people in my ministry life, for they balance out the fact that I am solution oriented. Some people find a problem in every solution. They seek out problems. I tend to want to keep guiding the conversation toward the end-game. What are we trying to achieve?

Here's what I am learning. Process people are needed in the kingdom. I think that as long as we all (whether we are process or results oriented) keep in focus that relationship at the end of the day is the key - we continue to move forward in unity in the body of Christ.

Which one do you tend to lean toward? I want to emphasize that neither of the three are superior to the other two. That's why there is a triangle. They all have equal weight.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The church - what is it?

What is "the church" to you?

John Schwider came by my office yesterday and is loaning me a book to read entitled, "Created For Community," by Stanley J. Grenz.

He reiterates some of the things that I said on Sunday morning as well as adds on to give us a wonderful picture of the church.

Some of the stuff you know.

For example:

I don't need to tell you that the church is more than brick and mortar.

I don't need to tell you that the church is more than a building in which worship services are held on Sundays?

I don't need to tell you that the church is more than the Sunday services themselves.

I don't need to tell you that the church is more than a gigantic organization, a society or a club which we choose to join as we see fit.

You know all that.

What I do need to tell you is that the church is people. That's it? Yeah, that's it.

It is composed of people. Just like you and me.

But not just any people.

A people with the Spirit of God living in them. A people with a purpose to live in relationship with God and each other.

The church is a relational people.

It is not an end in itself. God does not call us out of the world to become cozy little cliques or a "holy huddle."

We are called out to reach out to both insiders and outsiders so that insiders might grow in Christ and outsiders might connect with Christ.

Randy Frazee has written a book called "The Connecting Church." He has a son who was born without a left hand. One day in Sunday School the teacher was talking with the children about the church. To illustrate her point she folded her hands together and said, "Here's the church, here's the steeple; open the doors and see all the people."

She asked the class to do it along with her – obviously not thinking about his son's inability to pull this exercise off. Then it dawned on her that the boy wouldn't be able to join in.

Before she could do anything about it, the little boy next to his son, a friend of his from the time they were babies, reached out his left hand and said, "Let's do it together." The two boys proceeded to join their hands together to make the church and the steeple.

Frazee says, "This hand exercise should never be done again by an individual because the church is not a collection of individuals, but the one body of Christ."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday evenings

I must admit that I enjoyed being home last night (Sunday evening). I took a walk and ended up talking to some neighbors for about 45 minutes. Connecting with the neighbors. It was a beautiful night.

Again, it begs the question - how can I connect with "outsiders" unless I spend time on the "outside"? It's one thing to proclaim in church that we want to reach outsiders for Christ. It's another thing entirely to prioritize our time so that we naturally find windows of opportunity to create relationships with those who don't know Christ.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. How can we care unless we have opportunities to create friendships?

It has been stated that two years after someone becomes a Christian they have no non-churched friends. That statistic bothers me - and if I could be so blunt - it should bother you as well.

Again - let's make it simple:

Come on Sunday mornings. Participate in a small group. Serve in a ministry.

No more. No less.

Debbie and I plan on starting a small group on Sunday evenings in September. It will be a turbo group for those who want to experience small groups but don't yet want to make a commitment to an established small group.

It's a great way for us to "get to know" family units in our church family.

We will also plan on having cookouts and dinners where Debbie and I will invite our entire block to come and share food with our small group.

It's exciting!