September 29, 2006
Last month we shared the disturbing late night experience of Pastor Nick Overduin. While sleeping in his study Overduin had a frightening encounter with "The Voice." His experience started a conversation about our openness and skepticism toward the supernatural. Nick Overduin is back to respond to many of your comments and concerns, and to keep the conversation going.
I appreciate the comments that were made in response to my Aug. 18, 2006 article "Old Men Will Dream Dreams." I have searched the links regarding "sleep paralysis," and definitely resonated with those descriptions. I think, physiologically, this was my experience. However, according to my understanding of God as the Creator, such a scientific diagnosis does not eliminate the possibility that God was saying something to me precisely at such a time.
Continue reading Old Men Will Dream Dreams (Revisited): Was it really the voice of God?...
September 28, 2006
"The church has bought into this idea that if we make Jesus look cool, we win. But we're really trying to make ourselves look cool, not Jesus. We certainly need to repent of that."
-Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and speaker at the 2006 Catalyst Conference
Taken from "Not Here to Make Jesus Cool" in the Summer 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
September 25, 2006
What do a pastor, a politician, and a pop star have in common? Until recently, not much. But Bono, lead singer of the band U2, has managed to unite these unlikely groups around the issue of social justice. As a self-appointed ambassador for the poor, Bono has helped the evangelical church in America become more sensitive to those in need around the world and awakened our marginalized, or in some places forgotten, call to seek justice. But, is the new focus on social justice just another pop-Christian trend? This week Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, ponders that question.
I had a very, very haunting conversation with a good friend who is a pastor at a church in southern California. We hadn't seen each other for awhile and as we were catching up he was excited about a ministry he was starting with used clothing stores where all the profit goes to orphanages. My friend has had social justice and compassion ministries as major part of his church ethos since it began many years ago, definitely in the PB (pre-Bono) dispensation.
As he was showing me photos of his latest venture with the clothing stores he stopped and said, almost with embarrassment, "This sounds really trendy, doesn't it?" What was haunting to me and what I have thought about since the conversation I had with my friend, is what if it is true? What if social justice and compassion projects are simply the latest trend?
Continue reading Pop Justice: Is social action the latest church trend?...
September 21, 2006
This month Out of Ur is starting a new feature called "Out of Context." Each week we will post a quote from an article in the current issue of Leadership Journal that may cause you to ruminate, cogitate, or possibly regurgitate. As always, your comments and responses are encouraged.
"I love the statement by G.K. Chesterton who said that we could have a really good argument over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. But we cannot have any debate over whether or not Jesus believed rich people were in big trouble. There's just too much evidence that he did."
-Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church
Take from "Preaching Past TiVo" in the Summer 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
September 20, 2006
Last week a study was released by economists called "No Booze? You May Lose." Researches found that people who drink alcohol make more money and may have an advantage in social settings. But does the same hold true for pastors? Author, professor, pastor, and regular contribut-Ur, David Fitch is back to discuss the popular restriction on clergy to abstain from alcohol and tobacco. Are such rules helpful, and could they possibly be making us fat?
On August 25th, Chicago Sun Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani wrote a piece entitled "Weighty Matter: Is religion making us fat?" In the piece, she recited Adam Ant's lyrics in the 80's "Don't drink, don't smoke, what do ya do?" She raised the question whether those Christian denominations that prohibit drinking and smoking are abusing food as a substitute for these other prohibited pleasures. For support, Falsani quotes a Purdue University study that concluded (after accounting for several other factors) that some kinds of churches seem to encourage the problem of obesity. In fact, the study states that churches where drinking alcohol, smoking, and even dancing are prohibited, "overeating has become the accepted vice."
My denomination, along with others rooted in the old holiness movements, still hangs on to the holiness codes that prohibit alcohol and tobacco for its clergy. I consider this to be "an adventure in missing the point," to quote Brian McLaren, and I believe Falsani helps us see why. Let me explain.
Continue reading Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Clergy holiness codes miss the point...
September 18, 2006
What makes a good pastor? In seminary I was told a good pastor knows Greek and Hebrew. Church elders told me a good pastor keeps the budget in the black and people in the pews. In part two of his post, Jim Martin, pastor of Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas, continues his thoughts on good pastors (a.k.a. "Jesus Leaders").
We are at our best when we help move men and women toward the kingdom of heaven. Contrast this with Jesus' observation that some teachers of his day seemed to get in the way of people moving ahead toward kingdom living. In far too many churches there is a disconnect between the men and women in the pews and those who are leading the church. How tragic when the church appears to be ahead of the leaders. How tragic when those who lead no longer have a genuine pastoral heart for people. Not so with Jesus leaders. They shepherd people like Jesus.
Continue reading Jesus Leaders Part 2: Pastors at their best...
September 14, 2006
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article discussing conflicts caused by pastors seeking to implement the popular Purpose-Driven Church model in their congregations. Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at North Park University in Chicago, and one of our favorite bloggers writes here about the WSJ article and asks some important questions about the Purpose-Driven philosophy of ministry.
The gist of the Wall Street Journal article is that some churches split or experience serious tension when pastors try to implement the Purpose-Driven Church model. The pastors who are trying to implement such changes seem to have good reasons: they want their churches to gain a clear mission and to grow, but it always comes at the cost of change for the parishioners.
The Purpose-Driven model focuses on these five elements: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. It also seeks to move people from community, to crowds, to congregation, to committed, and then to the core. Thus, it leads from knowing Christ to growing in Christ to serving Christ to sharing Christ.
Here are the questions that come to mind for me from this article about churches struggling over adapting the model, and I'm keen on hearing what you have to say.
Continue reading Purpose-Driven Conflict: churches split over the popular ministry model...
September 12, 2006
Pastors have an image problem. Despite the growing number of celebrity pastors on television, radio, and bookstore shelves, the wider culture's respect for clergy has been declining for generations. Jim Martin, pastor of Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas, reflects in this article about Jesus' words to religious leaders and how they can help us
The plane was about to take off from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I noticed the man in the seat across the aisle, one row up, as he began to read The Dallas Morning News. On the front page of the paper in bold letters was a jarring headline. A local pastor had been found guilty of sexually assaulting three women. I watched my fellow passenger as he began reading the story. I wondered what was going through his mind.
Many people are cynical about the church. That's not news. There are many reasons for this cynicism. Some are cynical because of a basic mistrust of the people leading these churches. Some feel burned after learning a leader was living an immoral lifestyle. Others have been burned by placing their confidence in some church leader only to be severely disappointed due to displays of anger, ego, manipulation, etc. In contrast to these experiences, many people today would find genuine Jesus leaders to be quite refreshing.
Continue reading Jesus Leaders: What pastors were meant to be...
September 7, 2006
Lee Eclov thinks people need more than helpful applications in a sermon. Rather than being told what to do in three easy step, Eclov argues that good preaching should teach people how to think differently. In the first part of his post he discussed the "bottom line fallacy." In part two Eclov uncovers the second danger - the practical fallacy.
I only vaguely recall the world of geometry - axioms, theorems, conclusions. I do remember the inevitable question: "Why do we need to know this stuff?" And I remember Mr. Cermak's answer: "Whether or not you use these formulae, geometry teaches you to think logically."
Some preachers are afraid of the question, "Why do we need to know this stuff?" so they try to make every sermon "practical," meaning it is about everyday issues like money or kids. Doctrinal preaching, or the week-by-week exposition of a biblical book appears not to scratch where people itch. People want sermons about things they can use on Monday. Like the sophomores in my geometry class.
But Paul tells us, "All Scripture...is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." All Scripture. All Scripture is practical. It is practical, not because it all addresses everyday concerns, but because it all "civilizes" our thinking.
Continue reading The Danger of Practical Preaching Part 2: Allowing scripture to civilize our thinking...
September 5, 2006
Many of the largest and "most successful" churches have built their ministries on the value of practicality. As a result, Christians today have come to expect spiritual formation by numbers: 5 love languages, 7 steps to healing, 40 days of purpose. But has our demand for a practical faith paradoxically limited the Bible's effectiveness in our lives? Lee Eclov, pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire in Illinois, shares the dangers he sees in practical preaching.
Rob, a stockbroker, thought sermons should be 20 minutes. No longer. To him, a good sermon was what others call the conclusion. "Cut to the bottom line," he said. "That's what I expect at work, and that's what I want at church."
Stan, a preacher, didn't see length as the issue, but he was determined every sermon be "practical." He preached on five principles of friendships, six secrets of managing money, and four ways to win over worry. He believed in sound doctrine, but he felt he had to give people something they could take to work on Monday morning.
These men illustrate two fallacies about biblical preaching: The Bottom Line Fallacy and the Practical Fallacy. Both reveal a misunderstanding, not merely of preaching, but of the workings of Scripture.
Continue reading The Danger of Practical Preaching: Why people need more than the bottom line...