October 30, 2007
John Piper says we shouldn’t let guilt over sexual sin derail our ministry.
There is no need to reiterate the statistics on sexual immorality among clergy. We all know them. And we also know that addiction to pornography is at epidemic levels even within the church. But do we know how many gifted young leaders never answer their call into ministry because of the guilt they feel over past sexual sins?
John Piper has written an article for Christianity Today addressing this problem. He says:
?so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ. The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.
Continue reading Missions and Masturbation...
October 29, 2007
Have I nurtured my spouse's personality, or buried it?
When I get home tonight, I'll think awhile about Gordon MacDonald's new column. In fact, I think most pastors and leaders should think hard on his thesis: What has the dominant, big-personality, leader type squelched in his spouse? I may muster the courage to ask my wife what she thinks about it.
Those of us who have spent our lives getting close to people for pastoral reasons are quite well acquainted with the grief that floods the life of one who has lost a dearly loved spouse. We've observed the paralyzing sadness and sense of loss and know that only time will dull the pain. There are a plethora of books and seminars that speak about this experience.
What is less talked or written about is the opposite of such grief. The word that comes to me is liberation. In some cases the death of a spouse actually liberates the surviving spouse to remove something like a disguise and become a new person.
I once stood near enough to overhear a conversation between a woman and two of her adult children soon after the funeral and burial services for her husband (and their father) had concluded. Apparently, either the son or the daughter, thinking they were offering a kind of protective love to the mother, tried to take charge and tell her something that she should or shouldn't do.
The mother (freshly a widow, remember!) reacted with words wrapped in anger. "Now let's get something straight right this minute. No one! No one is going to tell me what to do any longer. I've been doing what everyone else wanted (alluding no doubt to her deceased husband) for fifty years. Now it's my turn. I'll make my own decisions from here on out. Is this understood?" I had the feeling these words has been rehearsed and that it was only a matter of time until they came out. Now they did.
Continue reading Squelched by Marriage...
October 26, 2007
Greg Hawkins responds with the truth about REVEAL.
Last week's post about Willow Creek sparked a lot of conversation. It all flowed from comments made by the church's leaders following a three year self-evaluation of Willow Creek's ministry effectiveness. Your comments caught the attention of Greg Hawkins, Willow's executive pastor. Below Hawkins reponds to your thoughts, clarifies what Willow has learned, and discusses the church's future.
I'm thrilled to see the high level of interest and energy behind the blogosphere comments about REVEAL. But I've read enough postings to think that it might be helpful to provide a few facts on three issues that keep coming up. Trust me. I'm not into "spin control" here. I just want to fill in some gaps.
1. It's Not About Willow
? REVEAL's findings are based on thirty churches besides Willow. In all thirty churches, we've found the six segments of REVEAL's spiritual continuum, including the Stalled and Dissatisfied segments. And these churches aren't all Willow clones. We've surveyed traditional Bible churches, mainline denominations, African-American churches and churches representing a wide range of geographies and sizes. Right now we're fielding the survey to 500 additional churches, including 100 international churches. So, while REVEAL was born out of a Willow research project in 2004, the findings are not exclusive to Willow Creek.
Continue reading Willow Creek Repents? (Part 2)...
October 25, 2007
What are your captions for this cartoon? We know Out of Ur and Leadership readers will have some great ones on this NASCAR theme.
Winning entries will be published in the Winter 2008 edition of Leadership. Please include your name, your church’s name, city, and state.
October 23, 2007
If a church refuses to marry gay people should it still bury them?
In August, leaders at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas, "cancelled a memorial service for a Navy veteran shortly before it was to start because the deceased was gay." That is how the event was described by the Associated Press. The report ignited a firestorm of bad press for the church with many accusing the congregation of homophobia.
Initially, High Point Church had volunteered to host the funeral because the dead man was the relative of a church employee. However, the church withdrew the offer when the family asked that a choir of homosexual men (Turtle Creek Chorale) perform at the funeral. In addition, they wanted a homosexual minister to officiate the service. The church's decision to cancel the funeral was "a slap in the face" according to the man's sister.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the church's reason for cancelling the funeral had nothing to do with the man's homosexuality but that "his friends and family wanted that part of his life to be a significant part of the service." This contradicted the church's policy and beliefs.
Continue reading The Alternative After-Lifestyle...
October 18, 2007
Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."
Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels' office hangs a poster that says: "What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?" Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry - church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage - has impacted every evangelical church in the country.
So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, "We made a mistake"?
Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings "earth shaking," "ground breaking," and "mind blowing."
If you'd like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels' reactions, recorded at last summer's Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.
Continue reading Willow Creek Repents?...
October 15, 2007
How many voices speak of God in your church?
We live in a dark world. Our hearts long for goodness, beauty, justice, and peace, but they are often hidden behind the shadow cast by evil and sin. This is why preaching is so necessary. Whenever the kingdom of God is proclaimed, it is like a bright burst of light. In those brief moments, the shadows recede and we are given a glimpse of a world behind the darkness. It is a sublime vision that reorders our perception of reality and leaves us hungry for more.
This understanding of preaching, the unveiling of an inspiring vision of God's kingdom, is not the one I've always held. I was formed to think that the primary purpose of preaching was instruction. This view of preaching expects the informed, articulate person behind the pulpit to teach the congregation divine truths and skills. The pupils are then expected to bury these seeds of biblical knowledge away in their brains where in time they germinate into godly values and behaviors, although few people seem surprised when they don't.
In Dallas Willard's V.I.M. model of spiritual formation, he differentiates three parts: vision, intention, and means. Instructional preaching falls under the third component - means. It teaches people the methods through which they can obey Christ. These "how to" sermons usually have clearly articulated, often alliterated, application points relevant to one's life.
I never questioned this "preaching as instruction" view until I stepped behind the pulpit myself. What I discovered disturbed me.
Continue reading Glimpses of Glory...
October 10, 2007
"The American church as a whole needs to move from selfish consumerism to unselfish contribution. Those are poles apart. To start with a woman who's most interested in how many diamonds she's got in her tennis bracelet, and move her to sit under a banyan tree holding an AIDS baby- that's a giant leap. People in this culture are trained to think about me, me, me; I've got to do what's best for me. Even when we go to church we have this consumer mentality."
-Rick Warren serves as pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Taken from "It's Not About Rick" in the Summer 2007 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.
October 9, 2007
Leading believers to embrace a simpler life.
Chad Hall is experiencing the simpler life. Intentionally. And he's wondering what effect his quest for less has on those he leads. And he has three questions we can ask.
Everywhere I go these days, big is in. My combo meal is super-sized, my SUV is third row, and the TV of my dreams is 62-inch plasma. We Americans are big eaters, big spenders, and big wasters. Even our churches are into big, enlarging auditoriums, renting big malls and even bigger coliseums in order to accommodate big crowds and enable big growth. Like the population at large, we Christians seem to have a growing acceptance of the bigger is better credo.
But all this growth might be creating some big problems.
Our society and systems seem incapable of handling the never-ceasing expansion of want and need. Our souls are groaning and the planet is buckling beneath the collateral damage of growth. Landfills are full, the air is thick, and we cannot drink from many of our streams.
In light of our growing problems, maybe the church should give small a chance. I propose that ministry leaders are just the ones to help Christ followers exchange big for small. After all, leaders are supposed to help usher others toward something better (not just something bigger), so maybe we should start ushering folks toward living lives that are less hectic, less cluttered, less selfish, less toxic. And maybe instead of a big ad campaign advertising "LESS!" we should start living with less ourselves. Instead of just preaching it from the pulpit, maybe some personal choices would help slow down the growth, bring some sanity to our lives and make the world more livable.
Continue reading Living with Less...
October 5, 2007
The emerging response to personal justification and social justice.
David Fitch is back with part 2 of his critique of the emerging response to evangelicalism. In part 1 he noted the "we're in, you're out" mentality in much of the evangelical church, and the anemic emerging reaction to this black and white theology. Here, Fitch takes on our over emphasis of having a "personal relationship" with Christ while ignoring the social component of the gospel.
A second weakness I see emerging churches responding to is the individualizing tendencies of evangelical ways of being Christ's church. Our churches are organized to meet the spiritual needs of individuals, and our salvation is incredibly individualistic. Calling Jesus "a personal Savior" sounds like Jesus is in the same category as my personal barber, personal trainer, or personal dental hygenist (BTW, I don't have a personal trainer). The danger is making salvation all about me.
I know it didn't start out this way in evangelicalism, but it was latent in the structure of our soteriology. And so we have almost romanticized our relationship with God; created a narcissistic experience of it. And churches become all about preserving, maintaining, and nurturing this experience in their parishioners.
But the gospel is not about getting something, it is about participating in something - God's work of reconciling the whole world to Himself. And yes, we do have a relationship with God which becomes personal but it is inseparable from His mission.
Continue reading Me, Myself, and Jesus...
October 1, 2007
Why are we so good at leading people to faith and so bad at prodding them to maturity?
Gordon MacDonald's column for October is my own lament: Why are there so many spiritual babies? And why don't the mature believers do something about it? We're really good at bringing people into the kingdom, Gordon says, but lousy at prodding them to maturity. Our sage is not afraid to point fingers.
I have been musing on the words of Martin Thornton: "A walloping great congregation," he wrote, "is fine and fun, but what most communities really need is a couple of saints.
The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre."
"Saints," he says. Mature Christians: people who are "grown-up" in their faith, to whom one assigns descriptors such as holy, Christ-like, Godly, or men or women of God.
Now mature, in my book does not mean the "churchly," those who have mastered the vocabulary and the litany of church life, who come alive only when the church doors open. Rather, I have in mind those who walk through all the corridors of the larger life - the market-place, the home and community, the playing fields - and do it in such a way that, sooner or later, it is concluded that Jesus' fingerprints are all over them.
Continue reading So Many Christian Infants...