Sunday, May 28, 2006

Marriage under attack, but it's not by "them"

I read this article by David Waters this morning. It's from today's Commercial Appeal. Here's an excerpt:

"Today, the institution of marriage is under attack," Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said a few months ago when he promised to haul the Marriage Protection Amendment -- which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman -- out of cold storage and up for a vote in early June.

"The danger this betokens for family life and a general condition of social justice and ordered liberty is hard to overestimate," stated a letter sent last week urging Congress to approve the amendment. It was signed by "the Religious Coalition of America," an impressive list of 50 religious leaders, including Rick Warren, James Dobson, Charles Blake and Eugene Rivers, and all eight U.S. Catholic cardinals.

Frist and the "Coalition" are right about one thing. The institution of marriage is under attack, but not by homosexuals.

By heterosexuals.

The percentage of men and women who get married every year is as low as it has ever been in this country.

More than half of all African-American children are living in single-parent homes. Fifty years ago, that figure was 22 percent.

One in five white children are living in single-parent homes. That figure has tripled in the past 50 years.

One in three children in America are born to unwed mothers!

In Memphis, three in five children are born out of wedlock!

I'm not a fan of exclamation points, but the previous two sentences should shock us all.

Read the rest of the article

The Lord's Prayer

I've started reading Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed. Chapter 2 is on the Lord's Prayer. McKnight says, "we learn at least four things when we permit the Lord's Prayer to mentor our prayer life" (19).

1. We learn to approach God as Abba.
2. We learn waht God really wants.
God's love plan is for his glorious Name to be honored and his will to become concrete reality on earth. In pondering God's name, Kingdom, and will, we are prompted (daily) to yearn for what God yearns for.
3. We learn to think of others.
4. We learn what everyone needs.
Our concern is with God's breaking into history to make this world right for all of us. And that means praying for others so that they will have adequate provisions, spiritual purity, and moral stability.

McKnight points out that Jesus knew the dangers of prayer becoming nothing more than ritual. The Lord's Prayer can often become this. He says, "Jesus knows that his liturgical prayer will provide a framework for prayer, some hooks on which his disciples can hang their own praises and requests, their own complaints and queries" (18).

The following is a paraphrase of this passage by Dallas Willard (The Divine Conspiracy, p.269).

Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us -
may your will be done here on earth
in just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don't put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge,
and you have all the power,
and the glory too is all yours - forever -
which is just the way we want it!

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Review of Shane Claiborne's book

Here's a review of The Irrisistable Revolution from Relevant magazine.

I live an admittedly comfortable life. So comfortable, in fact, that when I picked up my copy of Shane Claiborne’s new book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as An Ordinary Radical, it didn’t even dawn on me to dawn on me that it would be anything other than some chewable food for thought. I had heard Shane speak his provocative words at my church, experienced first hand the rabble-rousing caused by his radical notions. I was fascinated by his hand-made clothes and dreadlocks and inspired by his ardent adherence to the uncomfortable parts of the Bible that most of us conveniently ignore. But I still didn’t get that the heart of Claiborne’s message is as simple as love.

From the moment I cracked the first page, I knew I was in trouble. I was not even through Jim Wallis’s introduction before I caught myself biting my nails in discomfort at the “cultural Christianity” describing to the letter my consumer existence. The Gospel is not comfortable, says Claiborne, and it is precisely our comfort inside church walls, inside our own homes, inside our own prejudices that has kept Christians immobile and ineffective as agents of social change. “I did not want to settle for a life detached from the groanings of the slums or the beauty of playing in open fire hydrants,” Claiborne asserts. “The more I read the Bible, the more I felt my comfortable life interrupted.”

Three types of leaders

More from Confessions of a Reformission Rev...

Three types of leaders (145):

  1. Opportunity Seekers – continually seek new opportunities and are highly motivated by change and growth
  2. Goal Setters – make plans and break projects into phases to ensure chaos is managed so that success is achieved
  3. Problem Solvers – continually seek to understand potential problems and needs so that barriers to success can be proactively identified and removed

Four Phases of Organizational Decline

I read this in Driscoll's book, but it originally came from Rich DeVos.

Four Phases of Organizational Decline (141)
  1. Creative, the dream stage
  2. Management, the reality stage
  3. Defensive justification, the failure stage
  4. Blaming, the death stage

The comfort zone is the place a church commonly falls into once they have learned how to survive. This is the state of most American churches, with between 60 and 80 percent of all churches in America either plateaued or declining in membership and/or attendance. In the comfort zone, often there is no longer a visible immediate crisis since the bills are paid, most of the big jobs are being done by someone, leaders are officially in place, a permanent facility has been secured, and the people in the church have generally grown to know and love one another. At this stage, the propensity is for the church to settle in, accept its size, and slip into a mode of maintenance. At some point, people will move away or die, others will get bored, and slowly the church will begin a cycle of decline unless it intentionally reinvents itself missionally to continue to grow by taking risks in an effort to reach lost people for Jesus (141).

I noticed that each time we were in a creative phase, our church attracted more entrepreneurial types of skilled leaders who were excited about the opportunity to try something new and make a difference in our city. This indicates that chaos and crisis can be leveraged to a church’s benefit (142).

The hope for every church is that they work through their management issues, thereby enabling them to return to the creative phase, where they dream up a new project and enthusiastically undertake it and raise a whole new set of management issues to overcome. Therefore, the goal of the management phase is not to get the church organized or under control. Rather, the management phase is needed to eliminate the inefficiencies and barriers that are keeping the church from refocusing back on the creative phase and creating a whole new set of problems to manage (142).

In the defensive justification phase, something has gone terribly wrong and has failed at the management phase. Or the church succeeded at the management stage but never returned to the creative phase and got stuck with a bunch of well-organized managers running the church but no creative and visionary new ideas to move the church forward. Because the church is in a defensive posture, people start to leave the church, and the best and brightest people are no longer attracted to the church because it has lost sight of any risky mission that calls people to rise up in faith (143).

I feared that deconstructing and essentially restarting the church would kill us. I had found it a bit easier to take a risky gamble when we had nothing, but now we had something to lose (144).

What comforted me most as I was prayerfully thinking through our next season was a lengthy study through the New Testament in which I searched for what God promises to do for the church. As I studied, I learned that God promises to grow his church, select elders, save people, bless the teaching of his Word, gift people with exactly the abilities the church needs, and providentially make up for human mistakes if people are repentant of their sins. By the end of my studies, I was confident that our future would be fine because the heavy lifting would continue to be done by Jesus and that we just needed to trust him with obedience and keep going (144-145).

Maturity is the point at which the senior leaders again call the church to the mission that Jesus has called them to accomplish. As a church reaches maturity, it in some ways returns to a relaunching phase, in which the church organizes itself for growth but in a very thoughtful and wise way, seeking to maximize all their resources to achieve their goals (167).

Confessions of a Reformission Rev

I finished up Mark Driscoll's newest book a few weeks ago. Here are some great quotes from the book.

Characteristics of the emerging and missional church (19-20)

  • Missions is every Christian being a missionary to their local culture
  • The church accepts that it is marginalized in culture and holds no privileged position of influence but gains influence by serving the common good
  • The primary culture to reach is postmodern and pluralistic
  • Theology ranges from ancient orthodoxy to heterodox liberalism built on postmodern denials of true truth and known knowledge
  • Churches are the people who love Jesus and serve his mission in a local culture
  • Churches grow as Christians bring Jesus to lost people through hospitality
  • Community means the church is a counterculture with a new kingdom way of life through Jesus
  • Pastors need not be ordained or formally educated in theology and are trained in the church
  • Pastors are missiologists who train Christians to be effective missionaries
  • Lost people are saved by the Holy Spirit when and how he determines
  • Faith is lived publicly together as the church and includes all of life
  • Worship services blend ancient forms and current local cultural styles
  • Church buildings are sacred, as is all of God’s creation

Attractional churches need to transform their people from being consumers in the church to being missionaries outside of the church. Missional churches need to gather crowds to their church so that hard words of repentance can be preached in an effort to expose people’s hearts. Those whom God saves can then be trained to go back out into the culture as missionaries to gather more people to repeat the process. Simply, the goal of the church that is both missional and attractional is to continually follow Jesus’ example so that more people are saved for God’s mission and more influence is spread for God’s kingdom, without rejecting one aspect of Jesus’ ministry in favor of another (27).

One of the greatest inhibitors of keeping a church on mission is the erroneous spoken and unspoken expectations people have for church leaders and their families. In a missional church, the lead pastor is the architect who builds the ship more than he is the captain who pilots it, the cook who washes dishes in the galley, or the activities director who coordinates the shuffleboard reservations. The role of architect is incredibly important because most pastors have been trained how to work on a ship instead of how to build a ship (34).

Kingdom Workshops

These folks from Florida are experimenting with a new way of training missionaries. Their first gathering is this weekend. Here's an excerpt about these workshops.

A few months ago, T and I had a series of conversations with Chris about the need to expose some of their full-time workers and volunteers to training that would move Urban Youth beyond convert-making and into disciple-building. We struggled with this question for quite some time, not least because I had been resistent to the idea of simply providing information to people without the potential for long-term learning and application to occur. Chris too, frankly, was tired of seeing people go through training programs and then get wrapped up in a culture of busyness that is such an easy path to follow in an active ministry.

So if you've read this far, you're probably interested in what we've come up with: Kingdom Workshops. I've created a little website that will give you all the details so I won't go into everything here. Very briefly, Kingdom Workshops will be 2-day collaborative learning experiences around different values of the kingdom. They will not primarily be informational, but will be aimed at helping us understand and appropriate kingdom realities in our real lives. From the website: "The goal is to create a shared learning environment that enables everyone to participate in the discovery process. In God's world, there are no experts, only explorers." In other words, it will not be myself or T or anyone else getting up and lecturing about the kingdom. There will be some ideas offered, a lot of questions posed - but primarily it will be working out the implications together. The first one will be over Memorial Day weekend on the kingdom of God being the basis for the gospel Jesus preached.

Here's the rest of the post.

Church = A Training Center for Missional People

I read this statement on Dan Kimball's site awhile back. He was quoting Scot McKnight. I've been thinking a lot about this, especially since moving to Memphis. There are many people here in Memphis who were raised in church. Whether or not they had a good experience in church is a toss-up, but the fact that many were raised in church is one of the things that separates this culture from the bay area. This means that there is an awful lot of baggage in people whose church experience was less than ideal. But it also means that there are a lot of people with a good foundation. I think there are many here who have been going to church (or who spent a lot of years going to church), but were never released into the culture as missionaries. I see one of our primary tasks here as empowering and releasing people as missionaries.

So how do we train missionaries? Over the next few months I'm going to be posting thoughts, articles, resources, etc. that will hopefully begin to bring some answers on this question.

Some scary statistics on pastors

I found these on Driscoll's blog. They're from George Barna and Focus on the Family. I think they speak for themselves. We are in a crisis.


  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Read on for some signs that there are problems, as well as some helpful solutions.

Global Warming and Memphis

This article comes from the Memphis Flyer.

In a couple hundred years or so, some scientists say, Memphians who want to go to the beach will just pack up the car and head down to the river bluffs. They believe global warming could raise ocean temperatures and cause the polar ice caps to melt completely. The result: a dramatic rise in sea level that could swallow current coastal cities, eventually bringing the coastline up to Kevin Kane's front porch.

Far-fetched? Not according to Jerry Bartholomew, chair of the University of Memphis earth sciences department. "Memphis will be beachfront property," he says. "All of the major cities along the coast -- Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, Tampa, Charleston, New Orleans -- would be underwater. If you raise sea levels 300 feet, they're under 300 feet of water."

It may sound like a gloom-and-doom scenario, but more than 20 percent of the polar ice caps have melted since 1979, according to The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery's new book on climate change.

Only time will tell how quickly the caps will melt -- or if the melting will continue -- but most scientists now agree that the earth is undergoing some sort of warming trend and that the outlook for the future is troubling.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (an international group of climatologists), the earth has already warmed one degree in recent decades. They say the reason is an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the result of more people burning more and more fossil fuels.

Locally, it's hard to say what effect, if any, global warming has had. Since it is a theory, nothing can be proven. However, Memphis has experienced hotter summers and milder winters for years now, and local plant life is changing. Some plants that don't normally thrive here are now thriving, while some native plants aren't faring as well. These could be temporary changes due to natural weather trends, or they could be human-induced, permanent changes resulting from global warming.

If it is indeed global warming, and the ice caps continue to melt, Memphis will experience more than just a great view of the ocean: Think overcrowding from migrating populations, crop failures, and increases in mosquitoes and disease. That scenario is admittedly a long way off, but scientists say the time to deal with the problem is now.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thoughts on Evangelism

This comes from Scot McKnight's site.

Many evangelistic efforts often close hearts rather than open them. How can you lovingly help someone wonder her way to Christ?

In April 2003, National Public Radio aired a news story about a standoff between an angry mob of Iraqi Shiites and a heavily armored patrol from the American 101st Airborne Division. Fearing that the soldiers were about to desecrate their holy shrine, hundreds of unarmed civilians pressed in toward the soldiers, waving their hands and shouting defiantly. Although the patrol’s intentions were peaceful, the standoff would most likely have ended in tragedy—had it not been for the quick thinking of U.S. Lt. Col. Christopher Hughes.

The commanding officer that day, Hughes picked up a loudspeaker and barked three simple commands to his group. First, he told them to take a knee; second, to point their weapons toward the ground; and finally, to look up and give everyone in the hostile crowd a friendly smile. Within moments of obeying his orders, NPR reported, the troops saw the crowd’s demeanor transform. Hostility and defiance melted away, as smiles and friendly pats on the back replaced shaking fists and screaming voices.

Though not immediately apparent, this hopeful story from the war in Iraq holds important implications for Christian outreach in a world that’s becoming increasingly hostile to traditional evangelistic methods. As author Ravi Zacharias says of today’s evangelism, “We must learn to find the back door to people’s hearts because the front door is heavily guarded.”

Much like the Shiites Lt. Col. Hughes dealt with, many people we hope to reach with the Gospel react defensively. They anticipate, and are amply prepared for, any direct attack on the holy places and sacred shrines of their hearts. Our message rarely gets through because they hear, “My worldview is better than yours, so let me tell you why I’m right and you’re wrong.” Instead of opening hearts to Christ, we merely perpetuate the “us vs. them” standoff.


Friday, May 19, 2006

More on Germantown Baptist Church

As an update to my last post on this subject, the resolution to pass a new Constitution and Bylaws at Germantown Baptist Church did not pass. Apparently, things are still pretty tense. I don't want to give too much in the way of my opinion on this issue. Here are a few more links, though.

14-page letter by an anonymous staff member at GBC
Germantown Baptist drama goes on - 5/18 article from the Commercial Appeal
Germantown pastor says he can still lead, despite loss - 5/11 article from the Commercial Appeal
Comments from my last posting

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lost - there's never been a show like it!

I've been watching Lost since the first episode. There were a couple of times last season that I got online to "research" what the heck was going on. I realized that there are different types of fans. There are those who watch the show every Wednesday, but that's it. Then there are the others (not those "others"), those who treat the show like a PhD research assignment. I have to say that I don't have time to devote my life to this topic, but it sure is tempting. There are three more hours left this season, and it's getting good. Tonight I've been surfing the web, and am pretty much blown away by the creatives behind this show.

ABC has just started an interactive game called "The Lost Experience." This is a pdf document detailing the hints from the first week of the experience.

Here are several links to other interesting sites:

Lost in "Lost" - article from USA Today
The Lost Experience
The Lost Experience Clues
Oceanic Flight 815
The Fuselage
The Hanso Foundation
Society for the Study of Lost
More "Lost" than Ever

Enjoy, and remember, if you haven't been watching this brilliant show, there are always DVD's! Yeah!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hank Hill goes Church Shopping

I found this King of the Hill episode on Mark Driscoll's blog. Very funny!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Division at Germantown Baptist Church

Awhile back I heard that Germantown Baptist Church was going through some major division. A number of members, including the pastor, drafted a new constitution and bylaws. The primary change was that the 11,000-member church would move from a congregation-led church to an elder-led church.

Here are a couple of articles from the Commercial Appeal.

Article #1
Article #2

SaveGBC is a website recently set up by members who oppose the new constitution and bylaws. On the other side of the issue is GBC Plain & Simple. This site was created by those who support the new constitution and bylaws, and has letters by the pastor and many of the staff.

This Sunday night, May 7, the congregation will vote on this issue. Sam Shaw, the senior pastor, made the comment, "It really does give us an opportunity to demonstrate how Christians can disagree and remain family." Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I do not see this ending in a good way. My gut tells me that we'll see another church planted out of a split. I guess we'll find out soon.