cancelling church

it's been snowing like crazy here in the pacific northwest. we don't usually get this sort of snow in the GREATer Seattle area [i'm an hour north, so barely the Seattle area]. we have probably seen a legitimate foot of snow in the last week, and that is rare.

it snowed last Saturday and less than half of our regular attenders showed up for church. anyway...i grew up in the midwest [nebraska], so a little snow is no big deal. when it snows in the midwest the plows come through and life goes on. here, everything shuts down, including church-going.

tomorrow is Sunday. after a week of snow, it is again snowing outside right now. it's supposed to be another big storm. we're NOT cancelling church. some churches are. will anyone be at church? i'm not optimistic.

Hebrews says, "don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing?" snow is one thing, but we experience regular attenders who define "regular" as once a month or less. seriously? once a month is "regular?" once a month is good enough? why are people "giving up meeting together?" why has church become just another thing to do? especially for Christians. i can understand why the rest of the world would look at us and say, "what a waste of time." [reference Marva Dawn's book, Worship: A Royal Waste of Time].

could it be that it actually pleases God when we show up? could it be
that God actually blesses those who show up to give him praise?
i can already hear the arguments and counter-points...

am i off base? is it right to suggest or believe that God blesses
those who show up to worship?


"put the Christ in X-Mas"

well....you can guess that this post is about making "Jesus the reason for the season."
it's about "putting the Christ back in Christmas"
it's about "advent conspiracies"
it's about the "war on Christmas"

honestly...what is Christmas about?  what do you tell people?  is it about Jesus being born?  is it about presents and trees and lights and Santa?  is it about family and friends?  what is Christmas?  honestly.

i recently thought about my own family's traditions.  my family is openly and unashamedly Christian.  we go to church regularly and talk about faith with one another.  however, in practice, our Christmas celebration is more about family than it is about Jesus.  it is an excuse to eat food, play cards, and exchange gifts.  yes, Jesus is important; after all, we're Christians, but our practice says otherwise.  

is family more important than Jesus for most church-goers?  look at our practices, our language, our church programs, our church attendance.  is it about Christian community; the body of Christ; growth; discipleship; evangelism?  or, has church become another agency or educational institution for the betterment of the American family?  

i reflected on the end of Mark 3 recently and was shocked.  Jesus' family thought he was crazy.  they thought he was "out of this mind."  others thought he was possessed.  what does Jesus say to this?  "who are my mother and my brothers?  those who do the will of God are my family."  blunt.  to the point.  my brothers and sisters in Christ take precedent over my blood relatives.  [check out Derek Webb's song "King and a Kingdom" for some great lyrics on this issue]

what is Christmas about?  why do we spend it with family?  why don't we celebrate with our bros and sis in Christ?  maybe you do.  that's awesome!  why don't more churches have worship on Christmas day?  i remember two or three years ago when churches actually closed doors on Sunday, Dec 25.  wow.  seriously?  has blood trumped our unity in Christ?

so.  honestly.  what is Christmas about for you?  how do you practice Christmas?


This American Life: "heretics"

i just stumbled upon a program called "this American life."
it is a weekly show offered by Chicago Pubic Radio and available via Podcast.
this past week [my first listen] there was a story of a prominent Pentecostal Pastor named Carlton Pearson who was recently booted from his high position in conservative Christianity and deemed a heretic....


another pastoral scandal. Pearson recently discovered he does not believe in hell. he explains that God came to him on a trip overseas and told him that hell as he preached it does not exist. there is no fiery place "down there" where bad people go when they die. you have to listen to the program.

from this epiphany of sorts, his stance on evangelism has changed drastically, to say the least. he was ousted from his place of prominence, lost his church, his support, and finds himself black-balled by the Christian elite of America. because he doesn't believe in hell, he is shunned...shun on.

what do we do about this? what, after all, does Christ say about Hell? there are numerous references in Scripture about Hell, or the place for the wicked. observations. in speaking about the reality of Hell, Jesus is usually talking to "religious folk" and not unbelievers. he does not use Hell as a scare tactic or tool for manipulation. Jesus doesn't scare people out of hell. instead, he talks to you and me. he tells us know-it-all religious folk to watch out. also, Jesus tells story about being invited into the Kingdom banquet based on readiness. what is readiness? did you feed me when i was hungry[matt 25]? did you pay attention to the begger at your gate [Lazarus and the rich man]? did you obey my commands? did you love your enemies? etc.

what makes a heretic? someone who claims to follow Christ, yet fails to obey his teachings and tell others about him. telling others about Christ is about inviting them into the Kingdom. it is more about inviting than it is warning. to be sure, Christ offers warnings. Christ says to be prepared. be ready.

i'm interested in your opinions:
1) is it our job primarily to warn about hell, or invite into the Kingdom? is there a difference?
2) if Hell doesn't exist, what changes about how we present/live the Christian faith?
3) is Pearson a heretic? what makes a heretic?


youth ministry 3.0

i am a youth pastor, so i figure i should say something or share some thoughts about what i do...finished reading the book Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher.

the premise...youth ministry is making a shift [needs to make a shift] with the shifting cultural trends of youth.  the 3 dynamics of adolescence are identity, autonomy, and affinity.  whereas youth ministry in the past focused on identity [who we are as Christians in relation to the rest of culture] and autonomy [language of owning their faith emerges] today's youth are particularly interested in affinity.

what is affinity?  commonality.  like-interests.  attraction.
what does this mean for youth ministry?  the book suggests we must look toward being Missional and Communional [yes, it's made up...community and fellowship centered].  we must break down program-driven, big-event-focused ministry in favor of smaller groups that engage in common activities.  if there are kids that like to serve, get them together to serve.  kids that are skaters, get together and skate.  

i hope that summary is fair [if not, oh well, that's what i got!].  i enjoyed and found thought provoking.  some questions emerged for me:

1) isn't the Church, the body of Christ, the one place where people who have no business gathering should gather because of one affinity:  common faith in Christ and unity in the Spirit?

2) there is a push in the book to lessening the focus on program - right on!  however, isn't encouraging "affinity groups" to go out and do their own thing just another program that further sub-divides the body of Christ?  we're not just dividing young/old, traditional/contemporary, now we're talking about dividing the youth into skater/prep, service-oriented/Bible study,  etc.

3) finally, is this just another shot at defining "youth culture's" needs?  i greatly appreciate the work done in this book and the conversation it begs [and is getting].  as a somewhat cynical youth pastor, whenever i pick up material about youth and the changing face of youth culture, i say, "really?  let's ask them."  

after reading these works, i usually go straight to the source, the students themselves, and say, "is this true for you and your peers?"  i'm excited to see what they think!

if you're in youth ministry or support those who are, check out this book!


way of the pilgrim

just finished reading the way of the pilgrim, the classic story of a Russian nomad who discovers the "Jesus Prayer."

the prayer involves repeating the words, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" while focusing on one's breathing. 

not so difficult, right?  not so life-changing or mind-altering, right?

why does the pilgrim discover this prayer?  he is on a search for an answer to the question, "how is it possible for one to pray without ceasing?  Paul talks about praying endlessly, so how is it possible?  the Jesus Prayer is the pilgrim's answer...

is it possible?  would praying this prayer really have the power it has over the pilgrim?

i have tried to practice this prayer myself as a way of centering my thoughts before reading Scripture, and it has proved worthy.  it helps calm one's thoughts and focus not on personal needs or wants, but on Christ and our need for mercy.

what do you do to pray?  have you found a way to pray without ceasing?  are you like me and you just need to find a way to pray, period?

what's the magic formula people?!!

certainly this is going in the wrong direction...


come back to Elfland - "we have sinned and grown old"

in a chapter on the "Ethics of Elfland," Chesterton talks about the monotony of the universe.  some say the monotony [the sun rising and setting, tide ebbing and flowing, cycle of water and life, etc] of the universe is proof that their isn't a creator.  the monotony shows us that all things are set and ordered and cannot be changed because their are Laws of nature in charge, not a creator.  he says, "The modern mind rests upon an assumption; an assumption that things that repeat themselves are dead."  there is no life, all things are determined and set in place.  there is no purpose.  there is no use in trying to fight against the system or choose a different path, for the whole world is set in motion and cannot be changed.  action is wound like a clock and let go to do what it must...

Chesterton argues against this sort of nihilistic view.  he says,

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening,“Do it again” to the moon. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, our Father is younger than we.
wow.  i picture God, the Creator of all that is seen and unseen, almost giddy over the sun rising everyday; excited over each breath a human being, made in his image, takes; glowing when the snow falls and the flowers bloom.  he is, after all, the Creator, maker, and generator of all these things.  without God's divinely spoken word; without God's say, these things would not happen.  they don't happen because of Laws.  they happen because of God's will.

"we have sinned and grown old."  
Father, forgive us.  make us young again.  give us child-like faith.


chesterton's "orthodoxy"

a student loaned me his copy of G.K. Chesterton's, Orthodoxy.  i'm into the 2nd chapter and so far i have to say i'm fascinated and ready to keep reading...

highlight thus far...the question, "what keeps people sane?"

the answer:

"Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health, when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland."

i'm excited to see where he's going with this.  i see "mystery" as a sort of throwback concept in recent years.  they say [i don't know who "they" are, so don't bother asking!] that younger evangelicals are embracing the mysterious elements of Christian faith.  younger folks are turning more and more to Orthodox and Catholic faith.  younger folks are interested in liturgy and the church year.  

is it true?  speaking as a younger evangelical who has interacted with many of my peers, YES.  we are seeking authenticity, and in that quest for authentic faith we are finding that entertainment driven expressions of faith and worship not only do not represent our hearts, but do not represent well the heart of the gospel.

have you seen this shift?  how are we doing with "mystery"?  are we fighting or embracing mystery?

personally, i'm enjoy keeping one foot in "fairyland"!


a fascinating faith

i went down to Seattle tonight at Quest Church with some students and leaders from church to hear Shane Claiborne speak...

something to which Shane kept referring caught my attention and reminded me of a quote from his book, Jesus for President -
"God would save the world through fascination, by setting up an alternative society on the margins of the empire for the world to come and see what a society of love looks like.”
that word, fascination, keeps grabbing my attention...
Shane referred to Christianity as a religion that only works when it is embodied or lived

he used the passage from Luke 7 where John the Baptist is in prison and sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is really the Messiah.

how does Jesus respond?

[my paraphrase] "tell John what you see, tell him how i live"

how will people know if we're Christians? the way we live...

my question, sometime down the road, when my daughter asks why she can't have everything she wants and do all the things the other kids do, what will i say?

what will i have shown her? will i have shown her what it means to love Jesus? will she be equipped to show others about Christ?
update: you can find the audio at Eugene Cho's blog...


biblical leadership

what is biblical leadership?
can we look at the Bible and the traits of biblical leaders to make decisions on how we are to vote?

you can try.

but then we come to this guy named Jesus...
John 13 tells us that Jesus has authority, he has power, and how does he use it?
he takes a towel and washes his disciples' feet...
look how John puts this statement about Jesus' authority immediately before the foot washing...

so you want a model of biblical leadership? you want the president to be a "biblical" leader?

let me ask you this, "will he wash your feet?"

when he has power, will he admit his faults? ask for forgiveness?
when he has keys to nuclear codes, will he turn the other cheek?
will he pray for his enemies?
will he consider the poor and needy?
will he live in harmoney with his neighbor?


privilege, right, responsibility

the ongoing debate...HEALTH CARE...is it a Privilege, Right, or Responsibility?
this was the way a question was framed in one of the presidential debates...
i wonder, what is the Christian response?

some say privilege...really?
it's a privilege to have basic health care coverage in one of the wealthiest nations on earth? really? it's a privilege to be able to get well without going into debt? really?

only the privileged get to have access to the best health care?
only the privileged get speedy attention to their health needs?

surely the privileged must have done something special and significant to have achieved this status and earned this health care, right?

well, who are the privileged? people like me. but why am i one of them? why do i "deserve" these privileges? what makes me better? my skin color? my "hard work"? my education? my morals? my character? my voting record? my driving record? my citizenship? how did i become one of the "privileged"?

how does Christ deal with privilege?


kindgom principles

"this king rules with a towel, not a sword...
in the kingdom of God we DESCEND into greatness."
-Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President

tough concept:true concept...
but do we practice this kingdom principle?
not really.
i rarely try and "descend" in life...

i mean:
who wants to "DESCEND" into anything?
who wants to lower themselves or their status?
who wants to see others be promoted while we stay put?
who wants to put others first when we know we are really more "worthy"?

the answer to the above questions? JESUS...
the kingdom of God is about downward mobility.
Paul says in Philippians 2 that when Christ lowered himself, became human, became a servant, died on a cross, he was exalted to the highest place...
Christ was exalted to GREATNESS because he DESCENDED to be with us...
now we must follow our Savior and "descend into greatness."

good luck...


readers and do-ers

back in the day, my Swedish ancestors were referred to as lasare, or "readers"...

they were asking, "Where is it written?"
they were devouring the Scriptures to find meaning; to find life
they were entering God's story and learning about who God is
they were turning their hearts to God
they were experiencing new life in Christ and the Church
they were serving their communities

these "readers" were not simply on a quest to find the hidden meaning in life. they were not trying to get a leg up on their opposition so they could thwart them in debate. they were finding God. they were experiencing new life.

but what's even better is that after experiencing this new life in Christ, they changed their lives. they served people around them. they walked the footpaths of their communities and looked for the hurting, the lost, the least of these. they built houses of mercy, hospitals, schools.

you see, they were not simply "readers", but they were do-ers as well. they saw that faith requires action; it requires obedience; it requires a change in attitude and behavior. faith in Christ transforms who we are. in some ways, faith in Christ helps us draw closer to the person God created us to be.

i wonder, are there any "reader" left? look at the list above...
are we asking, devouring the Word, entering the story, turning hearts to God, experiencing new life, and serving others?


presidential debate I

one commentator put it best after the debate...if anything, you can see that McCain represents the "old" school and Obama represents the "new" school. i'm not necessarily saying "old" is bad and "new" is good in this situation. at least that's not the way people are perceiving thngs.

how was this represented? two things i know about John McCain after listening to the debate: 1) he has a long 'record' in politics/government 2) he has been to a lot of places and knows a lot of important people. great. he's also quite a bit older than Obama. congratulations! on the other side, Obama kept referring to: 1) we need a 21st Century approach 2) the mantra of change in contrast to the politics and policies of the current administration.

i don't know that either candidate won; rather, they both put forth their positions firmly and showed their differences clearly.

what do i think we need? we definitely need a change. anyone who thinks the last 8 years have been an improvement for the US is seriously ill. will the "old" school, 20th century mind-set of McCain/Palin bring change?

no way.

the 1 and only legitimate knock on Obama has been his lack of experience. last night Obama made it clear that he understands foreign relations and he gets the intimate connection between foreign relations and the economy. in the global economy the two are wed.

what say you?


no handlebars

wow...so this song is really catchy, but now that i've seen the music video, i'm amazed...
the way the tone and demeanor of the music changes from beginning to end is captured almost perfectly by the video...
take your path - power or peace...

the imagery of power (war machines, demolition ) destroying images of peace(doves)is provocative. what do you think?


where's your hope?

in ranting about politics over the last few weeks i was reminded by a good friend of where my hope lies...

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood, Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.

for the music go here...

where's your hope?

for fun...


politics, palin, polar bears

why haven't i heard about this until now...
seriously? suing the government to keep polar bears off the endangered species list?
is anyone else aware of this?
can you really find anything more ridiculous than suing to keep a species off the endangered species list? wow, Sara Palin must really have something against polar bears...
wait, they just happen to live in a "Drill, baby Drill" zone...
too bad polar bears, find somewhere else to live, we need the oil...
we have SUV's that need the gas so we can take the kids to soccer practice...
gotta love politics!



a word about this blog. i need a place to share my thoughts. i've known that for a number of years, and have blogged before. why a new blog? my old blogs were all about starting discussion. i tried to provoke emotion and get people riled up. that was fun! but it wasn't always honest...

this time will be different; that is, for this blog to survive, it has to be different!

the quote at the top is from My Father's Testament, the translated memoirs of Carl Johan Nyvall, an early leader in the Swedish Mission Covenant Church. "resurrecting footpaths" is about connecting people to Christ and to one another. in a time when bigger is better, i'm finding strength in the small things, on faith founded on footpaths rather than mainroads. it's the side-streets, hiking trails, and back roads that bring me closer to Christ. it's about being with people. it's about walking the paths with others in good times and bad.

but we need to resurrect these paths before they are forgotten. we need to remember and carry forward history and tradition as we write new history and make new traditions.

in irresistible revolution, Shane Claiborne writes, "A lot of things start small and grow smaller.” he says later, “God’s kingdom grows smaller and smaller as it takes over the world.” the footpaths are key to keeping us connected to one another, to the importance of tight communities. footpaths are a link; they are, as Nyvall says, vital to culture and religion. we use footpaths to communicate faith and share life in Christ with one another. there is great strength in "smallness" and footpaths are a key to that strength...