Kirk Cameron, Chuck Norris, and War on Christmas

It seems every year there is an outcry from Christians who bemoan culture’s lack of acceptance of Christmas displays and call it the War on Christmas. Kirk Cameron is the latest to defend Christians from a supposed secular atheist attack with a candy cane and Jesus snow globe. Even Chuck Norris is getting in on the War on Christmas with a drop kick of truth!

If there is a War on Christmas, then there must be casualties.

A War on Christmas means that people are not free to worship or celebrate Christ’s birth, right?  Where are the storm troopers coming into churches and shutting the place down? Why use such charged language of “war” like “war on terror”, “war on drugs”, and now “War on Christmas”? Rumor and speculation of a “war” via talking heads does not make a War on Christmas.

The truth is that there is no War on Christmas.

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How Jesus and Santa can get along

jesus-vs-santa-armwrestle

Every year I struggle with a Christmas ritual that millions of parents have no problem with: a visit with Santa Claus in a season that is about Jesus. How can Jesus and Santa get along?

Why do I struggle? For some parents, Christmas and Santa Claus go together like white and red striping on candy canes. You cannot separate the two. Santa is everywhere and just about every culture. For others, Jesus and Santa are a clashing pair like fruitcake and tofu. Many Christians lament telling the myth of Santa Claus to their children because they believe it sends the wrong message of Christmas: The holiday is about getting presents from a jolly fat guy and not the celebration of Christ’s birth.

At the same time, parents do not want to be a Grinch about Santa. Nobody likes that kid in school going around telling everyone that Santa isn’t real. Parents are then confronted with the reality of explaining how and why Santa is not real. Either parents go with the flow of Santa or become Santa haters.

There is a better way to involve Santa Claus into the Christian mythos that does not sacrifice the person of Jesus Christ.

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Thanksgiving is not just a day

thanksgiving

As millions of Americans travel and look forward to sitting down on this Thanksgiving Day, many will eat until their gut is full. Turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes will be consumed and football will be played or watched. As Americans celebrate this Thanksgiving Day as a holiday, do we really understand the significance of giving thanks?

The origins of Thanksgiving are well storied and documented in our cultural conscience. Picnic tables of Native Americans and European settlers sharing corn, turkey, and bread come to mind. However, the reality of the first Thanksgiving was much more dark and difficult.

Most of those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were English religious dissenters in 1621. Many traveled to America on just a word or hope of a better life. Long voyages, illness, and harsh winters left many to die.  To come through such a journey led to giving thanks.  We only have a handful of first hand accounts of what the first Thanksgiving was like. After a drought, William Bradford wrote in 1623:

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Why pastors need pastors

pastors2

Much of what we pastors do is to minister, care, support, and uplift the people in our congregations and community. We go through college and graduate school (seminary) and learn the basics of sociology, psychology, and therapy.  We pastors walk with people through depression, grief, and death.

Through all those hours, days, weeks, and years of care-giving, what happens when we pastors need a pastor? Who will be the care-giver to the care-giver? Who will be the pastor to a pastor?

I recently posted an Baptist News Global article, written by Jeff Brumbly, on Facebook with some startling statistics for pastors:

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Do you have church money anxiety?

moneyministry

In congregational life, there are always those who give more /worry more/spend more time on the money than others. In systems theory this is called overfunctioning. Members who are overfunctioning with financial aspects of the church always think if others gave more or were more responsible, the church wouldn’t have this problem.

Yet there’s a balance between those who overfunction and those who underfunction in terms of financial responsibility. It takes both to keep this dynamic going. Often key church  leaders carry the anxiety for church  finances.

Who is staying awake at night? Typically, it’s the pastor, although sometimes lay leaders are more worried than the clergy. I talked recently with a church treasurer who was losing sleep night after night over whether there would be enough church money in the account to pay the bills. In this situation, the potential shortfall did not belong to the treasurer but to the church. It wasn’t his responsibility—or not his alone. Yet he was the one who was holding all the anxiety for it.

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Are your church greeters and ushers trained?

greeting

First impressions are huge for church visitors. The average church visitor has made up their mind within 3-4 minutes of coming into a church whether they will return. That is why your church needs well trained church greeters and ushers.

Charles Arn of BuildingChurchLeaders.com writes,

The communication that occurs in the first four minutes of human contact is so crucial that it almost always determines whether strangers will remain strangers or become acquaintances and perhaps friends. If this is true, and it applies to all who walk through our church doors, what an opportunity and challenge it provides to greeters! Those church members who welcome the people God has brought to church have the chance to positively influence these important vistors in those first crucial minutes. In the process, it is the greeters who often hold the key to whether guests return.

Greeters provide a valuable ministry to churches. Here are some basics on church greeters and ushers:

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3 Leadership lessons from Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll

Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll announced he resigned as the senior pastor of 13,000 person Mars Hill Church. This announcement comes after months of a leave of absence and years of controversy. Driscoll’s rise to fame in the Christian world has now been be marked by poor leadership, bad behavior, and manipulation of book sales to get on the New York Times best sellers list.

Mark Driscoll was a media attraction because of sermon and book topics. The NYT even called him, “The cussing pastor” who spoke about biblical oral sex. After years of his controversial ministry, it was not his critics who sank Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll sank Mark Driscoll.

The leadership of a pastor needs to be marked by humility, passion, Christ-like service, and spiritual focus. Driscoll had trouble with all those things. Pastors from his church started to leave and the church suffered. The church did not suffer because of other pastors leaving, but because of the inability of Driscoll to lead his congregation in a healthy way. A chief concern of those who departed Mars Hill was that Driscoll was domineering, deceitful, and would push anyone out of the church who did agree with the pastor.

It is difficult to speak or write critically about any pastor and a church. A church is suffering. However, there are lessons here that need to be learned because of the weight of poor leadership evidence: 
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Evangelicals must learn from Vatican gathering

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The media is abuzz with a published report from the Vatican regarding the inclusion of divorced Catholics, homosexuals, and those who use birth control. Traditionally, those groups of people inside and outside the Catholic Church are persona non grata of church law. Now, the Vatican is attempting to change the tone of the conversation and Evangelicals need to take some notes.

In very pastoral ways, the new language has open the door to start a conversation. Though no actual church law has changed, the ability of the Vatican to begin a dialogue should be seen as an attempt to bridge religious and cultural divides. The report sought to soften the tone on the issues of annulment, divorce, cohabitation, and communion. On the issue of homosexuality, the report states:   
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More proof of false Christian persecution

As I outlined in my last blog post concerned Robert Griffin III and Christian persecution, it is a false narrative.  The myth of Christian persecution was again proved as Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah caught and intercepted Tom Brady‘s pass on Monday Night Football.

In celebration of Abdullah’s play, he went down to pray. Abdullah, a Muslim, was penalized and his team incurred a 15-yard penalty on the next kick off.

In response, this tweet was posted on Twitter:

If anything pro-Christian favoritism could be argued here. Fortunately, the NFL responded that Abdullah should have not been penalized. The decision for the penalty during the game was:

The prayer drew a 15-yard penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, for “going to the ground” while celebrating after a score. There are exceptions made for religious prayer in the rule…

At the least we have learned two things:

  1. The media look for any angle to make a story run
  2. It’s easy to selectively prove (falsely) that Christian persecution exists.

Beware of the danger of the single story.

RG3, false persecution, and Christianity

rg3

There’s a big uproar over Robert Griffin III reversing his shirt inside out at a press conference. RG3’s shirt read, “Know Jesus Know Peace” or “No Jesus No Peace”. (Cool play on words there.)

Over at Fox News, they are creating a controversy. On the Fox and Friends Facebook page, they posted the above picture with the text:

Out of Bounds! At a post-game press conference, Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III was told to turn his shirt inside out before speaking to reporters! Do you think he should have been allowed to wear his shirt as-is?

Of course, the implication here is that RG3 was not allowed to wear his Jesus t-shirt because it was religious in nature. Fox News has a history of creating the idea that Christianity is being persecuted in America.

If Fox News wanted to do some reporting, they would have found the following:

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The 12 Disciples… and Bartholomew

As my two kids (7 and 5 years old) are learning the 12 Disciples song for Cherubs choir, my wife and I had to find the tune online. We were not really familiar with it. We quickly went to YouTube and discovered. I like the kids should sing this version in church:

First off, I rather like the Weezer-like children’s music. It brings me back to my high school days. Second, I don’t know how I feel about Judas being a Ginger. It just reinforces a certain stereotype. Third, Bartholomew looks like Where’s Waldo with a beard and Thomas better wipe that smile off his face… doubter. Fourth, Simon looks a little wacked out and Jesus could pass for a South Park Jesus. Lastly, the high production value makes viewers enthralled with excitement.

Any other observations for the public good humor?

There were twelve disciples Jesus called to help him:
Simon Peter, Andrew, James, his brother John,
Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus,
Thaddeus, Simon, Judas, and Bartholomew.
He has called us, too. He has called us, too.
We are His disciples, I am one and you!
He has called us, too. He has called us, too.
We are His disciples, I am one and you!

Christian news site scrubs Islamophobic opinion

I opened Facebook this morning to read this headline, “Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic”. I clicked the link and read the opinion piece by Rev. Gary Cass and was disgusted by what I read.

I posted the Charisma News article on my Facebook page only to find that the original post was pulled: there is a 404 error. Brian McLaren has a lively comment section on his Facebook page.

I think it is obvious what happened here. After such blow back from Christians, Charisma had to delete the article. David Hayward (NakedPastor.com) has a good response. I mean come on, the title explains that this pastor and CEO of a “Christian defamation” organization is clearly anti-Isalm. Gary even has his own page over at Right Wing Watch – so you know he’s legit.

Here’s a few nuggets of Cass’ craziness from the original opinion article:

My fear is not an irrational fear based on uniformed prejudice; rather it’s an historic, clear eyed, informed, rational fear. ISSA is doing to America journalists what every true follower of Mohammed wants to do to you and yours; subjugate or murder you. They believe they have been given a mandate by Allah (Satan) to dominate the world.

And then Cass paints all Muslims with one brush stroke:    [Read more…]