The unraveling church

undone

A close friend of mine over the past six months has said several times, “It might feel like things are unraveling, but at least we know who holds the string.”  The first time I heard it I didn’t really get what he was trying to say.  I understood he was bringing comfort to churches and leaders who feel like their ministries, churches, and whole worlds were falling apart around them.  So on some level I understood, but I didn’t really get it until I thought about it in another way.

My wife is an excellent crafter.  She loves to use cool tools to make things.  Her greatest gift lies in knitting.  By working with yarn and needles she is able to create just about anything she sets her mind toward.  However, sometimes she really likes a particular yarn for its color or texture but has already made it into a scarf and used it as such for some time, then one day decides, “I think I want that to be socks!”  What is she to do?  She simply finds the end, unravels the existing completed project that has served its purpose and begins to turn it into something completely new. 

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Social media reaction to World Vision controversy

world vision

This week World Vision, the para-church organization that fights hunger, announced that they ended their ban on hiring people in a same sex marriage. After considerable blow back from supporters and Christians, World Vision reversed its policy. Some supporters said that they would stop funding World Vision and end sponsorship of children in need. World Vision president Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere wrote,

We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

People took to Twitter to express their frustration in this story. Here are a few that are notable:

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Don’t be a Fred Phelps hater

The enigmatic Fred Phelps has died. The church that he founded, the Westboro Baptist Church, made a name for itself by picketing funerals and public gatherings with signs proclaiming hate for soldiers, gays, and Jews – to name a few. At the end of his life his church kicked him out, his granddaughters rejected their family, and was deserted by the very people he led.

What can we say about a man who preached hate and bitterness?

It wasn’t until the 1990’s did America first hear about Fred Phelps, his family, and the Westboro Baptist Church. Millions were shocked to see so-called Christians carrying signs that read, “God hates fags” and “God hates you”. Over time the notoriety of Phelps and his family grew. Perhaps it was fascination. Certainly, as the age of the internet grew, America begin to love to hate them. More stories of this radical band and their message of hate spread through news websites, Facebook, and Twitter.

Fred Phelps and his ministry of hate was bizarre. It was not a message consistent with the message of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 is a common passage to refer to as an easy verse to describe God’s message of salvation. However, many folks do not read the next verse:

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I made Breitbart.com

breitbart

It’s not something I’m bragging about, but this is surprising. In response to my Times Union blog post on why church gun giveaways do not send a postive message, Breitbart.com sited my blog post.

The headline reads, “Pastor Quotes Daily Kos, Apostle Paul Against AR-15 Giveaway”[Read more…]

6 restorative practices for well-being

wellbeing

Leaders constantly give of themselves to those who serve. How can they recharge? Where can they find restorative practices for ministry that build up our well-being?

Today I’m attending the Lewis Fellows alumni gathering at Wesley Theological Seminary and we are engaging in reflecting and reviewing our role as young leaders in the church. This morning, Dr. Matt Bloom led us pastors in examining our well-being. Dr. Bloom and his team surveyed over 1,000 pastors in 8 different denominations in an attempt to learn:

  1. The characteristics of clergy well-being.
  2. What factors or impede well-being?
  3. How well-being changes over a life-span.

Dr. Bloom presented the following guidance for “recharging” our batteries for well-being:

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Church gun giveaways send wrong message

A local church in Troy, NY is promoting a gun giveaway and its not the first church to do so. Churches in Texas and Kentucky have offered gun giveaways.

The practice of a church gun giveaway sends the wrong message.  Is it wrong because it is illegal to own a gun? No. Is it wrong because it is immoral to own a gun? No.

The apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Corinth,

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

It may be lawful for a church to have a AR-15 gun giveaway, but it is not profitable to Christianity. To some, having more guns means more safety. However, studies show no strong empirical evidence to support this. For instance, in the only peer review published study on gun related deaths, the Annals of Emergency Medicine reported:

“…on a case-controlled study in which household were matched on a number of demographic factors, and then incidences of gun violence were compared.  They found that people who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide.”

In 2004, American Journal of Epidemiology published a study that found:

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Twitter reveals top 100 Lenten sacrifices

In case you were still working on what you are giving up or for Lent, Christianity Today reports top 100 choices according to Twitter:

With about 5,000 tweets analyzed, the new hot topics so far this year are: “Netflix,” “Flappy Bird,” and “Getting an Oscar.” “Social Networking” is currently way out in front, with twice as many tweets as perennial favorites “Swearing” and “Alcohol.” (Last year, Social Networking came in at #4.)

Here is Stephen Smith of OpenBible.info’s running list of the top 100 most-mentioned Lenten sacrifices (both serious and cynical) in 2014, followed by top categories:

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Proof being a pastor is a tough job

pastor

As the pastor, I’m shaking hands with church goers after worship one Sunday, I talk with a congregant about meeting him during the week. His reply?

“I thought pastors only worked one day a week!”

Truth be told, we full-time (and part-time pastors) do not work one day a week. I work anywhere between 35 and 75 hours a week. My congregation expects a full-time, ordained, college educated, graduate school 90-credit hour trained, and spiritual pastor to lead the congregation. And so, I provide that. However, there are unspoken and unwritten expectations:  my wife and children share in the full life of the congregation, I give 10% (and more) of my income to church, I’m available 24/7, be an excellent preacher, sound teacher, be a chaplain, be a theologian, providing counseling, give financial leadership,  bring people to church, and sometimes even clean up a mess in a common area.

If you ask me or my colleagues, it’s tough being a pastor.

If you think I’m just complaining and think I have cushy job, don’t take my word for it. Take Forbes Magazine’s top 9 toughest leadership roles into consideration:

  • #9: CEO, lots of pressure for profit
  • #8: Congressman/Congresswoman, everyone (sometimes including your mother) hates you
  • #7: Newspaper editor, sorry that your job is almost extinct
  • #6: Mayor, “Unlike most politicians, you actually have to make sure that garbage gets collected, snow gets shoveled, and things get done.”
  • #5: Pastor/minister

Other than #1 on the list, Forbes collected the most cons of being a pastor:

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Bill Nye crushes creationist in debate

What do you get when you put a children’s-educational-scientist-teacher with a Bible-believing-Christian-creationist?

Lot’s of confused adults.

I just finished watching the almost 3-hour debate between humanist Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham and I’m truly confused. I’m confused not because of the content, but how a Christian answered and responded in a formal debate.

Bill Nye (B.S. degree in engineering) and Ken Ham (B.A.S., applied science) decided to meet in a debate format in Kentucky to discuss the merits of each of their positions. Except, Ham seem to follow an illogical process of his argument which relied on a handful of scientists and his website. Nye, on the other hand, relied on a body of evidence and scientific method that is affirmed by both secular and Christian scientists.

What was clear from this debate is that Ham gave a poor argument for a creationist theory of the formation of the earth. Creationists believe in the creation of the Earth that occurred over a period of 6 days. Nye countered that the earth is much older and we know through carbon dating and stellar age estimation. Ham tried to discredit dating methods as conflicted evidence. Even if you discount carbon dating, Nye used examples of dating by core samples and tree rings.

How did the rest of the debate go?

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Duck Dynasty, free speech, and persecution

phil-robertson

By now you have heard about controversy involving ‘Duck Dynasty’ A&E  star Phil Robertson. Robertson, recently spoke to GQ about his personal beliefs:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there… Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men… It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical…

In addition, Robertson made controversial comments on race. Phil Robertson was recently suspended by A&E because of his statements. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal responded to the controversy by saying,

I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

Sarah Palin responded on her Facebook page with the message:

Free Speech is an endangered species….Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.

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Coalesce lava lamp Christianity

lava-lamp

I am not a word smith.  A friend of mine who helps me write better blogs reminds me often, less is more.  In other words, my writing is too wordy and too long. Authors and poets have a great gift for using just the right combination of words to create powerful images.  And they do so with very few words.  The trick is using words powerful enough to convey large concepts.

 I like words that can do that.  Words like; love, redemption, restoration, forgiveness, and Red Sox.  Each word carries with it weight and meaning, history and hope.  I came across a couple words recently that I am working on making into a concept for ministry.

Coalesce and disperse.

Coalesce means to come together to form one group or mass or to unite for a common end.  Disperse means to spread out over a wide area.  I like this idea for ministry.  The body of Christ comes together for a time to do a specific task with Christ, we serve, then we disperse to coalesce elsewhere and continue the work of Christ.

I like to use the image of a lava lamp for this.  Lava lamps work through the Archimedes principle.  Basically lava lamps are made with water and wax (lava).  Both have very similar densities, but the wax is more dense.  As a rule it should always sink.  However, when heated by the lamp or coil at the bottom, the wax’s molecules speed up and become less dense and become more buoyant and float to the top of the lamp.  Once there it cools and sinks again.  The cycle repeats itself over and over.

What does this have to do with coalesce and disperse?

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