September 29, 2006
This is the political season for the church, as well as for the nation. In my church, under the present administration, elder candidates are selected by the current leadership and then the congregation is expected to ratify their choice. With this method of election every candidate listed will become an elder because those in authority are picking the leaders. Scripture clearly states that mature Christians are discerning and we can make ‘judgments about all things’, 1 Cor 2:15 NIV. By limiting the field of elder candidates to only those that the leadership selects takes away my right of spiritual discernment. Personally speaking, I think qualified men with elder credentials shouldn't be eliminated from service by means of a controlled ballot.
September 28, 2006
The feature cover story in the October 2006 issue of Guideposts is written by Kay Warren. Kay is the wife of Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California. I found a couple of quotes in the article intriguing. Kay says, “We were announcing a new focus for the church – serving the dispossessed, including people with AIDS at home and abroad.” And later she says, “I even persuaded Rick to make AIDS one of the church’s priorities.” Certainly AIDS is a worthy cause and I know the Lord opens the eyes of the church to new mission fields. However, from a Biblical perspective, I find it fascinating that anyone would think that the focus for the church and the church’s priorities are subject to change. It seems to me if the church is looking for a new focus, it should consider re-focusing on Christ.
September 27, 2006
Question of the day: How does a half-a-glass become a full glass? Simple…pour the contents into a smaller glass! More and more we’re doing the same thing in our churches. Take out some pews and the sanctuary becomes fuller. Turn Sunday School classrooms into office space and storage areas and you’ll be bursting at the seams in no time. Re-stripe the parking lot with fewer spaces and when the lot becomes full the overflow will have to park on the side streets. Isn’t growth exciting?
September 26, 2006
I’ve heard preachers say they try to avoid using religious jargon like ‘sanctification’ and ‘justification’ because it confuses people who are new to the church. Personally I think learning a new vocabulary word is beneficial. Today’s word is ‘ratification’ and it means: to approve and sanction formally. As our annual congregational meeting approaches we are being told that rather than having an election for elders, as we’ve done in the past, our leaders will present their, “Recommendation of new elders to [the] congregation for ratification”. Oh, I get it…the congregation just needs to endorse those already chosen by the leaders. I can see how ratification is more palatable than abdication.
September 25, 2006
My clothes closet has a real identity crisis. I’ve always had one foot inside the home and one outside. The last few years I’ve not needed a large assortment of professional clothing, yet I keep hanging onto suits and jackets ‘just in case’ God needs me to get dressed up for something. I think Moses might have had a similar problem (Acts 7:20-30). Smartly dressed, Moses had a closet full of leadership clothes that represented his position, his wisdom and his education in Pharaoh’s household. When he was 40 years-old he mistakenly thought the Israelites would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. After being exposed for killing an Egyptian, Moses packed his bags and fled to Midian where in fact he did become a leader…of sheep. I can imagine Moses’ closet with leadership clothes hanging on one side and sheepherder’s clothes on the other. Four decades passed by the time God was really ready to use Moses to rescue the Israelites. Now the prestigious attire with the bling was no longer appropriate, nor was the shepherd’s clothing. God dressed Moses for success, both mentally and physically, in His time.
September 22, 2006
The bike path corridor running through our town travels near a drainage ditch that has running water year round. In one section of the walkway a large population of ducks, both domestic and wild, have taken up residence. The ducks are great at providing entertainment, keeping insects under control and fertilizing the grass. In the summer the automatic sprinkler system keeps the sidewalk washed off, but some days you really have to watch your step. The other night I walked later than my usual time and found myself dodging duck doo in the dark. I should have remembered Jesus’ words to the crowd, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” John 12:35 NIV
September 21, 2006
For some time now the leaders have been nurturing a little nest egg that has grown to a considerable size. Rather than investing the church money in an FDIC insured account, the elder’s elected to sock it away in unsecured funds. In justification they’ve explained they’re investing in a California institution that helps build other churches. “It’s going to help grow God’s kingdom, whereas, if we stick it in a local bank, we don’t know where it’s being used. Even though it’s not insured, we think it is a better use [for the money].” Personally I think their decision is unwise, but that’s beside the point. I have no emotional or spiritual connection to ‘their’ nest egg, because we, the congregation, have had no part of its conception, or in its on-going incubation. We have no ownership, nor will we have any voice in how the nest egg is spent. When the egg hatches I suppose the leaders will expect us to ooh, ahh and pay child support.
September 20, 2006
Our elders are telling us that our Bylaws are not only outdated, but that they are in violation of new state requirements and statutes. “We’ve got to get the Bylaws updated because we do not meet current state requirements for the new tax laws that are now in place.” I’m a little confused by that comment. Now I’m not sure, but I think we’re mixing apples and oranges. Wouldn’t you think if we were in non-compliance with some state requirements that we’d hop right to it and fix the problem? Apparently not, because our leaders are working to ‘update’ the Bylaws. They’ve explained, “We’re looking at the Bylaws of other churches and searching out what will work best for us.” Hmm…This sounds suspiciously more like creating new Bylaws rather than just updating. Anyone want to take bets that they’re looking at Bylaws from Saddleback and Willow Creek for inspiration? Who knows, maybe those churches can also offer us advice on current Colorado tax laws.
September 19, 2006
I love this parable from Jesus, “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 NIV The moral of the story is: When someone starts poking around your roots and throwing fertilizer at you, it’s time to examine yourself for fruit.
September 18, 2006
The word ‘savings’ was never a part of my family’s vocabulary when I was growing up. As the saying goes, ‘we didn’t have a pot or a window either one’. Even in marriage, it’s only in the last few years with our children grown, that we’ve been in a position to save. Of course retirement breathing down our necks is a great motivator for making specific plans. Our church is financially healthy above and beyond substantial operating capital. The leaders are investing in what they refer to as, “basically our savings account”. This rainy-day-fund is close to a quarter of a million dollars, but the leaders aren’t sure exactly what they’re saving for. “We haven’t decided yet, maybe the money will be for a new building or for expansion sometime. We can get to the money anytime we need it, say for a new roof or like when [recently] the parking lot needs paving.” A financial planner might say ‘Amen’ to the church’s growing savings account, but with no specific plan in place I can’t see that the leaders are doing anymore than storing up treasure on earth. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matt 6:26 NIV
September 15, 2006
When I was in grade school our district decided to drop phonics and teach sight reading. Another fiasco in public education was the introduction of modern math. The church also goes through ‘new concepts’ and my science fiction plot for the future church goes like this: The church becomes just a clearing house for believers. As new believers come in the front door they’ll be farmed out and assimilated into self-sustaining small groups. The clergy’s theological backgrounds will lay dormant, because their role will be in organization and administrative matters. Members will accept that the Sunday worship service is not for their edification, but rather for the comfort of the prospective members. It will of course still be necessary to come together once a week to maintain the semblance of unity and to pay a temple tax to the mother church. I’m still working on the ending, but I think a small group splintering off to become ‘a church’ in itself has potential. Now, all I need to do is determine who the heroine is and who the villain is.
September 14, 2006
There was an occasion in the history of our church when a group from a different denomination came in and tried to take over the congregation. In order to protect the church, the Bylaws stipulate that an elected elder is to serve a three year term and then take a sabbatical year off. After a year off, the elder may then run for reelection. In the last few years we’ve seen additional non-Biblical criteria for elder candidates implemented. Now, regardless of past elder service, each candidate must complete a nine page questionnaire to “help the selection team discern where you are at this point in your life.” In defense of this lengthy application the chairman of the elders stated, “I’m not one of those who goes along with the statement, ‘Once and elder always an elder’.” Hmm…elder recertification, that’s a new one on me.
September 13, 2006
I appreciate it when Jesus explains His parables, because quite frankly, without the explanation I’d probably be one of those disciples He refers to as ‘dull’. Right now I’m pondering a financial parable and I’d give my left leg untangle its meaning. The church CPA released a balance sheet covering the last seven months of financial activity. The problem parable is the last paragraph of her cover letter which states, “Management has elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles. If the omitted disclosures were included in the financial statement, they might influence the user’s conclusions about XYZ Church’s financial position, results of operation, and cash flows. Accordingly, these financial statements are not designed for those who are not informed about such matters.” (I’ve edited out the church name). So, how’s this sound? ‘Management’ must refer to the church staff and elders. ‘User’ is probably the reader. ‘Those who are not informed’ could be members or those of us who are thought of as dull. I’m guessing that the meaning of the parable is this: To keep the members of the congregation from knowing the complete financial situation, the elders and staff are omitting information because it might influence our conclusions. How am I doing so far?
September 12, 2006
The reference book, Writing A to Z, edited by Kirk Polking describes a copyright as “A proprietary right designed to give the creator of a work the power to control that work’s reproduction, distribution, and public display or performance, as well as its adaptation to other forms.” This seems remarkably similar to the right of our Creator when we become a Christian. Personally I don’t have a problem understanding that God is the potter and I’m the clay. However, once He’s shaped me into a pot, I want Him to let me get on with my doing my ‘potley-duties’. I forget that His copyright includes reproduction, distribution, public display, performance and adaptation to other forms. “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV
September 11, 2006
I love tables and my favorite is a large round oak pedestal table that I inherited from my grandma. As a young couple starting out, my grandparents bought the table at a yard sale for 25 cents. After her children were grown, grandma turned her large home into a boarding house for men. In keeping with grandma’s motto of everything must be ‘easy to clean’, she covered the table top with heavy duty linoleum and secured it with an aluminum band. At some point a strand of bailing wire wrapped around the base of the pedestal solved the problem of loose glue joints. Bill refinished grandma’s table without loosing years of character marks. Our Communion table at church also brings back fond memories. Positioned prominently in front of the podium, the table held a large white gilded King James Version of the Bible, an 18 inch pedestal gold cross and the communion trays for the worship service. Across the face of the 6 foot long oak table was written in block letters, “This Do In Remembrance of Me”. Our communion table was unceremoniously removed to make room for worship service props and productions. As if to keep protests to a minimum the table sat for a time in the Fellowship Hall covered with a plastic table cloth. Next it migrated to the men’s baptismal area where I last saw it holding laundry baskets containing wet robes and towels waiting to be laundered…This Do In Remembrance of Me.
September 08, 2006
We’ve always had Bible study groups in our church, but in the last few years that’s all changed and we now have small groups. Our church leaders and staff are totally enamored with the small group concept, so much so that the church catalog lists all of them as ‘SMALL GROUPS: TRADITIONAL’. I’m guessing this is meant to imply that even though the worship service is now contemporary, the small groups will be ‘traditional’. We are told in the communication from the elders [church newsletter] that small groups are, “…how to get more people attached. Growth, comfort, and relationships are developed in these. The need for community involvement, perhaps springing up from these groups, was emphasized.” It appears that what was once used to describe the church now describes small groups. I’m not exactly sure what a traditional small group looks like, but as soon as the contemporary small group comes along, no doubt I’ll be able to tell the difference!
September 07, 2006
Recently, on a city street I use often, two stop signs were removed changing a four way stop to a two way stop. At the very least I still find myself breaking at this intersection, but more often than not, I’ll come to a full stop. Thankfully drivers familiar with the area offer each other a measure of grace because many of us are trying to overcome the same habit. A few years ago on a county road the state highway department replaced a yield sign with a stop sign, but my mind still registered ‘yield’. Not surprisingly when I blew through the stop sign the State Patrolman was giving out tickets rather than grace. I’ve noticed plenty of skid marks on the church carpet as leaders replace and remove traditional ‘signs’ from their congregations. Personally I prefer new signs and directions seasoned with a little grace.
September 06, 2006
In an attempt to keep the congregation informed, my elders published a condensed version of the minutes from their meeting. I’m now pondering their statement, “We discussed communion time during the morning worship and how to best spend this important time.” Excuse me….how to best spend this important time? This time is already spent. It’s spent in partaking of the emblems in remembrance of Jesus, in examining our own hearts, and in confessing sin. I have to tell you my imagination is working overtime on this one. I’m having visions of communion being served while entertainment, announcements, and video clips continue uninterrupted. By all means, let the leaders organize the morning worship, but please, let me be the one to determine how I spend my time during the Lord’s Supper.
September 05, 2006
A couple Sundays ago our outreach committee began a new ‘ice breaker’ for making visitors feel more welcomed to the church. The committee’s idea is to have all members wear blue name badges that say, ‘Ask me about my church’. Obviously they expect those wearing the badges to give a favorable and supportive opinion of the church to anyone who asks. However, if we’re as honest as the Lord was about the seven churches in Revelation, we would be sharing not only the strengths, but also the weaknesses of our church. Although not overly enthusiastic about the endeavor, Bill signed us up for a badge. I’m thinking…this badge has potential. Oh please, ask me. Let me share!
September 04, 2006
To my bank I’m a 10 digit number, to the government I’m a nine digit number and to my insurance company I’m a 4 digit group number. One section of our monthly church newsletter is titled ‘Communication from the Elders…’ In the recent issue it says, “We also discussed how formal church membership is not a scriptural requirement; however, there is a practical need for identification in church mailings, etc.” Oh, I see…What we once cherished as belonging to the Family of God has just been reduced to nothing more than a mailing list. Actually I can understand how appealing this concept might be to staff, leaders and elders. After all, there’s less effort required from the elder to follow the Biblical requirements of his office when he doesn’t have to know a sheep from a goat. If membership is now not important, why then, did the elders recently terminate the membership of a couple in our church? I’m not sure they can have it both ways.
September 01, 2006
I’m getting pretty good at recognizing God’s closed doors, it’s those open doors that give me fits. I struggle when I have a choice between door # 1, door # 2 or door #3. At the first sign of an obstacle and road block after I’ve made a selection, I’m second guessing my choice. When Paul arrived in Troas the Lord had opened a door for him to preach the gospel. Interestingly he decided to pass up the open door and to go on to Macedonia because he lacked peace of mind without Titus being with him. (2 Cor 2:12-13) Reaching his destination Paul says, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” 2 Cor 7:5-6 NIV. Apparently Paul didn’t regret passing up Troas. Not me, I’d be wallowing in hindsight saying, ‘Why didn’t I stay in Troas.’ I need to be reminded that the Lord is on the other side of every open door, and the number on the door doesn’t matter.