February 28, 2007
When my daughter was in her teens she participated in Bible Bowl, a program similar to Knowledge Bowl. If a student stayed in the program from the 7th grade through the 12th, they would have committed almost a fourth of the Bible to memory. Because Leslie went to church every Sunday and was knowledgeable in Scripture, her high school peers considered her religious. Interestingly, it was the Youth Minister rather than peers, who labeled her a Bible Thumper during her Sunday school class. And then we wonder why adults won’t study the Bible.
February 27, 2007
On February 23, 2007 AP writer Jeff Latzke reported on yet another minister’s sexual indiscretion. Rev. Lonnie W. Latham resigned and stepped down from position as pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church and as a member of the executive committee for the Southern Baptist Convention. According to authorities, Mr. Latham “asked the undercover policeman to come up to his hotel for oral sex.” I believe public exposure is one deterrent to sexual immorality and I’m thankful when that type of sin in the church is revealed. The acts of sexual immorality in leadership are disturbing, but I’m much more bothered by the pride, arrogance and ego behind the cover-up. A prime example is King David with Bathsheba - and that’s exactly the point, there is an example. It seems as though today’s religious leaders think God isn’t looking and that exposure couldn’t happen to them.
February 26, 2007
On February 19, 2007 the Associated Press gave an update on the situation surrounding Ted Haggard’s encounter with a male prostitute. The report coming from Colorado Springs says, “Numerous individuals reported knowledge of New Life Church founder Ted Haggard’s struggle with a ‘dark side’, leading to his departure from the mega church, a member of the church’s board of overseers told parishioners Sunday.” I find it disturbing, but not surprising that numerous individuals had knowledge of Haggard’s dark side and yet did not expose him. I think the church resembles the world when it comes to being a whistle blower. We too are afraid of losing ministry positions, of being labeled a dissenter and of being expelled if we dare speak up. Does it seem to you that we fear men more than we fear God?
February 23, 2007
Concert pianist Randall Atcheson was part of the writer’s conference I recently attended. Mr. Atcheson “became the only student in the history of The Julliard School ever allowed to pursue, and receive, simultaneous degrees in piano and organ performance.” He has performed at Carnegie Hall and is on the International roster of Steinway Artists. Conducting the music for our General Sessions, I was taken back when Mr. Atcheson told us not only would we be singing hymns, but we would be singing all the verses! What, no praise songs? Actually, we did have a blended worship service. In control of a master’s hands, the hymns were revitalized and intensified. While some in the audience lifted holy hands in praise to these beloved favorites, I struggled to sing past the lump in my throat.
February 22, 2007
I’m sure the Apostles were surprised and disappointed to learn that one of their own was less than trustworthy. Judas, “…was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6b NIV) In my church the leaders have confidence in the checks and balances they’ve implemented for the financial ministry. Those working with church finances have been deemed trustworthy, and I’m sure they are. I do however believe that we are naive if we allow authorities to keep us from scrutinizing financial income, expenses and budgets. Apart from being privy to one another’s contributions, church financials should be open and transparent. Because my request for past and current financial documents was refused, I’m asking myself, ‘Why? What is being hidden? What do they not want me to see?’ I’m now suspiciously looking for motives behind actions. I think President Ronald Reagan had it right, “Trust but verify”
February 21, 2007
At a recent writer’s conference I visited with people from coast to coast and occasionally we shared with one another the struggles taking place in our churches. I asked one woman if she’d read And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers. “Yes,” she said laughing. “My friends and I were calling each other saying can you believe how this sounds like our church.” During a similar conversation with others, another woman fired rapidly, “It’s not just my church. Other churches are going through what we are? What’s going on? Is there something spreading across the country through all the churches?” I believe there is in fact a mutated virus spreading through churches. The diagnosis and cure will come when we begin honestly sharing our collective symptoms with one another. As you’ve read in previous blog posts, my church is running a temperature, breaking out in a rash and experiencing heart palpitations. So, how’s your church feeling?
February 20, 2007
I’ve often heard a mixed message from the church. On the one hand we’re expected to use our talents to serve in the church and on the other hand we’re told to go out and make a difference in the world. While my children were still at home I always felt obligated to participate and serve in the youth departments. However, becoming an Empty Nester freed me to serve elsewhere…including areas outside the church. I’ll admit I’m having an inner struggle with guilt feelings for using my volunteer hours in a service club rather than in the church. But, if my children can leave the home nest, I suppose I can leave the church nest.
February 19, 2007
More and more I’ve noticed that secular models of leadership are creeping into the church. During a recent community leadership program I heard representatives from the city, county and other governmental agencies. At times the speakers failed to control their frustration over their agency’s lack of funding. Obviously some of them have forgotten that they serve the people. Much to their consternation, aside from grants and service fees, it is the vote of the people that control their budget. One presenter complained about a particular Colorado law saying, “It’s the worst thing that could have happened. It has put a strangle hold on all of us.” I see some similarities between church and these agencies. Most notably…their vision is bigger than their budget.
February 15, 2007
When I encounter someone new to the community who’s looking for a church home it’s hard to recommend a church when I know so little about other congregations. For instance, if someone were looking for a charismatic church all I could tell them was what I’ve heard through the grapevine. I think the religious community should take a page from the Parade of Homes and do a Parade of Churches. I’d like the opportunity to visit other churches without having to miss Sunday services in my own congregation. Guided tours of community churches would allow us to see different facilities and what they have to offer. We’d have an idea about programs for children and teens, and the adequacy of the nursery. Just like connecting names with faces, it would be helpful to match a pastor with his church. How about an open house for the Lord’s House?
February 14, 2007
On February 12th there was an Associated Press report on MSNBC with the lead, “Pastor steals church from his flock”. The report states that Pastor Randall Radic sold the First Congregational Church located in Ripton, California out from under the congregation by faking documents and forging papers. Navid Fardanesh, president of the Chamber of Commerce said, “This is a town with a lot of faith. People had a lot of trust in him, and unfortunately he took advantage of the situation.” This is a truly a sad situation; however it should be an example to all congregations. My church, as well as others with a Purpose Driven bent, is offering ambiguous financial reports. When membership is denied full access to financial disclosure, the window of opportunity for misuse of funds is wide open. I take no comfort in hearing the authorities in my church imply, ‘It couldn’t possibly happen to us.’
February 13, 2007
It’s reported that 50-80% of all amputees have phantom pain in the previously amputated limb, and at some point all amputees experience phantom limb sensation. Paul tells us we don’t cease being a part of the body of Christ by saying, “I do not belong to the body”, nor can we say to one another, “I don’t need you.” (1 Cor 12:12-31, NIV). Many churches today are so large that we don’t always see or know when someone is estranged from the congregation. Even though we may not be consciously aware of it, the fact remains that, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”(vs. 26a). Often it’s not until I look over old picture directories or membership list that I experience the phantom pain associated with members that have been amputated.
February 12, 2007
In the proposed Bylaw changes for my church I find three curious requirements under the heading of Responsibilities of Members. 1. “Pledge of cooperation by serving with ones (sp) time, spiritual gifts, finances and energies with the body of believers at XYZ Church. 2. Diligence to preserve the unity of the body at XYZ Church. 3. Regular Prayer for the ministry, leadership, staff and members of XYZ Church.” Even though these entries may be desirable, they seem oddly out of place for inclusion in the Bylaws. Who determines the adequacy of a member’s time, gifts, finances and energies? Since praying regularly and preserving unity in the church are Scriptural teachings, does including them in the Bylaws make them more authoritative or any more enforceable?
February 09, 2007
When David, my 3 ½ year-old grandson comes to visit we negotiate the menu and he always chooses Spaghettios. Much to the chagrin of his parents, we’ve even had Spaghettios for breakfast. When David gets older he’ll develop new food favorites, but it would be remiss of me to keep serving Spaghettios when he has outgrown them. The writer of Hebrews expressed the need for mature believers to have a diet of solid food. However, as many churches try to attract the seeker group, they continue to serve up the milk of infants. Is it possible that we, as mature believers, are lacking in a diet of solid food because we’ve failed to ask for it…and insist on it?
February 08, 2007
I was once in a weekly prayer group that averaged six to ten people. We took turns in a clockwise rotation praying for the church and other needs that were brought to our attention. It wasn’t unusual for the person praying to affirm or Amen the prayer of the person who had just preceded him. However, during a time of turmoil in the church, our group wasn’t always in one accord. One person would pray for what he perceived the church needed and then the next guy would counteract or trump ‘that’ prayer with one of his own. Somehow I don’t think these particular prayers of the saints will make it to the golden altar (Rev 8:3).
February 07, 2007
In my experience the Spirit inspires and motivates believers to serve with their time, spiritual gifts, finances and energies. However, the authorities at my church state that one of the responsibilities of members is a ‘pledge of cooperation by serving’ in those areas. Personally, I believe taking a pledge is serious business. To me it’s a promise, an agreement and an obligation. In 1 Timothy 5:12, Paul gives a caution concerning pledges. He states that the list of widows should not include names of younger women because “they bring judgment upon themselves” by breaking their pledge if they decided to remarry. We deceive ourselves if we think we can manipulate a pledge if, or when, we don’t want to fulfill it. Will members revisit this ‘pledge of cooperation’ in six months and find they are faithful…or will they have forgotten their pledge?
February 06, 2007
I remember the days when the tempo of the hymn dictated whether you sang it sitting or standing. Many worship directors today keep the congregation standing through the entire music portion of the service. Although they will tell you it’s OK to sit down if you can’t stand for that long, the peer pressure to stay standing remains. After all no one wants to look tired and old in the midst of all that enthusiastic praise. Personally, I believe keeping members standing for 20 to 30 minutes shows a lack of concern and respect for the elderly and those in poor health. Aging often requires ingenuity and I like Jacob’s solution. “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” (Heb 11:21 NIV) Does anyone know where I can buy a staff?
February 05, 2007
In the past if you joined the church your name remained on the roll until you removed it. We binged on numbers. If you died and someone forgot to remove your name it was still OK because we could keep on counting you. Even if people hadn’t attended in years, we kept them on the membership roll and the mailing list. It was sort of like leaving the light on for the prodigal son. Today we’re purging the membership list. With the new condensed membership list they can ignore the opinions of those who fail to place membership. They can also save money on postage, remove voting privileges from dead beats, and discontinue shepherding obligations. Early in my marriage there was a period of seven years when we were inactive in church. Had we been removed from the membership roll I’m not sure if we’d have found our way back. I am forever thankful that the door of membership was left open for my return.
February 02, 2007
Our National Guard serving on the border between the US and Mexico is governed by some interesting Rules of Engagement. It’s my understanding that when they discover illegal aliens crossing the border the only action they are permitted to take is to notify the Boarder Patrol. In a recently reported incident, Guardsmen were confronted and flanked by a large group of men carrying AK-47’s. Surrounded, the Guardsman could do nothing but back away in retreat. I can empathize with our military men and women. It’s frustrating when you’re prepared for battle, completely dressed in the Full Armor of God, and then you hear Scripture whispering in your ear, ‘turn the other cheek’.
February 01, 2007
It will be interesting to see how the new ‘club’ structure really works in our church. I’ve got more questions than answers when it comes to having to renew your membership each year. Will everyone have the same renewal date, or will notification be sent to members telling them their membership is about to expire? Is there going to be a 30-day grace period for those who are out of town or unavailable? Will there be a special dispensation for people who are residents only six months out of the year? Can shut-ins and nursing home patients use a proxy? How will pastors and elders know from one year to another whether or not you’re a member? Do you suppose this is the way the man got into the wedding banquet without wearing the proper wedding clothes? (Matt 22:11-14 NIV)