June 29, 2007
I read an online reprinted article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal written by Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The article was written July 1, 2003 and titled ‘The Uncertain Leader’. The theme is leadership and it addresses the decision of the church leadership group to build adult education around small groups and discard the traditional adult Sunday school model. After a year of trying to implement the small group strategy, questions from membership continued. Commenting on one woman’s concern Mr. Stanley answered the woman’s question and then said, “After tonight we are not going to discuss ‘if’ anymore.” He continued, “Feel free to question our implementation, but not our direction.” Excuse me? I’d like to know the chapter and verse that says we can’t question our leaders on the direction they are taking the church.
June 28, 2007
We often see public service commercials encouraging teens to talk to their parents about sex and drugs. I can think of a few reasons teens won’t talk to their parents - fear, intimidation, or maybe a history of not being heard. I’ve known authority figures in the church that are unapproachable for the same reasons. When Jesus healed a man who was born blind, the Pharisees demanded some answers. Not satisfied with the man’s response they turned to his parents. The parents dodged the questions, “…because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22 NIV) Sadly, similar situations still exist. I can identify with these parents. I hate feeling someone is lording their authority over me – it makes me feel like I’m back in high school.
June 27, 2007
The other night my husband shattered a drinking glass when he dropped it on the kitchen floor. The large pieces were easily swept up. However in cleaning up the small pieces I vacuumed, dust mopped, wet mopped and even used a sticky lint roller. The floor is clean enough to eat off of, but occasionally when the light is just right I’ll still find a shard of glass. I’m wondering if sin, like the water glass, can shatter. That would certainly help explain the slivers of sin I chew on when I put my foot in my mouth.
June 26, 2007
When I read a book for entertainment, I read it only once. Actually I don’t understand people who read their favorite authors and stories over and over again. Reading for information is another matter and I often revisit the same text many times. In our adult Sunday school class last week a woman told us of a conversation she’d had with one of her friends in the mid-west. The friend received a telephone call from her pastor and in the course of the conversation she revealed she’d been reading her Bible when he called. The pastor asked, “Haven’t you already read that once?” This came from an older gentleman, who was quite serious. The woman was dumbfounded. Who knows, maybe he reads his Bible just for entertainment.
June 25, 2007
In Christian circles it’s not uncommon to seek prayer from one another. We often cloak our request in terms of ‘When you think of it…, Could you add this to your list…, and even, If you run out of anything to pray about, you can pray for…’ It’s as though we’re asking someone to put a prayer need on their To-Do list because we don’t want to inconvenience them in the moment. Recently my friend Charlie called to share some good news and he took time to ask for an update on a situation I’d been dealing with. As we prepared to say our good-bys Charlie caught me off guard when he said, “Gail, how would it be if I prayed for you right now?” After his ‘amen’ and my ‘thank you’, I hung up thinking, ‘Why can’t I ever remember to do that?’ I’d like it if Charlie’s attitude of ‘there’s no time like the present’ would rub off on me.
June 22, 2007
My family and another family at church find ourselves in a similar crisis where we are trying to care for an elderly at-risk relative. However, our efforts are being thwarted and undermined by acquaintances outside the family. In my case these intruders convinced my aunt to appoint them as guardian and conservator. We are now in the process of going through the court system in order to protect my aunt from her meddling ‘friends’. Since the courts move at a snails pace I have plenty of time to look for Biblical insights, but I’m coming up with more questions than answers. As Jesus hung on the cross, he “… saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26-27 NIV. It sounds to me like Jesus just gave guardianship of his mother Mary to his disciple John. If Mary were being neglected, abused or had no other living relatives I could readily understand Jesus making provisions for her care. I wonder if James and the other siblings were as frustrated as I am when their mother’s guardianship was given to someone outside the family?
June 21, 2007
On my kitchen counter was one big piece of leftover cake. I thought it was too large for one serving, but to small for two servings if it were cut it in half. I was home alone so it was easy to justify eating the whole thing by calling it lunch. It’s not my practice to pray before eating snacks, but I do pray before meals. Bowing my head over the mega-sized piece of cake my prayer was interrupted by a conversation going off in my head, “You’re not really going to ask God to bless this to the nourishment of you body, are you?” I stumbled and fumbled trying to come up with words of thanksgiving for the bounty God had provided. While I enjoyed every bite of my cake-lunch, it did cause me to stop and think about how often I ask God to bless things I know aren’t always the best for me.
June 20, 2007
My church no longer subscribes to its weekly denominational magazine, but I remember at one time there was a column for reporting baptisms and transfers of membership. Individual churches submitted their statistics to the publisher, who then, along with the church name and her pastor, reported the stats. Personally, I always enjoyed reading the number of additions made in churches across the country. I felt it was a good indicator of where the Spirit was working in healthy, successful ministries. Recently an older pastor startled me by saying, “The reporting of baptisms and transfers is nothing but fuel for a preacher’s ego. It’s a way to tell others in the brotherhood, ‘Look at me and what a good job I’m doing’.” That thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but from a preacher’s perspective I see what he’s saying.
June 19, 2007
For many years I’ve served as an election judge for the local electric co-op. The association uses a mail-in ballot, but members can also vote in person on the day of the annual meeting. In an election, only the person registered or on an account has a vote. Every year a few women who’d like to vote are turned away because their name is not included with their husband’s on the membership account. I feel terrible telling people who’ve made an effort to go to the polls that their name isn’t listed. I wouldn’t want to be an election judge overseeing the Book of Life. I can’t imagine scrolling down the alphabetized list of names and having to tell a soul that their name isn’t there.
June 18, 2007
I think society has so stifled our ‘judgment skills’ that we’ll all need a refresher course when it comes time to judge the world and angels (1 Cor 6). While I can formulate in my mind scenarios for judging the world, I’m at a loss, and at the same time intrigued, at the thought of judging angels. The NIV study Bible cross reference points toward men judging fallen angels, however it seems to me fallen angels have already been judged by God. In any case, whether fallen or not, how would you judge an angel? Without specific criteria, I feel ill equipped for the task. Right now I could do no better than vouching for the attentiveness of my guardian angel.
June 15, 2007
Immigration is a hot topic today. One of the talking points for various aspects of immigration is the labor force. We’re told that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are doing jobs that the average American won’t do. I think I see a similar attitude in the church. People want to be part of the body without serving one another. We salve our conscious by hiring additional staff to do the ‘spiritual’ work that we don’t want to do. The staff then determines their job is to educate and train us to do the work we didn’t want to do in the first place. It’s not that we’re uneducated about serving, teaching, evangelism, etc., it’s that we don’t want to do it – that’s why we hired someone else in the first place.
June 14, 2007
A while back I watched a broadcast of TV evangelist Ed Young, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church in Dallas. The sermon contained excerpts taken from his book ‘In The Zone’. Mr. Young said people who are mature get out of their comfort zone. They ‘get it’ and understand it’s time to grow up when they realize generosity is over and above a tithe. Conjuring up enthusiasm Young said to his audience, “If you smile when I talk about giving, you’re getting it. You’re in the zone.” About that time in the presentation I zoned out. Apparently in Mr. Young’s world smiling is an affirmation that you agree with his message. Wouldn’t you just love to see someone in the audience turn around in their seat to see how many people are really smiling?
June 13, 2007
Over the years I’ve seen at least three churches in our community transformed. They became a business office, a bar/tavern and a junk store. From an article in Scottish Life, author Keith Aitken says that many historic churches in Scotland are falling into disrepair. “The Scottish Civic Trust lists at least 300 churches in Scotland as being ‘at risk’ and the Executive’s heritage agency, Historic Scotland, has served grim notice that it alone cannot be expected to save the nation’s stock of unwanted houses of worship.” It’s a sad commentary that churches built as a labor of love are now ‘unwanted houses of worship’. In America when a house of worship closes its doors it’s often because the congregants have moved to new facilities or they are combining their membership with another church. That’s not the picture seen in Scotland. Aitken states, “Attendances are falling annually by 2-3 percent. The Church of Scotland alone reckons that its congregations are declining by 17,000 a year.” Scottish communities are running out of churchgoers. We in the US are naive if we think the same thing can’t, or won’t happen to us.
June 12, 2007
I recently watched the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The pirate ship is headed into the drink and both ship and crew will be lost. Captain Barbosa is at the helm and in true pirate form says, “The best day to die is a day worth living for!” What a great Christian eulogy. I think I’ll write this one in my Bible.
June 11, 2007
There are some things that just aren’t in a person’s character or make up. Maybe they can’t sing, they’re too shy to pray out loud or too nervous to speak at a microphone. During the worship service I’ve seen many who are uncomfortable with clapping, raising holy hands and being moved by the spirit of the worship leader. Actually, I find it a form of bullying when a worship leader stands at the pulpit and “encourages” the congregation to become more charismatic. Now that’s what I’d call a bully pulpit.
June 08, 2007
A few weeks ago we were invited to a dinner for 16 people and I asked the hostess what she’d like me to bring. Since I was the first on her invitation list I had dibs on all the side-dish options to choose from. I told her to put me down for dessert and that I’d bring a German’s Chocolate Cake – her husband’s favorite. Knowing how labor intensive it is to make this cake she said, “Oh good, I’m so glad I called you first.” The cake was a success and in a strange way it helped me relate to one aspect of the parable of the Shrewd Manager recorded in Luke 16. If I consider my German’s Chocolate Cake to be wealth, I’m confident my friends will ask me back – and my name might even stay at the top of the invitation list
June 07, 2007
I’d like for my daughter to find her knight in shining amour, but that just hasn’t happened yet. If Leslie were to ever marry, it’s doubtful she would have a church wedding. No, it’s not what you thinking. She’s been raised in the church. Her dream and our desire would be to have a wedding held in the church she has attended all her life. However, the restrictions and requirements for the facility make it almost prohibitive to use. Those now setting policy have put the cost of using the building out of price range for its members. I understand the need to distinguish between member and non-member use, but our facilities were built with tithes and offerings from members and for the members. It feels sort of like co-signing a loan with your kid so he can buy a car and then he decides to charge you to ride in it.
June 06, 2007
A reader told me, “I hope you’ll sometimes mention some of the good things happening in the church.” To be sure, there are many good things going on in the church that are worthy of comment, but they don’t always lend themselves to discussion and opinion. Paul wrote to the Corinthians exposing their observance of the Lord’s Supper saying, “I have no praise for you…Shall I praise you for this? Certainly Not!” (1 Cor 11: 17, 22 NIV) Paul wasn’t overlooking the good things in the church, but he was giving his opinion concerning their attitude toward the Lord’s Supper. His comments opened a door for discussion and correction – not only for the Corinthians, but for us as well. Attitudes and actions in the church are worthy of comment, but they aren’t always praise worthy.
June 05, 2007
If new people are added to an established circle of close friends, the group dynamics change. In a similar scenario mainline churches often experience personality changes in their congregation when they have an influx of new members. Strong personalities coming in can take over and, for good or bad, re-make the character of the congregation in a relatively short period of time. I’m wondering how the presence of outsiders might impact religious groups and cults who thrive on exclusion and seclusion. Paul & Company certainly changed the atmosphere in the synagogue. Wouldn’t you just love to see him visit a Mosque?
June 04, 2007
In Corinthians Paul tells us that he planted churches, Apollos watered them and God made them grow. We often emphasize planting churches foreign countries, but I’m wondering if we’re neglecting the business of watering them in our own country. Although established many years ago, a small church in a neighboring town is struggling. Without a minister for a few years their membership and finances dwindled. The current part-time minister now fills the pulpit for a stipend. It’s advantageous to the Kingdom for this church, and others like it, to succeed. I think if Paul were here today he’d be writing letters to area churches and telling them to start doing some watering.
June 03, 2007
Beginning today I’ve disabled the ‘word verification option’ (the wavy letters) on the Christian Ear blog site. The word verification option prevents automated systems from adding comments to the blog. Some people are having difficulty posting their comments to the Christian Ear, so we’ll see if this eliminates some of the confusion. I do post all the comments I receive on the blog. If you’ve commented and it doesn’t appear then it didn’t come through. Please try, try again.
June 01, 2007
Although my 61 year-old sister has battled both lung and brain cancer, the word ‘terminal’ has never been part of her vocabulary. Even as her health deteriorates, she continues to deny the doctor’s prognosis. During a recent meeting with Social Services, Shelly flatly rejected the notion of Hospice with, “it’s not yet needed”. Trying to break through her defensiveness the clinician finally had to ask, “Shelly, how will you know when you need Hospice?” She replied, “I’ll know. I’ll just know.” Not unlike Shelly, many of us rely totally on our own discernment. It’s no wonder we sometimes feel God is pulling the rug out from under us – it’s the only way He can get our attention.