Monday, June 21, 2004


So we've just kicked off Bill Clinton Week with his interview on 60 Minutes. There's sure to be a lot of talk about Clinton and his presidency in the upcoming week, most of which will probably focus on his relationship with Monica Lewinski. I'm sure that most "evangelicals" will probably be bashing the snot out of Clinton for his "morally rheprehensible" behavior, but I thought it might be fun to remove all of the bad behavior from the spotlight and bring into focus some of the things that we think he did right as well as some of the things that we think he shouldn't have done (aside from extra marital activities and not enhaling). What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2004

the mailman fails to deliver

I concur, Dusty.

R.I.P. Karl Malone. I never really liked you until you had gray in your beard. But by then, it was too late. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


Just thought I would point out that my post about the NBA Finals has been pretty accurate. Go back and read it! I am the greatest person ever!

Friday, June 04, 2004

joining the fray

Just a couple of verses to start out. First, this comes from the mouth of Abraham's servant, speaking of Abraham, trying to find a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac.

"The LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys." - Gen. 24:35

This was the mind-set of all ancient cultures, I think. We know that Abraham was a righteous man, and righteous men were rewarded by their gods. In Abraham's case, his god happened to be Yahweh. The same God we as Christians worship, which means this story is more important to us than other ancient stories about people who were blessed by their gods.

In the O.T., the people of Israel thought that their reward for righteous living came in this life, because they didn't have the concrete understanding of the afterlife that Christians have. If one found favor in God's eyes for right living, one would find God's favor in all his earthly pursuits.

"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets." - Luke 6:22-23

Jesus changes everything. Period. He turns the idea of earthly rewards for righteous living on its head. Notice he isn't saying that we won't receive earthly blessings for right living, but he is saying that we can't count on blessings here on earth to validate right living. He's saying that our true reward comes in heaven.

This might sound a bit scary, but I really do think it's the way the Church is supposed to think about earthly rewards. If I work hard, I can get rewarded for that work. But it's due to the market, having a good product, creating demand, and having supply to meet that demand, that I find a reward. This is true of any business, whether it be blockbuster movies, the NFL, mutual funds, nudie magazines, oil, or post-it-notes.

So if we're going to apply a numbers-based approach to the local church (which is a market-based model), I am going to have to agree with Jake -- we see blessings and success in our churches because we judge success by corporate (or quantitative) growth. While I'm not going to say that God doesn't have anything to do with that, I will say that we won't know if that was a (truly) blessing from God (see: God's favor) until we experience our heavenly reward.

All that to say, God's favor cannot be authenticated by sprockets sold, or local church growth, or waterslides at a summer camps, or U.S. News college rankings, or even cheap Saturn cars, found used when you really needed a car in order to go off to Montana to work for the year. Yes, these are all blessings. But we should never use them to "prove" that we are receving God's favor.

A few responses to what Andy had to say. I think that your reminder of the story of Pathway is helpful and I think some of the experiences of Pathway can be used to look at how a church deals with 'getting big'. I know a lot of the early time there was spent trying to figure out how to keep from growing before realizing that they needed to instead find ways to keep ministering to whoever showed up. There were two comments you made, however, that I think may lead to some dangerous thinking and while they may apply to the setting your speaking of, they are problematic when considered as a general maxim.

"The question is what makes a church go from 5 families in a living room to 1500 people in a middle school in 2.5 years? I think a lot of the blame/credit's got to go towards God."

This may be the case with Pathway. I'm not going to argue either way on that one because I don't know how. But I think the way this sentance reads reminds me too much of what Dusty was talking about earlier where material wealth, building size, but most of all size of congregation is how we measure the success of a church. I think that most of the time I've seen it go something like this: God will bring to church x the people who can be ministered to by church x. God will not bring people to church x if church x is ineffective at ministry. Therefore, if church x is full of people, it is because God believes that church x is the best place for them to be. The more people at church x, the more people God has brought there, the more God likes what that church is doing.

This sort of thinking, however, is exactly the democratic/market mindset that we've been talking about. In our culture everything is measured quantatively; whoever gets the most votes wins, whoever has the most points win, whoever has the most money wins. The more the better, especially when it comes to people. Church attendance gets viewed as a sort of vote on the behalf of the people which, in turn, as seen as a vote by God because God is bringing the people there, according to the theology. And, as Jonny pointed out, once everyone bought into the market/democratic mainstream mindset, everyone else has to follow course. Even if you're not marketing, you're a failure if no one is there and must be outside God's blessing. Asking how do I find God's favor becomes the same as asking how do I get more people here, and many churches begin strategically pursuing more people and we're back to where we've been. Not all big churches, though, gained their size in this way, pathway being an example, as well as most mainline protestant and catholic churches. The problem with evaluating the church based on the size of anything is that this is not the standard Christ gave for the church. He did not tell the church to be huge but rather to be committed to the Kingdom of God. This brings me to the final point.

"Now there's always room to grow and change and understand the Gospel more fully, but my question is how in churches of all sizes in america is there truly amazing things happening, that can only be credited to God if we're missing the mark so severly? Why would God not withhold his favor from us?"

I think that we're looking at two different issues here Andy. We've talked about this before, but i think the task is a mutual affirmation and enrichment of the good and a reproach and reform of the bad. We've got a lot of good things going on at churches, based on a qualitative evaluation instead of numbers. In many churches peoples lives are changing and through this some communities are affected. Your quote brings up an interesting, timeless question that is present througout scripture. Why would God not without his favor from us if we're doing such a rotten job of being the church? It's simple. God is insanely gracious. The biblical story is all about this. God is always overcoming the shortcomings of his people to bring about his will on earth. Do we have a role to play in this? yes. It is clear that when we are functioning under God's designs for the universe, the world is a better place. Is God going to wait around for us to get things right before he starts using his people? Thank God, the answer is no. In the bible, God is often found working in the situations where people miss the mark most severely. This is the awesome work of an awesome God. This does not, however, justify us to continue to miss the mark. Instead, God always acts graciously while providing again the expectations for his people. In the case of the church today, God is working within the broken community that is present but he is also reminding us of what he calls his people to do. This, (insert broken record) is the furthering of the Kingdom of God where the least become first and vice versa. So, we have to be looking out for where God is at work and praising him for these instances while at the same time offering a critical statement to wherever the church is apathetic or pursuing any values or goals that are apart from the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

What If...

Dusty said...
"What would a church be if it did absolutely no marketing? What if a handful of us got together and just created a weekly worship experience that made sense to us? What if it we went so far to be totally exclusive for as long as a year, to really establish what we believe to be the most important values of our church, and then only let people know about it through personal relationships/ direct word of mouth invitations. Probably a lot more like the church described in Acts 2 was...Just some thoughts."

I heard about a place like this once. Four families decided that this was what they were going to do, so they got together and just started praying about the area they lived in and the people they knew that had know relationship with Christ. They prayed for a while and a pastor ended up joining them in their endevor. They spent the next 5 months meeting in each other's houses, worshiping together and defining their values. At the end of those 5 months they began people to be a part of their new church only by word of mouth and they started their year long period of establishing what they were about. They were very clear that they were not doing church yet, they were just getting together to worship and learn together planning for how to reach their first circle (see Jonny's old post). There was NO adverstising, NO signs, NO website, NO phonebook listing, and at the end of that year there was 800 people meeting at a middle school every Sunday.

Now I know you guys figured out I was talking about Pathway, but the church became what seems to be what we're speaking against without the huge marketing plan or even business model (to be real honest, leadership has been done kind of haphazardly at times). It can be safely said that there has been missteps along the way, that we're missing the mark in some issues and not even in the neighborhood on others. The question is what makes a church go from 5 families in a living room to 1500 people in a middle school in 2.5 years? I think a lot of the blame/credit's got to go towards God.

Now there's always room to grow and change and understand the Gospel more fully, but my question is how in churches of all sizes in america is there truly amazing things happening, that can only be credited to God if we're missing the mark so severly? Why would God not withhold his favor from us?

Finally, I think it may be beneficial if we started talking about small slices of churches that we see taking the Gospel to the streets, poor, needy and down trodden. Even if these churches are only getting it right in one way, let's start talking about that and see if we can't start understanding how we can make bigger differences in the communities we find ourselves in (or will someday).

N.T. wright interview

This is a link to an article by N.T. Wright.

He doesn't directly hit on some of these issues, but he is talking about some amazing issues. He's talking from an Anglican perspective to a Catholic audience but when he gets into issues about communiion, eucharist, and ethics I think he's saying awesome things. Here's my favorite part.

Let's turn to the current debate in the American Catholic church about denying communion to public officials who take positions contrary to church teaching. Can scripture help us?
It is difficult, because the main issue in 1 Corinthians 11, or so it seems, is the rich and the poor. People who have enough money and food are going ahead and having a great meal, and Christians who don't are left out, left on the side. Paul is pretty severe about that. If I were simply to pick up 1 Corinthians 11 and ask, "What does this suggest about Eucharistic fellowship?", the biggest issue that shouts straight back at me is that the rich, white, Western world, which keeps the "two-thirds world" in grinding poverty and unpayable debt, stands condemned every time it receives the Eucharist because its brothers and sisters in the two-third world are growing the wrong sort of crops, are paying compound interest they can't afford, and are being left on the side. I really would want to go very hard on that. If you want to start with scripture, that is the moral issue that comes straight out of 1 Corinthians 11. Until one addresses that sort of question, more local questions about "the church teaches x, but this person says y, therefore should they be allowed to receive the Eucharist?" … what's the point of even putting that one on the table until we've started to address the big ones?

I suspect one response would be that abortion is the defining moral issue of our times. If we can't protect unborn life, this argument runs, we can't protect anyone or anything.
This is where I really would get quite angry with that point of view. Though I happen to agree with the stance on abortion, it seems blindingly obvious that it is not the big moral issue of our time. Global debt and the economic systems that were set up in 1944 with the Breton Woods Agreement, to slope the table so the money slides into the pockets of the Western banking system, at the cost of keeping most of the world in unpayable debt, seems to me as big a moral issue as slavery was 200 years ago. I and others intend to bang on about it until we achieve something. I just don't think we can say, "abortion is the issue." Apart from anything else, there are millions of children being born all the time in Africa, in Latin America, on the Indian subcontinent, whose economic circumstances are such that it would almost be better if they hadn't been born. The reason they're in those economic situations are precisely because of decisions taken in the World Bank and the IMF, and they are structural decisions, not just particular decisions. This has been so intensively and extensively studied, people have shown it so often, that I just wonder what kind of blindness it is that prevents people from seeing it. Of course part of the answer is, our churches have endowments. We've got investments in these things, and you can't tell us to go back on that. That's a serious problem, but it's a problem that's got to be addressed. Yes, abortion matters, but all this matters much, much more. Just in terms of sheer quantity, there are millions more people whose lives are totally blighted by it. That's where I would go for starters. To play around with your Democratic presidential candidate, for example, seems to me to play with one particular pawn without noticing what's happening on the chessboard as a whole. When you see the whole, I think you have to say, let's try to address the big issues. If you haven't got the courage to do that, addressing the little issues of one particular person and his views on this or that looks like a displacement activity. It looks like something you do rather frantically in order to avoid having to talk about the elephant in the living room.

The church, however, does not propose particular economic systems with the same clarity with which it denounces the killing of the unborn.
That may be so, but Jesus says that you're good at prophesying weather forecasts, why can't you see the signs of the times? The weather forecasts that he instances are the easiest ones ever in the Middle East. If there's a wind from the south, it's going to be hot. If there's a cloud coming up over the Mediterranean, it's going to rain. It does not take a master's degree in meteorology to figure that one out. If you stand in Jerusalem, that's the way it is. Similarly, it does not take a degree in macroeconomics or a complicated statement from the House of Bishops to say that if two-thirds of the world is in unpayable debt, with compound interest getting higher all the time, and without a bankruptcy system that allows them to draw a line and start over, and if a small minority concentrated in our part of the world is getting richer and richer, being paid indecent sums of money on the basis of shuffling a few financial counters around and playing with these people's lives … I don't think it's a complicated issue at all. I think it's pretty straightforward issue. It only becomes complicated when people wriggle and twist and try to get off the hook.

The cure is more complicated than the diagnosis, yes?

It is and it isn't. The relief of global debt has actually been figured out. There are serious economists and bankers who have worked on this. I'm not an economist or a banker, but I have seen and talked to people in that field. They've got strategies where if you do this now, then you can do that next year, and so on. There would be ways through. Somebody said the sort of broad-brush sums we're talking about would cost, say, America roughly the amount that it spends on going to the movies each year. It would cost roughly that amount to put the whole thing back the right way around. Then we could all proceed together. What really sticks in my throat is that while all this is going on, the American government, along with my own government and several others, talk about bringing freedom and justice to the world, when we are doing the precise opposite. Use of imperial rhetoric to cover up our own consistent greed … if we have any Christian moral courage, this is what we ought to be talking about. Face it, we are in a world where two-thirds of the people are poor and crying for justice. One-third of the people are rich and wanting more sex. I want to say, what is wrong with this picture? This cannot be the way the Creator-God intended the cosmos to work.

So arguing over whether to deny John Kerry communion for his stance on abortion, in your view, is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?
Yes, more or less. I know that there are those for whom abortion is the issue, and for that alone they might vote this way or that. I respect that, I understand that. I feel very strongly, and think very strongly, about abortion too. I believe that abortion is normally an evil and ought not to be done.

By the way, scroll down and read what everyone else is talking about. I'll have more to add later.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Jonny and Jake great posts...First, in defense of my NBA logic, Jake, go back read my pre-apology paragraph again. I agree Shaq is a force that is unquestioned...Of course when Kobe thinks that he runs the team, they do struggle. When Shaq has fewer shot attempts the Lakers lose, bottom line. I don't think it will happen, or really should, but I hate them, so I had to write something. NO ONE else was going to attempt to defend them...

As for the Really important stuff...Jonny, you seem to be hitting on some of the concepts of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic. Which became a brutal unbiblical marriage of Church structure and Economic system. The whole concept that material wealth was the best indicator of "God's Favor". In word, I think churches would not admit to still having this view of the world, but I think it is largely a value that seems to be expressed non-verbally in the American church. Numbers and status matters to the church. Attendence and church building size matters.

I think I have said it on here before, but the main reason I have not gotten involved in church is because I sense no real community in situations where I don't live with people. In a very real way Church is the college and community I share with the people that share their lives with me in a real way. This obviously leaves weak the area of corporate worship, but frankly churches have proven to be just as weak in this area as our own Chapel services.

In Boston this week, I went to a multicultural church and I was struck again at how the message of the Worship was not self-focus, as much contemporary suburban churches tend to be. The choruses seemed Worshipful of or to God.

What would a church be if it did absolutely no marketing? What if a handful of us got together and just created a weekly worship experience that made sense to us? What if it we went so far to be totally exclusive for as long as a year, to really establish what we believe to be the most important values of our church, and then only let people know about it through personal relationships/ direct word of mouth invitations. Probably a lot more like the church described in Acts 2 was...Just some thoughts...Jake your vision makes me excited that there is potential to change, even if it won't be easy.

Show of Hands

By a show of hands, who reading this is going to church on a regular basis who isn't paid to do it? Anyone? I didn't think so...

The problem with the reformation, and probably one of its greatest contributions to the history of western civilization, was the creation of the alternative. Not to give too much credit to luther and the boys, but they proved that if you don't like what's offered, make your own. And once someone else has made their own, if you don't like what you've got you can join up with them and if you don't like what they've got, make your own. What should have happened with the reformation? It should have been a wake-up call to the church catholic and everyone should have gotten back together, worked it out, and even called back in the orthodox church. And all of this should have occurred within the lifetime of martin luther. that's reformation. Instead, we get denominations.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of market mentality is its inevitability. Go ahead and try to wash your hair without making a choice to support a brand. Have some dinner tonight without choosing which beef producer you want to advance on their quest of world domination. Try taking a crap without choosing which toilet paper brand is the best.

My point is this, that wherever there is an alternative, there is the market, and there is 'success' in our context. For the church, we see individual churches causing their own schisms (traditional/contemporary w/i same church), thus growing larger and creating a market within themselves. Create your own alternative and people don't have to go somewhere else to get it. Tack this onto the necessary free-market adapting that was already mentioned by jenny and you've got the current state of affairs. The churches that have not given in are called dead by those that have because 1. The congregation is too homogeneous (they are filled with old people) 2. they refuse to change and 3. they are not feeding the flock. While there are some true challenges in these claims, I suggest that the exact same critique can be raised against most thriving, market driven churches. 1. The congregation is too homogeneous (they are all young, or white, or black, or rich, or poor, you get the drift). 2. they refuse to change (do NOT question Willow Creek, the building project, etc.) and 3. they are not feeding the flock (at least from the pulpit, or for the most part at all and they are not feeding them Christ in the sacrament. This is an amazing, unnoticed flaw! Reference church history!). The argument is made that it is thriving because people are coming, people are making commitments, and people are changing. But by what standard? Where is the gospel going? Who's selling everything they have and giving it to the poor? Why are there still hungry/poor/homeless people within feet of these churches? Why are pastors quitting and elders screwing around and getting divorces if it's going so well?

Jonny, I think you may be right that we're screwed. I honestly do. You're right to say that any church not accepting the business model will not 'get off the ground.' What's needed is not a revolution of the thinking of individuals in the market churches, but instead one option may remain. 1. a true reformation, where the flaws, shortcomings, and evils of the market-evangelical church is called out from within, loudly, and in print (CT) with an actual course of action. 2. This course of action will be painful, tragic, and risky. Those who act will be called divisors, rejecters of the Gospel, and will be excluded. For a pep talk, reference the prophets and Jesus. 3. A reclaiming of the history of the church, centered around the word of God and the sacrament of communion, an open table of fellowship where all are truly invited. This may begin as a separate community, but the object should always be reunification with anyone and the separation should never be on your head, i.e. follow Luther and wait until they kick you out.

So this is my dream right? The main problem? I have to get to church on Sunday and sit through the crap that is before me. I have to somehow find myself within the community.

And Dusty, you forgot that match-ups don't matter when Shaq can dunk on everyone. Lakers in 5. Honestly, come on abshire. The more every other Laker is outplayed the better for Shaq and the better for the Lakers. I choose Shaq.

Going back to the basics of the hip hop scene...

Andy posted a month ago about "me focused" Christians, and over my trip back to good old H-town, I started thinking about this.

Maybe, in a way, it's kind of Protestantism's fault. I mean, before that, there wasn't much competition for Christians between local churches. Maybe in more diverse areas, you could got to St. Paul's for Germans or St. Peter's for Frenchies, but even then, no matter where you went, the service was going to be in Latin. But when the Protestants (or "awesome Christians" as I like to call them) burst onto the scene, all of the sudden people had options (and as David Bazaan rightly sings, "It's good to have options.").

While I might be totally off base, it seems like free market ideas started to become popular around this time as well. Suddenly, you had different denominations competing for people, in a time when competition was getting popular in the business market as well.

Today, we have more churches than ever, and a market-obsessed culture with options for making purchases on every corner (even in our own homes!). All it took was one church to adopt a free market business model; after that, every other church had to just to keep up.

This is depressing, because I have absolutely no idea how to get around this. As Wal-Mart/bargain price consumers, we allow our purchasing instincts to follow us into church as well. Is there really any way to change people's perception of what the Church is for? If a church rejected the business model, I'm not sure it would even get off the ground in today's climate.

Guys, I think we're screwed.

P.S. As for BB, this is Karl Malone's year, this is his time baby, this is his ring! Let all who oppose his mighty presence be scattered by the wind to the four corners of the earth! Let their children be crippled and their widows be....i don't know, somthing even worse!

Finally, something that matters...

Andy, I will take it on for the sake of argument. I suspect this was a lob for me anyway...

First, I expect the Lakers to win, as much as I hate to admit it. However, since I would like them to lose, I will discuss the small margin of error that could create an opportunity for the Pistons. Outside of major injuries to the Lakers, here are the benefits the Pistons have in this series: Match-ups, bench, youth, and MUCH better defense.

I will not even try to defend the chance that anyone on the Pistons can guard Shaq, but no team anywhere has, and several teams have challenged them regardless. Okur and Ben Wallace will do as well as anyone. They also have guys that can come in and hack..Rebraca and Darko...Rip, Billups, and Prince should, reasonably be able to keep Payton and nameless 5th starter/role player in check. The way they play team defense will frustrate Kobe, but he will get his points. I think Malone is an old hack who will have one good game in the series, but otherwise will be severely outplayed by Rasheed, who is playing his best basketball in years. Both benches are filled with no-name, youngsters, but I think Detroit's players buy-in to the team concept better than the lakers inexperienced bench. I give Youth to Pistons, because of the starters, Detroit has the younger players of the Big 4. Both teams come in well rested, so that should not be an issue...

The Lakers will lose if: Payton continues to be a non-factor, Kobe does not get Shaq the ball, if the scores stay around 70, Their role players don't play big, specifically Devean George, Derek Fisher, and Kareem Rush (each of whom has bailed them out once already), and Malone really does get out played by Wallace.

Actually, if any 3 of those 5 happens, the Lakers will be in trouble. Pistons defense will have to control games for them to have a chance. They want a slow game. Rip has to play as well as he has been and both Wallaces will have to play even better. If Billups comes out like he played earlier in the season, he has the ability to control either Payton or Kobe. I think he is better than Rip, but has not shown it lately...He had a couple triple doubles back in November/December...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Hey Guys:: Thought I'd throw out a lighter topic, try and get some discussion going. Someone give me an argument as to how I'm supposed to believe that the Pistons even have a chance at beating the Lakers.

Also, I'm blogging on my own again, check it out here!