March 2007

I had the opportunity to view Happy Feet last night. This animated movie was pretty good and the soundtrack is worth picking up for those long commutes. Happy Feet also raised all types of theological and ecclesiastical questions for me.200px-happy_feet.jpg I would like to explore three of the huge themes Environmental Theology, Spiritual Gifts that Embrace Uniqueness and Traditional vs. Contemporary Church. While this short article will not be exhaustive analysis I also saw about 5 other theological themes that will not be addressed here today.

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1-2

Since the earth belongs to the Lord we as God’s people have a responsibility to protect the ecosystem that God created. When humans disrupt God’s ecosystem we also destroy the perfect balance that God created. We are stewards of God’s property not the designers and so we also lack the capacity to realign the system so that all of God’s creation is maintained in perfect balance. This is a huge problem as we look at the food chain but even relates to our addiction to oil and Global Warming.

The Emperor Penguins lack of food caused by human consumption is a theological issue because as God’s steward’s we should be protecting all of God’s creatures. The church is silent because we are co-conspirators with the fishing companies. We do not demand that they invest in more self sustaining fish farms and ensure that they clean up the sea that they have polluted in their pillaging

Genesis 1:26

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”


The second issue is about spiritual gifts and uniqueness. We find three specific texts about gifts in the scriptures. The leadership gifts in Ephesians 4:11-16, motivational gifts in Romans 12: 4-21 and spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12: As leaders do we attempt to conform people to our vision of how a gift is to be lived out. When people have unique gifts do we ostracize or embrace the gift even if we do not understand the gift.

Mumble’s – is tone deaf and nearly incapable of singing. However, Mumble has an astute talent for tap dancing. This ability is frowned upon by the colony’s elders, who do not tolerate deviance of any kind. As a result, Mumble is ostracized throughout his childhood, with only his parents and his friend Gloria to turn to for help.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

This is the picture that I see and the basis of the stories that I hear from people who claim that they have been hurt by the church. They didn’t fit in, no one understood their perspective , they wanted to express their love for God in worship that was different than the congregational norm. Church leaders are to equip, motivate and empower people to spiritual maturity not behavioral conformity. We must move past our own views of what is right to discerning what God has designed as unique for a purpose. How do we has disciple making congregations guide people to find their God given purpose and live out that purpose. If more people in the church operated out of their spiritual gifts and purpose then I believe there would be fewer churches in need of revitalization, realignment or funeral services.

Finally Happy Feet is a critique on the traditional church vs. the contemporary church. It may also be a critique on blind faith vs. faith and reason.

This ability (tap dancing) is frowned upon by the colony’s elders, who do not tolerate deviance of any kind. the young penguin finds himself far from his home and within the carefree colony of the adélies – penguins small in stature, but fiercely loyal to those they call friends. He quickly befriends a small group of bachelors who call themselves the amigos – Ramón, the smallest of them, is the unofficial “leader” of sorts. The amigos quickly embrace Mumble’s dance moves and assimilate him into their misfit group.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Many of our traditional church leaders have spoken harsh words, devised exclusive policies and have disciplined new thoughts and ideas by excluding the thinker and barring the implementation of the plan. Our young people run to churches (and sometimes cults) that embrace their new thinking. What is really amazing is that we are then mad at the young people because they are not perpetuating our brand of church. I have even heard some call this “contemporary church” heresy. The debate will rage on for years but I am clear about this………If your church is not relevant to the people outside of the church it will die. By choosing not to be adaptable you choose a slow demise and a sure burial for your church.

Mark 2:16-17

16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

If the traditional church does not regain its passion to reach out to the hurting it has chosen to write its own obituary. “We were once a great church but we refused to change so we all now Rest in Peace.”

There is another explanation about the film.

“This movie was fun. The music was good and the dancing was great.”  – Courtney Chaney  It could just be a nice animated movie for the masses to enjoy.

I found this on Methoblog and it really intrigued me. Something to consider as we plan our spring/summer ministry schedules.

is the church the enemy of the family?

john highlights a report saying that more and more folks see church as a competitor for their time. it comes down to time commitments, the church is pitted against the family and all the other things that people want. keith seems to get caught in this. i know i had my rant.

questions? does the church ask too much? does culture ask too much? does the church overschedule the family? does the culture overschedule the family? is it the family’s choice to overschedule themselves?

Three R’s of Development
This is a Christianity Today Article on the Ministry and Life of John Perkins

The philosophy of the “Three R’s”—reconciliation, relocation, and redistribution—is CCDA’s backbone. Reconciliation shows itself as multiracial ministry. Perkins has never flirted with black power rhetoric or Afrocentric philosophies. He firmly believes that the kingdom of God is seen when all ethnicities work and worship together. “I want to preach a gospel that is stronger than my race and stronger than my economic interest,” he says. At the CCDA conference, his close friendship with Wayne Gordon, a white inner-city pastor from Chicago’s tough Lawndale neighborhood, sets the example.

The second R, relocation, emphasizes that to work with the poor you have to live with them. “I believe that the people with the problems can solve their own problems,” Perkins says. Only those who share daily life in the ghetto can move past charity to genuine community development.

This challenges up-and-out inner-city residents just as much as suburbanites. CCDA members don’t consider it a success when local young people go off to college and graduate to suburban life. “What they have got is a better education in consumption,” Perkins says. CCDA champions educated young people who come back to serve in their communities.

Living in the community, Wayne Gordon stresses, is the only cure for the prejudice that middle-class whites typically bring to their relations with the poor. He tells of moving into the high-crime area of Lawndale as a young teacher and coming home to find his van broken into. Residents of his building saw the theft and organized an around-the-clock vigil to make sure no one looted the van further. They took care of him even though he was the only white man in the neighborhood. “I found that, unexpectedly, I was living out the words of Martin Luther King Jr., being judged not by the color of my skin but by my character,” Gordon says.

The third R, redistribution, sounds like socialism, but what Perkins describes is far closer to capitalism. He seeks economic vitality, not handouts. He recognizes that external forces—unjust laws, lack of access to bank loans, poor schools—often prevent economic progress among poor people. But so does a lack of self-confidence and initiative. He wants poor African Americans to learn from immigrants who look at their blighted communities and see business opportunities. One way or another, economic resources must change hands so that the poor can gain economic power and dignity.


I liked the entire article.  John Perkins has an amazing tesitmony about his ministry journey.  The Three R’s seem embrace the vision that I have for ministry.  Can we apply the Three R’s to a church with a mission of making disciples? Are suburban churches and pastor’s able to embrace and support urban ministry and have integrity in their ministries?  Can the three R’s be applied to a congregation that is revitalizing?

If I were to use the three R’s I would the fourth R.  Reproduce.  Multiplication is at the foundation of every disciple making ministry.  I encourage you to read the entire article so that you can see how John Perkins approaches the three R’s in context.


Applying Wisdom to Life

Question Series: Time Stewardship


Question 2 – Time Commitment


We are discussing a series of questions relating to the topic of Time Stewardship.   How we spend our time can be the difference between a great leader and a good one.  Here is the second question in this series:


I think a lot of guilt is brought onto those in ministry with thoughts of, “Am I working enough?”   According to you, what are some reasonable expectations for hours worked per week for someone in ministry?


If you are in ministry your work is never done.  Learning to pace yourself is essential. It is hard for me to give a specific number of hours because I attempt to live my whole life as one dedicated to ministry.  I take time out to do personal things and still find myself doing ministry even if it is not directly related to the congregation that I serve.  There are weeks that I have spent 60 hours in calls, writing, studying, meetings, and pastoral care.  I have also had weeks where my body demanded that I rest and i put in 30 hours but did not feel guilty due to the previous weeks.  Balance and listening to your body is essential.  I will also take one Friday morning per month to hang out with my daughter in her class. My presence is ministry to her and others in the school.  (Does this count?)


The reasonable expectation is that a pastor will prioritize their life and work as unto the Lord everyday.


For a highlight and summery of this question offered to great Christian leaders around the world visit SOPHOS

The Sophos Symposium was started by Phil Ogilvie to help apply the wisdom of great leaders to life.   For an overview of how the Symposium operates, click here. 


Applying Wisdom to Life

Question Series: Time Stewardship


Question 1


We are discussing a series of questions relating to the topic of Time Stewardship.   How we spend our time can be the difference between a great Christian leader and a good one.  Here is the first question in this series:


The role of a pastor is said to be a 24 hour job.  What are some practical steps you take as someone in ministry to guard your time with family and other priorities?


I begin each week planning on date night with my wife and play time for my daughter.  I schedule my devotional time when everyone is asleep early in the morning or late at night.  When we are in the van together I will not talk on the cell phone but if I am commuuting alone I use this time to catch up with church members who missed worship or arrange discipleship meetings with the leadership.  Friday is my day off with few exceptions.  I attempt not to watch news or weather on the television but I will read the front page of 3-4 newspapers online each morning. 


What can I do better?  Intentionally plan more time for exercise and involve more laity in pastoral visits to the congregation.


For a highlight and summery of this question offered to great Christian leaders around the world visit SOPHOS

The Sophos Symposium was started by Phil Ogilvie to help apply the wisdom of great leaders to life.   For an overview of how the Symposium operates, click here. 


I have not posted in a while but I am ready to make a comeback.  Here is a quick news flash.  I am part of a new Symposium  I have not participated yet but there are some awesome responses to the first two questions.  I should be catching up real soon.  I am also re-reading Growing True Disciples by George Barna.  This is a great book.

Church revitalization is a special calling with a peculiar gift set.  Honoring the past, while disrupting the present, to create a different vision for the future, is a balancing act that few pastors do effectively. Taking criticism personally, having the need to be appreciated, affirmed, and being able to use a cookie cutter approach to ministry is not going to work in the 21st Century. Pastors’ who have been called to revitalize will benefit greatly by cultivating a few gifts that I have been noticing in successful church revitalization pastors. 

Unapologetically Prophetic – Calling people to recognize their short comings and focus on the call of God is essential for church revitalization.  Churches are not dying because the people do not love the Lord or each other (a few are but…) Most churches are dying because they have lost the deep desire to live the transforming life style.  They experienced their new birth in Christ, they have been inspired and revived beyond complacency two or three times but now there is no challenge to be the Gospel because they have become comfortable and complacent with being church people rather than Christ’s people.  If you took a poll in almost any mainline church on Sunday and asked the question “How many people have introduced one person to Jesus Christ in the last 30 days?”, How many people would respond?  80%? 50%? 20%? 5%? Anyone? 

When we live a life that is constantly being transformed by the Word of God then we develop a burning desire to lead others through the process of being transformed. When we have experience God’s grace we want to share God’s grace?  When we experience the Love of God we want to share the Love of God? When the “church event” is more important than the “living for Christ” life style the church needs a prophet.  Speaking the truth in love, addressing relational dysfunctions, calling out social intolerances that mask racism, sexism, and homophobic attitudes and behavior are essential skills for the church revitalization pastor. 

Your preaching must speak to where people who you are trying to reach are hurting, not where your congregation is comfortable. Your preaching must connect the ancient rituals and traditions that give meaning with the spiritual needs of people today who are market driven not religion driven.  If you can not connect with the culture through music, movies, news, community needs and regional sociological trends with the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day so that we could walk in victory over sin, death , hell and the grave then you will be challenged in rebuilding the church.   

To revitalize a church your focus should be on revitalizing people’s lives with the Gospel.  How do we love like Jesus?  Serve like Jesus? Provide hospitality like Jesus? These are a few of the questions that ministry has always answered but now we have to take it to the next level and say with our technology driven, relationship barren, disconnected, selfish centered culture how do we live as ambassadors of Jesus Christ?   

Prophetic Pastors Guide 

  • Pray without ceasing

  • Search the scriptures more than preparing for your sermon

  • Do not take spiritual warfare lightly

  • Focus on the Message of the Gospel then connect it to culture

  • Take time to clarify your calling and gift set

Prayer – Topic Overview

What is prayer?

Many people believe prayer is a way to communicate directly with a spiritual energy or higher being. Prayer can be silent, as in meditation, or spoken aloud in a group, as in a religious setting. Prayer may help people find an inner sense of meaning, or it may strengthen their belief in a higher being. Prayer may feel very supportive to people faced with life-changing problems, such as illness.

I think that it is interesting that WebMD has an article about prayer as a healing agent.

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