May 2009


“Amazing and Uncomfortable Grace” Several years ago, there was an absolutely fascinating study done of America’s favorite music and one of the discoveries was that for many Americans one of their favorite songs is actually an old hymn, Amazing Grace. Perhaps you know how it goes: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” But what exactly is grace? And what makes it amazing? You know, when we use the word grace in ordinary conversation, we tend to downsize the word. We’ll say things like, “She’s a very graceful young woman,” and we mean she dances well. Or, “He’s a very gracious host,” and we mean he says nice things at dinner parties. We tend to use the word grace in small ways. But when the New Testament uses the word grace, it uses it in a very big way. It’s a powerful word. It’s an amazing word. In fact, it’s so powerful that sometimes grace can be quite uncomfortable. When the New Testament uses the English word grace, it’s actually the translation of a Greek word, charis, which means “gift.” And this is the New Testament’s way of saying that at the very center of life there is a God who is not a punitive judge or a scolding parent, but a God who gives gift after gift after gift. That’s grace.

Dr. Thomas Long is from Atlanta, Georgia, where he is Professor of Preaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Tom is a Presbyterian minister and the author of several books on the art of preaching. Read the Entire Sermon

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RESOLVED: Atheists are the New Evangelicals

You know it’s serious when Chuck Norris gets spooked. Non-believers are now a legit voting bloc: seven out of ten people who say they never go to church votedfor Barack Obama in November, and he repaid them with an unprecedented shoutout during his inauguration address.

The “European Disease” has officially jumped the pond.

While the number of self-identifying Christians has fallen 86% in 1990 to 76% today, the ranks of those claim “no religious affiliation” have almost doubled, to 15%. Nearly 4 million Americans now identify as atheists or agnostics, and more non-believers are publicly expressing their lack of faith—groups of non-believers are proliferating on college campuses and social networking sites.

But the battle for hearts and minds will be a long one. Most Americans have a low opinion of non-believers; a 2006 University of Minnesota study found atheists to be the most disliked minority group in America. More than half the country wouldn’t vote for an atheist for President, whereas 72% would vote for a Mormon—there’s some good news for 1012, Mitt. Still, the signs of progress are there: in 1958, 75% wouldn’t pull the lever for a non-believer.

You know it’s serious when Chuck Norris gets spooked. Non-believers are now a legit voting bloc: seven out of ten people who say they never go to church voted for Barack Obama in November, and he repaid them with an unprecedented shoutout during his inauguration address.

The “European Disease” has officially jumped the pond.

While the number of self-identifying Christians has fallen 86% in 1990 to 76% today, the ranks of those claim “no religious affiliation” have almost doubled, to 15%. Nearly 4 million Americans now identify as atheists or agnostics, and more non-believers are publicly expressing their lack of faith—groups of non-believers are proliferating on college campuses and social networking sites.

But the battle for hearts and minds will be a long one. Most Americans have a low opinion of non-believers; a 2006 University of Minnesota study found atheists to be the most disliked minority group in America. More than half the country wouldn’t vote for an atheist for President, whereas 72% would vote for a Mormon—there’s some good news for 1012, Mitt. Still, the signs of progress are there: in 1958, 75% wouldn’t pull the lever for a non-believer.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

What will it take for Christians to make evangelism as important to their spiritual discipline as prayer, quiet time, fasting, worship,journaling and studying the scriptures? The Apostle’s number one priority was to share the gospel and now the church is more concerned with buildings and appearances.

This article shows us how much work we have to do to share the gospel with non believers.  Our mainline denominations are dying not because of a lack of people but because of a lack of engaging the outside world outside of the church in a meaningful way. 

Faith sharing must become a personal life style, congregational value and denominational imperative. The biggest missionary field in the world is right here in the United States. The unconditional love, unmerited favor and total forgiveness that we have expereinced as born again believers is not a gift to be hidden in our sanctuaries and prayer closets but a gift to be shared with all of our neighbors and even the strangers that we meet.

This article set off alarm bells for me. I am committed to social justice and serving the marginalized people of the world.  I support new church plants, multi site church ministry and church yard sales.  This article has called everyone’s ministry to task. Evangelical, Full Gospel, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, AME, and the others that Ihave not named.  I pray that it will challenge and encourage you.  The new evangelist are those of us whose lives have been transformed by our relationship with Jesus Christ. We are the people who carry the Good News. We are the people with the message hope that endures the vicissitudes of life. We are the people with the message of total release from the guilt and stain of sin because of of our living  Savior whose tomb remains empty to this day. It is time to tell our story with power and conviction.  Church as usual is no longer acceptable.  We have some work to do!

The blog could actually be a paper for one of my classes but I do not have time to do the proper research. This post was initiated by a Facbook post that generated a lot of conversation.

This will be a collection of my random thoughts about a person of excellence.  Thank you for all of the great conversation and even the challenges to my original assumptions.

My goal is for this short definition to cross all racial, cultural, ethnic, religious and class boundaries. Excellence should not be confused with perfection.  I do not believe anyone is perfect but excellence is achievable by anyone. People of excellence have a core set of values that they embrace and communicate through their activities and disciplines. People of excellence are people of integrity.  Their word is their bond.  They pay attention to details and follow through with projects.  People of excellence are life long learners who seek conversation to expand their horizons and enter conflict to find a middle ground solution. People of excellence regularly engage in self analysis and evaluation to determine if they are on track with their goals and effectively functioning in the communities that they engage.

I know that each of these thoughts can be unpacked with some specificity and this lacks the research to validate each of my claims. I began my thoughts with Leadership: Do traits matter? By Shelley A. Kirkpatrick and Edwin A. Locke, University of Maryland.  Here is the executive overview.

 Executive Overview The study of leader traits has a long and controversial history. While research shows that the possession of certain traits alone does not guarantee leadership success, there is evidence that effective leaders are different from other people in certain key respects. Key leader traits include: drive (a broad term which includes achievement, motivation, ambition, energy, tenacity, and initiative): leadership motivation (the desire to lead but not to seek power as an end in itself): honesty and integrity: self-confidence (which is associated with emotional stability): cognitive ability: and knowledge of the business. There is less clear evidence for traits such as charisma, creativity and flexibility. We believe that the key leader traits help the leader acquire necessary skills: formulate an organizational vision and an effective plan for pursuing it: and take the necessary steps to implement the vision in reality.

 Thank you for continuing the conversation.

1 Samuel 18:10-16

Saul Tries to Kill David

10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.

12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. 14David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. 15When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. 16But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Jealousy destroys relationships. Saul’s jealousy of David changed the course of the nation of Israel. As a leader Saul failed.   Saul was focused on David’s work rather than focusing on his own responsibilities.  Saul was the king and had the right and responsibility to lead the army into victory.  When he gave up this responsibility he also gave up an opportunity to fully experience the power of God to propel him into his destiny.

Leaders are called to be attentive to their responsibilities David was operating in his giftedness and being attentive to the tasks that were given to him.  Instead because David was focused on his call and his tasks he walked into his God given destiny.

Whose responsibilities are you focused on?  Has jealousy clouded your vision of God’s vision and destiny for your life? Leaders, clarify your vision and have a plan for accountability to achieve the vision.  Begin the process by spending time in prayer and meditation.

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Tools ‹ Making Disciples in an Emerging Church — WordPress.

Churches connect via social media: Flocks In for a tweet

Jeff Kunerth | Sentinel Staff Writer

May 10, 2009

David Loveless’ wife pulled him aside before he left the house one morning and gave him a talking-to. It was one of those “uh-oh” conversations that happen between husbands and wives.

Moments later, the senior pastor of Discovery Church in Orlando was still thinking about what it means to have a partner who can straighten you out when things start to swerve off course. So, using his BlackBerry, he posted a “tweet” on social-networking site Twitter, recounting the lesson he just learned and asking his followers whether they had somebody like that in their lives.

The use of social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and podcasts — is changing the way churches communicate with their congregations. The church bulletin is not going away, but it’s being augmented by the instant, interactive communication of the laptop, iPhone and BlackBerry.

“It’s a better way to reach people where they are at these days,” said Adrian Traurig, who handles worship and creative arts for Journey Christian Church in Apopka. “It keeps people connected. We post all our events and all the happenings here at Journey.”

Churches all over the country are using the 140-character messages of Twitter to notify members of events taking place that day, or that very moment. An Episcopal church in Worcester, Mass., tweets its members about its “Between Jobs Workshop,” while another church updates its congregation on efforts to resettle an Iraqi family.

On YouTube, others are posting sermons and videos of church choirs from across the nation.

Read the Whole Article

I believe that there is a lack of understanding about what the Beloved Community is and how it should operate in the 21st Century. Who are the guardians of the dream or the transmitters of the vision? I believe that the Beloved Community is balanced between Chrisitan piety and social responsibility. The ultimate goal is justice for everyone.(Rawl’s Equality Principle) God’s call for us to be in relationship with God and people demands that we share this relationship that we expereince as love, grace and forgiveness so that everyone will expereince what we are/have expereinced. The Beloved Community embraced radical racial and class diversity, economic opportunity for all and justice for those who were oppressed. This is the core of the Beloved Community.

Is this a lost concept with middle/upper middle class Americans? Does the American middle class value working for justice and equality of all of God’s people or only those who are most like them? People who encountered the Beloved Community in the King framework were transformed. They believed that their individual happiness in life (Mill’s happiness Principle) was rooted in the community being whole and unified. (Dyke’s Community is greater than the individual principle) That is why there was a civil rights movement.

Proposition: The civil rights movement is dead. Now is the time for the Beloved Community to become a reality in the lives of Americans.

Thesis: The vision of a flourishing democratic society that President Obama has cast is embodied in the Beloved Community of Dr. King. Without the theological foundation of God’s grace that also seeks justice for all, the vision is incomplete.