Tuesday, January 08, 2008

what is your church/life known for?

i recently finished a book for pastors on simplifying the way your church does things. based on research and polls over a broad range of churches, the authors found the the most vibrant and biblically healthy churches were those that simplified the way they do things. i gleaned a lot of good information from it.

one of the things the book pointed out was the need for clarity in the church's purpose. it examined different purpose or mission statements of different churches and then asked the churches themselves how clearly that vision or purpose was being lived out and how all of the ministries and programs contribute to meeting that purpose.

at the church i pastor, our purpose statement is:
"pursuing the glory of god through the gospel of jesus christ".

in that we hope to communicate that everything we do is for the glory of god, and that thing through which we channel everything- worship, bible study, and evangelism, flows through the gospel.

after reading this book, i have been more aware of church purpose statements and slogans. not that my church's is the model or perfect, but i find myself when hearing a new mission statement "what does that *mean* ?"

one church's slogan that i hear everyday on the radio is " [so and so church]: where diversity is central".

when i first heard it, i thought it was odd. and as i continued thinking about it, it became more odd. on a secular radio station, you have one small radio spot to tell people what your church is about, and the message is "diversity is central". no mention of god, jesus, or even the bible.

i visited the website and my suspicions were confirmed. the site goes out of its way to make clear that it does not judge (or even think wrongly about) things that the bible speaks clearly about. if you have read this blog long at all, you should no that i do not hate gay or lesbian people. in fact, i have had and do have many friends that i care a lot about who are practicing homosexuals. i would never tell them that they could not come to my church. i would love it if they would attend in hopes that they would obtain the freedom from the bondage of a sinful lifestyle. but i would make clear that to be a church member, certain things are not acceptable, such as living openly in sin without remorse. the same is true whether it be homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, etc.

we have got to get past the notion that speaking the truth, when it speaks contrary to some one's lifestyle is "mean" or closed-minded. why bother being a "christian church" if we are willing to change the teachings of christianity in order to be culturally relevant?

yes, jesus ate and spent time with sinners. i am thankful for that, because i am a sinner! but when jesus did spend time with those living a sinful lifestyle, his message was not "i'm ok/you're ok, we are just different". it was "go and sin no more". he offered true peace and joy that comes only through a relationship with god, not being accepting of the fleeting impulses of satisfaction that come from sin.

so as christian churches and individual believers, what is our message? though we are fallible and make mistakes, does our overall message invite people to hear, know, and love the gospel, or do we make it easier for people to be comfortable in their sin?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

the worthlessness of infinite value

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,
which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he
goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

matt. 13:44

according to the national retail foundation, of an estimated 26.3 billion dollars will be spent on gift cards in 2007, 8 billion or more will never be used.

this is a great money maker for companies who offer the cards. everytime someone spends any amount of money on a gift card that is lost, forgotten, or just never used, that is 100% profit for that company. they already have the money -if no one ever buys any merchandise, all the better for them!

it seems foolish to think that someone would have in their possession something of value, yet never make use of it.
as christians, we have something of infinite value. we have the gospel- the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of jesus christ. but do we share it? i know that i dont as often as i should... and more often than not, its not that i choose *not* to share, its just that i dont pursue opportunities. many times i have walked a way from a conversation or encounter and moments later thought "why didnt i realize that that was a perfect opportunity to share with them?"

we dont want to make people out to be science projects or treat them as means to an end. but if we do care for them, then we should be compelled to give them the source of infinite value and joy!

if they do not accept the gospel, it does not devalue the gift. just as a $10 starbucks card is still worth $10 at starbucks whether or not it is used, the gospel of jesus christ is just as true and just as saving if it is rejected. but let us offer it in hopes that it will be received with joy!

as the new year approaches, may we be intentional about sharing the greatest thing we possess with those around us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

response to the mormon response...

in case you missed it, fox news sent a list of 21 questions about the beliefs of the mormon church to officials of the church of latter-day saints. they replied, question by question. (you can view the questions and responses here).

at first glance, the answers may seem satisfactory. but upon close inspection, it seems that the answers given by the mormon church are not complete.. or completely honest.

rob bowman, of the southern baptist convention's north america mission board examines the answers given by the mormon church and points out the need to "say what we mean, and mean what we say". read his eyebrow raising assessment of the latter day saints answers here.

rob's bio from www.reclaimingthemind.org begins...
Robert M. Bowman Jr. (M.A., Fuller Theological Seminary) is the manager of Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board. For five years he was a lecturer in the M.A. in Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. Rob has published over fifty articles in such periodicals as the Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal, and Areopagus Journal. He has also authored or co-authored a dozen books, including two that won the Gold Medallion Award...

Monday, December 17, 2007

fresh prince gets it wrong...

i am closing in on my 30th birthday. but one of the things that keeps me from feeling "all grown up" is re-runs of shows that were popular when i was a teenager. one of those shows is "the fresh prince of bel-air". while it wasnt groundbreaking television (though the theme song may be!) it is still entertaining to watch all of these years later- if for nothing else but the clothing and hairstyles!

i like will smith's acting. i find most of his movies enjoyable. he seems like someone who would really be fun to know. but on one important issue, he is dreadfully and fearfully wrong.

recently he has been speaking of a growing interest in and study of scientology. through his wife's (jada pinkett-smith) work with well known scientologist, tom cruise, smith has become more vocal about his research into this false religion...

[smith] told [access hollywood]: "I was introduced [
to] [scientology] by Tom and I’m a student of world
religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to
a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are
98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98
percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."

i hate to break it to you will, but any religion that denies that there is but one god who is creator of all things and exists as the father , son, and holy spirit, and denies that the only hope of salvation is faith in the life, death, and resurrection of jesus christ is not even close to christianity. if any other teaching does not have these things at its core, then it is 100% *not* like christianity.

this doesn't mean that we boycott anything having to do with will smith or any scientologist... but we can become more informed about what scientology is so that if we hear someone say " i heard will smith is looking into scientology and that it is not that different than christianity" that we would seize that opportunity to make the gospel clear. we can also pray for will smith and other celebrities that have been or perhaps are being seduced by this false religion. (tom crusie, john travolta, lisa marie presley, etc.)

i will do some research on sources pertaining to scientology and post them here so check back in the next few days...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

milestones and talking with god..

this is the 150th post on "the lowercase" and as of last week, this site has received of 10,000 visits in the last 18 months. thanks to all who visit and participate. i know keeping this blog has helped me in thinking through issues and writing discipline, and i hope it has been beneficial to you as well.

as the new year wraps down, i thought i would share a challenge i saw over on said at southern, a website corralling many blogs of southern seminary students (like myself) and faculty.

tony kummer shares an opportunity to start a new years resolution early and complete it by february!

if you are like me, each year you may have good intentions of reading the bible all the way through, or at least reading it more. by mid february i am usually so far behind trying to keep up seems futile. well tony has provided a plan that if you can spare a little over an hr. a day (cumulative) we can read the entire bible by jan. 31st if we start on dec. 10th!

here is his plan...

I took the page numbers from my ESV
Reference Bible and the time required from
my Max McLean ESV audio Bible.
You can modify these numbers for your favorite
Bible translation.

Start Now ( dec. 10) and Read It All by January

...start on December 10th for a total of 53 days.
* Read 21 minutes or 5 ½ pages of NT per day
* Read 54 ½ minutes or 18 ½ pages of OT per day

So, by spending only 1 hour and 16 minutes per day,
24 pages, you can read through the entire ESV Bible
between now and February. Just over 1 hour a day!

you may think, " i don't have an hour a day!!!" well.. maybe you do.
think of your whole day.
  • what else do you do while you eat your meals that you cant put off for 53 days?
  • what if you get to work 15 minutes early to read for 15 minutes, spend the first or last 15 minutes of your lunch break reading, and watch one less program on television?
  • carry a bible to read while waiting in line christmas shopping, grocery shopping, etc.

i'm sure if we think about it, we can find 60 minutes throughout the day to spend time in god's word.. to hear him speak to us.
i'm going to give it a try. maybe ill get it done by jan. 31st, maybe not, but it is worth it to me to try. if you want to join me, leave me a comment (no need to sign up for anything) and let me know, and we can pray for and encourage one another.