A Warning from the Past for Churches Today

 

A friend of mine shared this quote with me, and I think it is most poignant for churches today.

 

J.H. Thornwell, the great Southern Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century, noticed the churches in his day moving in a dangerous direction, a direction that he feared might compromise the very message of the church. In a letter written in July 1846, Thornwell warned:

Our whole system of operations gives an undue influence to money. Where money is the great want, numbers must be sought; and where an ambition for numbers prevails, doctrinal purity must be sacrificed. The root of evil is in the secular spirit of all our ecclesiastical institutions. What we want is a spiritual body; a Church whose power lies in the truth, and in the presence of the Holy Ghost. To unsecularize the church should be the unceasing aim of all who are anxious that the ways of Zion should flourish.

 

(This quote is from a book about  Jonathan EdwardsA God Entranced Vision of all Things.)

Plastic Baby Jesus, Real Donkeys

live-nativity

Over Christmas we visited a live nativity where baby Jesus was plastic (I just find that funny). Please don’t email me about why they used a plastic baby doll. I get it, really.

Anyways, we had a fun time. The sponsoring church sent us this free photo. Our picture was taken after we had walked through the petting zoo where one very greedy donkey kept kicking the other animals in the head. I guess he was upset that he hadn’t been chosen to be in the manger scene above.

Maybe next year the donkeys could be plastic and Jesus could be a real baby….Hee Haw!…Hee Haw!

Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgivingThe day turkeys dread has arrived. We’ll be celebrating with my family today. There’s always more food then we can shake a stick at. I am thankful for a lot this year. God has been faithful in his provisions, and I continue to grow as a Christian, husband, father and minister. Life has not been without its trials; however, growth can not occur without them. I am thankful He counts me worthy. I hope everyone has a joyful thanksgiving.

Consumerism in the Church: Part I: What if Starbuck’s marketed like the church?

A friend of mine passed this along to me this morning. It’s really funny. Sadly, I see this behavior every week at church, even from myself.

 

 

Praise the coffee! Pass the muffins.

As funny as the video is about the odd behavior demonstrated at churches there is a question begging to be addressed in lieu of the video, which is, how does a church effectively reach out to its community without being consumer driven in its focus? That is, how do we keep from becoming more concerned with what flavor of coffee is meeting with our guests satisfaction than with presenting a clear presentation of the gospel, as well as, providing Christians with a service in which they can worship?  (more to come)

When We Tire of People

train-wreckI occasionally tire of people. That’s a horrible thing to say as a minister. It’s the truth though. It’s because people, all people, come with baggage. By the time I place my baggage on the train with everyone else’s it can get pretty crowded. To often I’ve felt discouraged, disappointed and disenfranchised. At such times I know in my heart and mind that I’ve taken my eyes off the real prize. It’s easy to do. Ministers aren’t exempt from being human. I take comfort in knowing that even my Lord retreated from people. Even he experienced disappointment.

Yet, Jesus also wept for us. We aren’t broken enough for one another nowadays.  Most of the time the sermons we hear remind us of how special we are as individuals, never reminding us of our obligations to one another. I think this allows us to live in our private coach mindset.  It encourages a thinking that says we’re permitted to do life alone forgetting that even those with first class accommodations require service from others. 

As I was reading the other day I came across these words by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them before but never have they been more alive in my mind.

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously–no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for sins in spite of which we love the sinner–no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

What a privilege we have to rub shoulders with one another and to journey together.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

The Pineapple Story (Part 3 & 4 of 6)

All of us at sometime struggle with surrendering our “rights” to God. It could be over a parking space that you saw first or recognition for an idea at work. Sometimes it surfaces as anger as in the case of Otto Koning in The Pineapple Story.  Enjoy as you find common ground with Otto Koning as he relates how he struggled to surrender his will over ownership of a pineapple garden to God’s providential care.