Friday, June 30, 2006

yet another week without blogging...

tomorrow i'm leaving for another week. i probably won't be blogging again until July 8. Stay cool.

REJOICE


My friend, Jon Kirk, sent me this this picture yesterday. This is the band I was in during college. We called ourselves "REJOICE." This picture was taken during the summer of 1996. That's 10 years ago. Left to right: Jon Kirk, Rob Jordstad, Pat Lair, Jason Woolever (I'm the one with the hair!).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

mission trip next year

Today I sent in a reservation for 25 people to Red Bird Mission for June 17-23 of 2007. Chiggers or not, I'm going back next year. It fills up fast, so I had to send in the reservation a year early. If you are interested in going, email or call me.

blogging Baptists

Lately, I've been hearing about how the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention beat out the old guard candidates because of the underground networking of bloggers.

"Page may have started out as the underdog," Wade Burleson said. "But I attribute the fact (he won) to young men and women on blogs."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

chiggers and cocks


The trip to Red Bird Mission was really good.
The hardest part by far was being away from our kids for a week. But they had a great time with their grandma. They didn't want to leave!

The worst part of the trip was by far the chiggers. Its true that "no creature on earth can cause as much torment for its size than the tiny chigger."

We met many great people there, many of which were heavily invested in cock-fighting. Apparently its not illegal in Kentucky. Betting on cocks is illegal, but supposedly even the sheriff shows up and bets on the cocks.

I'm hoping to take a team back to Red Bird next year. Good to be home!

Friday, June 16, 2006

mission trip

Tomorrow morning, my wife and I will be leaving with a team of people from our church and St.Paul Lutheran Church to do a week of mission work at Red Bird Mission. I don't think I'll have internet access, so I probably won't be blogging again until June 26th.

Please pray for a young lady I know who has decided to "give Christianity a try."

The Passion of the Christ - take 2

I got this news today from Christianity Today Direct:
Passion II

Sony is working on a sort of sequel to The Passion of the Christ. The movie will depict Christ's resurrection and the following 40 days. Resurrection's scriptwriter is Lionel Chetwynd, a producer and director whose credits include The Hanoi Hilton and the Emmy-nominated TV movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day.

The Hollywood Reporter writes , "In mining biblical material, those behind the project hope to tap into the same vein that so richly rewarded Mel Gibson for his self-funded The Passion of the Christ. The 2004 release earned $612 million in worldwide box office receipts, making it one of the 30 most-popular films of all time."

Unfortunately, Sony shot themselves in the foot. "Set to produce is Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series of books. A popular minister and frequent TV news pundit, Resurrection will mark LaHaye's first foray into mainstream filmmaking," according to The Reporter.

Tim LaHaye is a strange jump from Mel Gibson!

doing vs. being

My favorite Methodist (and friend) from Down Under, Mike Rayson, just began blogging again. When you click on it, you can hear his original music (He's one of those Christian rock stars.) Read this great article about the need to "be" before we "do" as Christians. By the way, he's going to be doing a 3-day revival at Pontiac FUMC at the end of October of this year.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

insight from Rick

Every week, Rick Warren sends out a newsletter through his Pastors.com ministry. Usually its really helpful. Today I received an article from him entitled What to do when your church hits a plateau. Here's a quote from it:
First, though, it’s important to understand that the longer your church has been plateaued, the longer it’s going to take to get it going again... If your church has been plateaued for six months, it might take six months to get it going again. If it's been plateaued a year, it might take a year. If it's been plateaued for 20 years, you've got to set in for the duration!
Ha ha! I don't know if this makes me want to laugh or cry. By this standard, many mainline pastors would be dead or retired by the time their churches could turn around!

Presbyterian Church in decline

The United Methodist denomination is not the only one in decline.

literal interpretation?

Nick Draper left this comment on my last post. Since this is something I wrestle with, I thought I'd do a post on it. Here's Nick's comment:

"In response to the liberal/slippery slope dilemma, the question you could ask is "What did the author mean to say, and what would the original hearers have heard?" These questions are speculative, but they may be questions you can ask without sliding down the slope of cherry-picking or interpreting scripture on whims. I'd like to hear your thoughts on Ryrie's response to an author's intent charge."

On page 81, Ryrie discusses how God is sovereign and the language God chose the Scriptures to be written in would be clear to its readers in future generations. He writes:
"If God is the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense. The Scriptures, then, cannot be regarded as an illustration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought. If language is the creation of God for the purpose of converying His message, then a theist must view language as sufficient in scope and normative in use to accomplish that purpose for which God originated it."
I think that the author's intent question is a good question. But, I think that most of the time people who are committed to a given theological perspective think that the author's intent supports their perspective. In other words, trying to "figure out" the author's intent could lead to complete subjectivity that appears to be objectivity.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

dispensationalism

I just finished reading the book Dispensationalism by Charles C. Ryrie. He says that dispensationalism is a system of theology that is built on three non-negotiable pillars:
1) a literal, face-value reading of Scripture.
2) the distinction between Israel and the church (i.e. the church is not the "new Israel" or the "Israel of God."
3) the purpose of history being the glory of God (as opposed to the redemption of man).

This is the 4th book I've read on dispensationalism in the past month. I'm really trying to get a handle on it. I'm drawn to the reverance with which it views Scripture. I'm challenged by the way that it interprets Old Testament prophecy literally to the point that you get a pretribulational rapture of the church, which leads to a 7-year tribulation, followed by a 1000 year earthly reign of Christ in Jerusalem, during which all of the Old Testament promises to Israel will literally be fulfilled.

Although I have no problem with the conclusions, I find it hard to believe that God would allow himself to be that predictable. On the other hand, it seems that if we can say that God will not literally fulfill every Old Testament prophecy, who's to say that Christ will literally fulfill his prophesied return at all? Without the literal approach, a slippery slope develops. But can we say that in order to avoid a slippery slope we will interpret all Scripture the same way? Just questions I'm asking and praying about. In the meantime, I feel very akin to the dispensational view as I understand it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

diversity at annual conference

Thanks for the encouraging comments that everyone left on my previous post about annual conference. Its such a mixed bag of feelings. Its great seeing friends and having a good time with them. But then there's the frustration that goes with the "housekeeping" side of things.

One of the interesting dynamics at large United Methodist gatherings has to do with the incredible degree of diverse opinion. Every year there are a number of people who wear yellow-orange-pink sashes that let everyone else know that they are in support of the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. For some reason, they want everyone to know. I'm not sure how helpful it is for them to do this. Sure, its good to stand up for what you believe in, but it seems divisive as well.

It seems that part of our "marriage agreement" as members of a theologically diverse denomination is that we will respect one another's opinions and agree to work and live together. I was wondering if I should make a big sash that had a Bible on it to let people know that I'm a conservative near-fundamentalist evangelical? Would that help promote unity? Would that persuade people that didn't support my view to support it?

Even with the strange sashes, I find it pretty awesome that I can be in relationship with so many people who have a different theology than I do. I found out that one pastor who has been a friend of mine for some time is very theologically (not necessarily politically) liberal. When I admit the fact that I like having friendships and working with people I disagree with, its an indicator that I am still called to be a United Methodist.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

annual conference

I have spent the last four days in Peoria, Illinois at "Annual Conference," the place where the bureaucratic region of United Methodist pastors and church representatives come together for worship, fellowship and business.

The highlight for me was the Ordination Service this morning. Since I was ordained an Elder last year, I got to be one of the Elders that lay hands on my friend Steve whe the Bishop ordained him today. Other than that, it is always great to see other clergy brothers and sisters.

The most depressing thing was learning from a friend of mine that the Conference that I serve in, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, has lost more members in the last 30 years than any other conference in the world! Since 1974, we've declined by 40%.

This is not a statistic that is told young people (or older people) when they are considering pursuing a career in full-time ministry here. The way this is played out in local congregations is that there are very few congregations that a pastor might be appointed to serve that are not struggling. Almost all of the congregations in our conference are declining. This means that pastors are put in the position where they are expected to "save" dying congregations. This usually means trying to convince a congregation to passionately pursue a radical approach to ministry that they don't already want to pursue. If they did, they wouldn't be in decline!

Needless to say, seminaries don't train pastors to be this kind of catalytic leader. Needless to say, most pastors who get ordained don't have the skillset for this kind of ministry.

A friend of mine who is also an associate pastor told me that his senior pastor doesn't even believe that there will be a United Methodist denominatin in 20 years.

I just don't know what to think.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

see ya in a few


Tomorrow I'll be going out of blogging range for a few days. This picture of my 14-month-old daughter victoriously wielding two ice cream spoons should tide you over until I get back. In the meantime, keep reading Leah's daily devo.

from Catholicism to Islam

Here's an article from the Washington Post that describes how thousands of Latino immigrants to the U.S. are converting from Catholicism to Islam. At this point, the estimate is that between 40,000 and 70,000 have converted. The article describes the persecution they experience from their family members, which is very similar to what Christians experience in Muslim countries.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Leah's daily devo

As part of her summer internship at our church, Leah is posting a daily devotional based on Proverbs. You can find it at this address: http://blog.myspace.com/bendy29. You can also click on the link on the right sidebar of this blogsite.

why the United Methodist Church is sinking

The Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune newpaper may have figured out why the United Methodist Church is declining. Sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to see the truth.

Read the article "Methodists' focus on activism may be clearing out pews," by clicking here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

gay marriage

Wesley Daily is running an article about how First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is getting around the denominational restrictions for performing gay marriages. Apparantly their Bishop supports them in this.

Read the Wesley Daily article by clicking here.
Read "Omaha church adopts pro-gay policy" in the Lincon, Nebraska Journal Star, by clicking here.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

rewards

Every one of us is called to do something. Some are called to preach. Others are called to work quietly behind the scenes. Some may reach millions. Others may reach three or four. But in that final day, we will not be held accountable for what God called Billy Graham to do. We will not be held accountable for what God has called our favorite Christian artist to do. We will not be held accountable for what God has called our pastor to do. We will be held accountable for what God has called us to do. Our objective is to be faithful with what God has set before us and to do the best possible job with that. We may not receive many rewards on Earth for our efforts, but we can look forward to them in heaven. (Greg Laurie, Are These the Last Days?, p.45)

Friday, June 02, 2006

no more vision statements please

I came across a passage in Leonard Sweet's book, Summoned to Lead, that explains exactly how I have felt whenever I have received a top-down vision statement.
"In one sense, the last thing the church needs is 'more vision.' When Christians sing 'Be Thou My Vision' we are testifying to the fact that we have all the vision we need in Jesus... The definition of leadership as 'vision' trips a variety of cliches. Leadership as 'vision' has become another way of talking about exercising dominance and pushing other people around with your ideas... Vision has become another was of declaring dominance, of achieving alpha status and stats." (pp.14-17)
One of my pet peeves is when I hear people quote Proverbs 29:18 ("Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.") as if it is talking about "vision" in the way corporate America uses the word. If it really means that, why do we have to go back to the King James Version of the Bible to find the word "vision" in the place of "prophecy" or "revelation"?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

made in america

The past couple of weeks, I've been reading Made in America, the autobiography of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. I bought it for $5.97 at Wal-Mart as an impulse buy. Its really very interesting. I know that Wal-Mart is considered the enemy of small business in many places. Adding to this is that, in this book, Walton describes how they always targeted small towns, because all of the other discount stores (like K-Mart) were only hitting towns of over 50,000. Walton himself started out at JCPenney's and then was very successful at running a Ben Franklin franchise. He actually got into the discount store business because the trend was going that way and he was about to get left behind. Unfortunately for his competition, his kicked their butts! Here's quote from page 226 of the book.
"Of all the notions I've heard about Wal-Mart, none has ever baffled me more than this idea that we are somehow the enemy of small-town America. Nothing could be further from the truth: Wal-Mart has actually kept quite a number of small towns from becoming practically extinct by offering low prices and saving literally billions of dollars for the people who live there, as well as by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in our stores."
Whether you're a Wal-Mart fan or not, this is an inspiring story, filled with principles that will be helpful for whatever career a person is in. There's even a picture of Sam washing dishes after a church supper. Apparently he and Helen were very active members in a PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) congregation.