Tuesday, May 29, 2007

check this out - i don't know what to say

click here.

are pastors shepherds?

In this mind-blowing interview, Andy Stanley says we need to radically rework the language we use in our ministries. Here's a blurb:
Should we stop talking about pastors as "shepherds"?

Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. But to bring in that imagery today and say, "Pastor, you're the shepherd of the flock," no. I've never seen a flock. I've never spent five minutes with a shepherd. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it's not culturally relevant any more.

Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care. Obviously that is a face of church ministry, but that's not leadership.

Isn't shepherd the biblical word for pastor?

It's the first-century word. If Jesus were here today, would he talk about shepherds? No. He would point to something that we all know, and we'd say, "Oh yeah, I know what that is." Jesus told Peter, the fisherman, to "feed my sheep," but he didn't say to the rest of them, "Go ye therefore into all the world and be shepherds and feed my sheep." By the time of the Book of Acts, the shepherd model is gone. It's about establishing elders and deacons and their qualifications. Shepherding doesn't seem to be the emphasis. Even when it was, it was cultural, an illustration of something.

What we have to do is identify the principle, which is that the leader is responsible for the care of the people he's been given. That I am to care for and equip the people in the organization to follow Jesus. But when we take the literal illustration and bring it into our culture, then people can make it anything they want because nobody knows much about it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

great craddock story

This is the first story in the book Craddock Stories, a collection of stories communicated by Fred Craddock in one form or another. I thought this was a powerful one:
My mother took us to church and Sunday school; my father didn’t go. He complained about Sunday dinner being late when she came home. Sometimes the preacher would call, and my father would say, “I know what the church wants. Church doesn’t care about me. Church wants another name, another pledge. Right? Isn’t that the name of it? Another name, another pledge?” That’s what he always said.

Sometimes we’d have a revival. Pastor would bring the evangelist and say to the evangelist, “There’s one now, sic him, get him, get him,” and my father would say the same thing. Every time, my mother in the kitchen, always nervous, in fear of flaring tempers, of somebody being hurt. And always my father said, “The church doesn’t care about me. The church wants another name and another pledge.” I guess I heard it a thousand times.

One time he didn’t say it. He was in the veteran’s hospital, and he was down to seventy-three pounds. They’d taken out his throat, and said, “It’s too late.” They put in a metal tube, and W rays burned him to pieces. I flew in to see him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat. I looked around the room, potted plants and cut flowers on all the windowsills, a stack of cares twenty inches deep beside his bed. And even that tray where they put food, if you can eat, on that was a flower. And all the flowers beside the bed, every card, every blossom, were from persons or groups from the church.

He saw me read a card. He could not speak, so he took a Kleenex box and wrote on the side of it a line from Skakespeare. If he had not written this line, I would not tell you this story. He wrote: “In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.”

I said, “What is your story, Daddy?”

And he wrote, “I was wrong.”

evangelical Christians not respected at university level

I just received the latest edition of "Happenings Around the Church," a Confessing Movement e-publication. I thought I'd share it.

HAPPENINGS AROUND THE CHURCH
May 24, 2007
Dr. Riley B. Case

ON PREJUDICE AGAINST EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS

Despite claims that American universities celebrate diversity and tolerance, an extensive study by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research concludes that an alarming amount of hostility and prejudice is directed against evangelical Christians on university campuses. The study, by Dr. Gary Tobin and Dr. Aryeh Weinberg, and reported in a 100-page document entitled “Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty,” records that 53% of college faculty hold an unfavorable view toward evangelicals. Faculty are far more tolerant and open toward Muslims (22% favorable), atheists (18% unfavorable), non-evangelical Christians (9% unfavorable), Buddhists (4% unfavorable), and Jews (3% unfavorable). The hostility toward evangelicals was considered the “most alarming” finding of the entire study. Faculty expressed distaste not only for evangelical “politics,” but also for evangelical beliefs and practices. More than twice as many faculty dislike evangelicals than Muslims and more than three times as many dislike evangelicals than atheists. For the full report see: www.jewishresearch.org/PDFs2/FacultyReligion07.pdf

Faculty attitudes were in sharp contrast with the views of the general public in which evangelical Christians were given among the highest percentage (over 50%) favorable view. The study identified about 33% of Americans as evangelical. While not in the Tobin and Weirberg study, it is believed that about 50% of American United Methodists would be considered evangelical (the percentage outside the United States would be much higher).

Thus there is credence in the claim of many evangelical Christians that their college professors belittle and do as much as they can to mock and undermine Christian faith.

A follow-up question would address the climate and culture of liberal seminaries. Since attitudes in the liberal and mainline seminaries often follow the attitudes in the secular academic institutions, would it also be true that prejudice against evangelicals is widespread also in the seminaries? Evangelicals who have attended these seminaries, including United Methodist seminaries, have for years claimed that it is so. Evangelical faith is not affirmed and is often not even understood. Worse, the seminaries do not even recognize their prejudice. This, however, would vary from seminary to seminary and from professor to professor.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

kindness

I came across this George Washington Carver quote:
"Be kind go others. How far you go in life depends upon your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

to BHAG or not to BHAG?

Something I've often thought about is "How far should we go in applying business principles to Christian ministry?" In this interview, Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales tells about how applying a principle from Jim Collins' classic book Built to Last led his company to bankruptcy. An ironic twist is that I remember Bill Hybels in his book Courageous Leadership saying that Christian leaders ought to be applying the very technique (setting BHAGs) that ruined this guy.

The question I'm asking is how much is too much?
Should Christian leaders read business books and say, "All truth is God's truth" and use whatever sounds good?
Should we read them and glean the parts that square with Scripture and discard the rest?
Should we avoid business books altogether in order to avoid the pitfalls that Phil Vischer fell into?

Thanks to Brian Bill for the link.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Church for Men

I know I'm behind the times a little bit on this, since this is nearly a month old. But I just came across this article about a ministry called Church for Men, inspired by the book Why Men Hate Going to Church.

Monday, May 21, 2007

spiritual disciplines for young parents

As a father of two young children with another on the way, I can say with confidence that having little kids to care for throws a huge wrench in carrying out daily spiritual disciplines like solitude, scripture meditation, journaling, and prayer time.

Here is a great article written by a new mother of twins about how her spiritual life has changed since having children.

i've been singing a lot lately

This Martin Luther quote starts off the chapter entitled "Singing Your Way to Victory" in Ray Pritchard's latest book, Stealth Attack.
"I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people happy; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor."
Since reading Stealth Attack, I have been singing non-stop. Here's the passage from Pritchard's book that got me singing:

If we want spiritual victory over the devil, one way to get it is to sing our way there...

Fill your heart with God-honoring music all day long... Given today's resources, there is no reason that every Christian cannot go through each day listening to God-centered, Christ-exalting music.

You can find it on the Internet. You can play it on a CD. You can play it on your iPod. You can play it on a cassette tape. You can listen on your Walkman. You can listen to Christian music on the radio. You can buy a DVD of Christian music. You can write your own music. You can buy a hymnbook.

When you are discouraged, sing "Shout to the Lord." When you feel like quitting, sing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." When you feel empty, sing "Come Thou Fount." When you are tempted, sing "How Great Thou Art." When you feel overwhelmed with guilt sing "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." When you are hungry to know God better, sing "As the Deer."

Parents, sing to your children...and to your grandchildren. Make sure they hear you singing in church. Teach your children and grandchildren to sing hymns, gospel songs, choruses.

Sing while you are in the shower. Sing while you ride your bike. Sing along while you listen to the radio. Sing while you work out. (p.123)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'LL BE OUT OF BLOGGING RANGE FOR A FEW DAYS. BE BACK IN A FEW.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

celebration of Sam

Last night, I attended the first funeral service of Sam Rayson. I say "the first" because there will be a service this weekend at the Sam's home church in Nashville, and then his ashes will eventually be buried in his grandmother's grave in Australia.

Sam was 11-years-old. I had spent time with his father, my friend, Mike Rayson, a number of times. But I had only met Sam one time. A few months back, the Rayson family was traveling through central Illinois to the Quad Cities area, and we got to spend a couple hours with them over lunch in Pontiac.

I remember being very impressed by how polite all three of Mike and Amy's kids were. What I remember about Sam was him asking his mom if he could have more noodles (we were eating spaghetti). I think he had two extra helpings of noodles.

I've actually thought of Sam often because he wore glasses. My 3.5-year-old son recently got glasses and I've been thinking that he reminded me of Sam.

I was deeply touched by Mike's desire to specially design and lead a worship service in honor of Sam. He told stories that were extremely humorous and stories that described the tough job that comes with raising boys. He even sang a song that he had written called "That's What Daddy's Do" which he had written some time ago to commemorate his relationship with Sam.

The thing that hit me the hardest was thinking over and over again about my son and also about how fragile life is. I had a picture of my son and daughter wedged into my Bible that I kept looking at throughout the service, and even the thought of losing one of them as the Rayson's lost Sam is too painful to think about for more than a brief second.

Mike shared in his blog tribute to Sam that Sam had accepted Christ as his Savior just a short time ago. In his latest post, Mike shares how 3 young people have received Christ as Savior through Sam's story.

How awesome is our God. I'm reminded of Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones."

Mike and his family are such a blessing and examplars of living by faith for all who know them. May God give them so much grace right now.

---

On a related note, our Conference has sent up a Rayson Family Benefit Fund, which will be used to help cover medical, burial, and travel costs. People can donate to it by sending contributions to the Conference Center, P. O. Box 19207, Springfield, IL 62794-9207. Clearly write “Rayson Family Benefit Fund” in the memo area of the check.

You can also make donations through Mike's MySpace site.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

tragic news

Sam Rayson, 11-year-old son of my good friend Mike Rayson, died in a tragic accident yesterday. Mike and his family are traveling back to Australia for funeral services. Please pray.

Mike and Amy and their kids stopped by our house a few months ago for lunch as they were traveling through the area on the way to a gig. I met Sam at that time. I remember him for being a very polite and good-natured kid who liked spaghetti. How horrible this is.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Jesus is Lord indeed

Here's a good article by Maxie Dunham from the newest issue of Circuit Rider. This latest CR is full of articles about John 14:6, where Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Here's an excerpt from Duhman's article:
"I believe the greatest theological barrier to mission and evangelism is a diminished belief in the uniqueness of Jesus. We have made idols of tolerance and inclusiveness. We speak and act as though diversity itself is redemptive. I believe our United Methodism and most mainline churhes have diminished because of this. If we don't have a clear understanding of and confidence in the gospel, we have no passion for sharing it. The witness of scripture is clear and the teaching of the church for 2000 years confirms that the gospel is nothing more and nothing less than the announcement made in word, deed, and sign, through the power of the Spirit, that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord."

Bill O'Reilly Interviews Richard Dawkins

This is an interesting video segment:
1) Bill O'Reilly argues for Christian faith from relativism.
2) Richard Dawkins argues for absolute truth.
3) They are both being the nicest I have every seen either of them be to an opponent.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

more Ray Pritchard resources

If you want to get a taste of some of Ray Pritchard's material, check out, this very helpful sermon called "Grumbler's Anonymous." It was preached a couple of weeks ago at the graduation ceremony at New Brunswick Bible Institute. It describes the trap that many people in ministry (and in the secular work force) fall into which involves comparing ourselves to others and getting discouraged (and grumbling). A very helpful biblical exhortation (based on Matthew 20:1-16) to serve faithfully and not compare ourselves to others.

There are a lot of other good resources available at Keep Believing website as well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

book review: Stealth Attack


I just finished reading a great new book on the topic of spiritual warfare. It's called Stealth Attack, and its the latest from author/bible teacher Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries. The first book of Pritchard's that I read was Credo: Believing in Something to Die For, which is a very easy-to-understand exposition of the Apostle's Creed. I ended up building my Confirmation curriculum around Credo this year.

What I like the most about Pritchard's writing is that it takes tough concepts and makes them understandable. He illustrates with humorous and touching stories from his own extensive experience as a pastor, father, son, and everyday person. He does this very well in Stealth Attack.

I've read a number of helpful books on spiritual warfare in the past. Most of them have been built around helping the reader understand the meaning of Ephesians 6:10-18. I suspected that Stealth Attack might be structured the same way. I was pleasantly surprised by its fresh approach.

In Chapter One, Pritchard lays out a term that is key to the rest of the book - asymmetric warfare. Pritchard borrows the term from modern political/military lingo, and says it describes the tactics that are employed by a smaller, less powerful group against a larger, more powerful opponent. He offers that this is a more accurate way of viewing the warfare that Satan is waging against God and the people of God. That is, its more accurate than thinking that Satan is an evil superpower equal in power to God.

Throughout the book, Pritchard examines different ways that Satan fights as a smaller, less powerful enemy of God/God's people. Pritchard explores different texts and gives biblical counsel on how to fight Satan.
Chapter 2 focuses on Satan's tactics in Genesis 3.
Chapter 3 focuses on what we can learn about spiritual warfare from Daniel 10.
Chapter 4 focuses on dealing with the relational issues that give Satan a foothold as described in Ephesians 4:26-32.
Chapter 5 focuses on Peter's denial of Christ on Good Friday and how Satan attacks our strong points (because they are unguarded) and how to prepare with that in mind.
Chapter 6 focuses on what we need to know about fighting Satan with prayer, looking mainly at Second Thessalonians 3:1-5.
Chapter 7 focuses on dealing with temptation and draws on a number of Scriptures.
Chapter 8 is a really unique chapter that talks about how we can engage in spiritual warfare through singing throughout the day.
Chapter 9 describes the spiritual climate that we are living in during these last days, and offers a strong wake-up call for us to be on our guard against false teachers.

Since Pritchard has a good deal of experience preaching in the US and also in third world countries, he offers a more global picture of the war we're engaged in against Satan. One of my favorite parts of the book details Pritchard's experience preaching in Haiti. He describes the stronghold of fear that Satan had erected through the pseudoministries of the local witchdoctors. Pritchard had to go head to head against the Haitians' mindset of fear and against Satan. He explains how he does so, and how God gets the victory.

Another strong attribute of this book is that it is not overly-sensationalist. Sometimes I have read spiritual warfare literature and had a difficult time believing some of the wild tales reported. This has not been helped by people such as Mike Warnke who have been revealed to be fabricators. Pritchard's illustrations are down-to-earth and believeable.

This would be a great book to read and discuss with a small group. It is very practical and applicable and goes beyond trying to unpack metaphors by giving lots of very usable advice from the Scriptures. It would be a good complementary reading to Chip Ingram's The Invisible War, which is heavy on the exegetical side. Basically, this is a primer on spiritual warfare for everybody. It's not over the head of the new Christian, but its edifying applications are just as important for the seasoned believer. Thanks Ray, for another useful and usable resource that will help many get a firm handle on the basics of successful daily Christian living.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chris Cornell - Billie jean (acoustic live)


It's hard to overstate how much I loved the Seattle grunge band Soundgarden when I was 17/18 years old. I just came across this Chris Cornell remake of the Michael Jackson classic "Billie Jean." Pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm frustrated that I cannot figure out how to post videos from Youtube onto my blog ever since I switched over to the new blogger. Anyone else had this problem? Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

good prayer

I came across this proverb recently and think its a terrific prayer:

"Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that I need,
or I shall be full, and deny you,
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
or I shall be poor, and steal,
and profane the name of my God."

Proverbs 30:8-9

Monday, May 07, 2007

persecution of Christians in Zimbabwe

"Despite the threat of going to jail, Christians throughout the nation are still gathering to pray their country through this crisis. In the last month, several pastors and Christians have been arrested and beaten." Read more.

persecution

I wanted to share this story of the butchering of some Christians in Turkey because surprisingly few have heard it. It is not pleasant, be forewarned!

Here's more on the persecution of Christians in Turkey.

If you want to know how to pray for Christians all over the world according to their different trials and needs, here's a great website to help out.

Friday, May 04, 2007

true spirituality

I just finished reading the Fracis Shaeffer book True Spirituality. Its a pretty awesome little book that explains the basics of living the Christian life.

One thing that I will remember well is his idea that whereas justification is a one-moment-in-history event, sanctification is a moment-by-moment event. In both we are choosing to trust the finished work of Christ on the Cross - in justification in order to be born again, and in sanctification to be cleansed from sin.

He also demonstrates well that many Christians, who are supposed to be supernaturalists, live with a naturalist worldview. A naturualist sees the univserse as a closed system of cause and effect. A supernaturalist sees the universe as an open system where God is always at work.

He says that Christians often try to do God's work in such a way that God is unnecessary. He says he fears that if prayer and the Holy Spirit didn't exist then much of what churches do would be the exact same as what they are currently doing. So we are called to do God's work in God's way, praying, trusting, and waiting on God.

I recommend this good little book, especially if you like philosophical theological stuff (not too many stories in this one).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

the wheat and the tares

A friend of mine retired from ministry not long ago and gave me a bunch of books. One of them was Craddock Stories, which is a collection of stories from Fred Craddock's sermons and writing. Here's a good illustration for Matthew 13:24-43:
I had a friend when we were in Columbia, Tennessee, who was the pastor of the largest church in town, and in many ways he was a very successful minister, except his church was full of problems. Whatever you said or did, is the way he reported to me, there was a big problem. He got so sick and tired of it. I saw him downtown one day and I said, "How's it going?"

He said, "Terrible. I'm thinking of quitting."

"Aw, you're not going to..."

"Why not?"

"Oh, you don't want to quit."

He said, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to buy a little piece of land over in Arkansas in a rice field, and I'm going to build my own church. It's going to be a study where I can do my work, and it'll have a beautiful tall spire, and that'll be it. No sactuary. No Sunday school rooms. No fellowship hall. No members. Just me and God."

Clean up the rolls. It's a natural inclination, but the difficult part, the difficult part of this story is that the boss said, "Leave the weeds alone."
This goes along with a Scripture that the Lord directed me to a few days ago. It's First Corinthians 4:5, "Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

to be a Christian

I recently came across this quote from famous preacher Fred Craddock. I really dig it:
"When I was in my late teens, I wanted to be a preacher. When I was in my late twenties, I wanted to be a good preacher. Now that I am older, I want more than anything else to be a Christian. To live simply, to love generously, to speak truthfully, to serve faithfully, and leave everything else to God."