Archive for December, 2006

Peace is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like peace and think that the church above all people groups should work for peace. What I’m aiming at is spiritual cowardice and poor leadership being masqueraded as “peace keeping.”

Here’s a typical example: A church I know was considering making some changes in terms of the use of women in worship. Many church members had been patiently asking for an open study of the issue. Church leadership decided to pursue it, but then—before the first Bible had been opened—the leaders responded to the backlash and opted not to broach the subject at all. The reason they gave was that it would cause division in the church. Clearly this was not a decision made out of conviction; either conviction to honor honest seekers with genuine questions nor conviction to make decisions based on an earnest examination of Scripture. My point here is not that this particular community needed to make some kind of change, but rather that the illusion of maintaining peace trumped what Christians should be doing—searching the Scriptures.

Yet this is frequently the way the church approaches things. This, I think, is what the pastor from the previous post was speaking to. Churches, to be healthy and a reflection of the heart of God must maneuver from a place of conviction and earnest belief. Anything less is other than what the ministry of Jesus indicated. Was Jesus concerned about peace keeping? I’m sure he was, but that took a back seat when he rebuked the religious leaders, chased the moneychangers out of the temple, and consistently provoked the Pharisees. Jesus comes to earth as a revolutionary and his ministry reflects it. He is a truth-teller and whatever comes from that telling is what comes. In fact, Jesus is so bad at keeping the peace that he upsets enough people that they eventually kill him.

What Jesus did do was call God-seekers to a higher ideal. He called them to Kingdom living that surpassed what they were already doing and he called them to a vision of the world that was different than what they had been taught. He called them to re-orient their lives, which is naturally tumultuous! Transformation, by nature, contains upheaval and disorientation, which people, by nature, do not like. Transformation is not a peaceful experience! Therefore, if church leaders focus on peace, when we know that upheaval and disorientation are part of the transformational process, then we are curtailing opportunities of growth for those under our care. While we think we are being Godly, in truth we are keeping people from experiencing the nature processes of spiritual formation and development. It’s what Erwin McManus refers to as “excessive nurture.” What McManus means is that churches are often so concerned with nurture—and peace is part and parcel with nurture—that they fail to mature and develop people. Where insufficient nurture leaves the back door of the church open, excessive nurture creates a logjam at the front door—to use McManus’ words. In short, sometimes the peace we wish to keep is the thing keeping us from becoming the people God wants us to become.

Peace Keeping — Part 1

Posted: December 30, 2006 in Everything

This post is one in a series dealing with the beauty and and pitfalls of “keeping the peace” in the church.

Could it be that peace is overrated? Please know I am committed to peace – in its true meaning and practiced correctly. As the apostle Paul writes, I try to do everything to “live at peace” with those around me and in the world. However, there are times when peace is the enemy to both progress and discipleship.

How? Let me explain.

A frequent occurrence in the church is for leaders to make reverse decision or change direction because of peace. We want to “keep the peace” or “work for peace” or “live in peace” with one another. On the surface this sounds good, ideal even. The problem with peace keeping in the church arises because “peace” is often code for “keeping the status quo.”

Imagine a scenario when a church is considering a major change in its structure or mission. Meetings are held, perspectives considered, Bibles studied etc…. But as soon as the folks in the pews get wind of a certain change the pushback begins. Congregants with deep pockets start saber rattling, long time members who disagree start talk of “leaving if…” and private and secret meetings occur. Next church leaders begin having lunches and meetings with people who are upset in the hopes of mediating some kind of mutual agreement. This doesn’t always work, though, and then church leaders must make a decision about what to do. And often the decision is to maintain the status quo or put forth some watered-down, pseudo-interesting version of what God may have placed on the hearts of the leaders in the first place.

The reasons for re-visioning the initial change are myriad: keeping power, fear, over-sensitivity to criticism, whatever. But the articulated reason is usually “peace.” We want the church be peaceful.

And this hyper-privileging of “peace” is killing the church of Jesus! It gives influence to those of the church ranks that are the least mature and allows them to remain so. At the same time, the church becomes focused on offering insiders a comfortable community and becomes disengaged from reaching out because the peace within must be maintained.

A friend of mine tells a story about a preacher of a large church from my non-denomination meeting a nationally known pastor who ministers to a large church in Atlanta. As the two spoke, the pastor explained to the preacher that our non-denomination was mostly churches with memberships of under 100 people (which is true), a significant number of churches around 200 people (which is true), and occasionally we might have a church blossom to around 5,000 members (which is true), but never really more than that. The reason, this pastor posited, was that because the way leadership works in our churches we were incapable of growing larger congregations. He stated the reason this way: “Your leaders go to work all day and do battle all day and when they come to church they want peace. And you can’t lead when peace is privileged over evangelism and transformation.”

(More to come…)

Style in Ministry

Posted: December 28, 2006 in Everything

Thought these thoughts from Mark Driscoll were appropriate. One of the struggles I constantly face is dealing with people who have no clue about being in the culture. Many folks I know want people to convert more to the conservative, white Christian sub-culture than convert to Christ.

You’re Rich

Posted: December 22, 2006 in Christmas, rich

During this Christmas season, when all of us are coveting more than should be humanly possible, you might want to check out The Global Rich List. Here you simply type in your yearly earnings and it calculates where you are on the global rich list. Now you can see where you stack up against the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the the world. And I think you’ll be surprised — I was.

After seeing where I fell on the list I was awed again by how rich the average American is, and how much poverty exist in the world. I was more than awed. I was ashamed. I heard Jim Wallis Wednesday night on “Anderson Cooper 360” say that wealth is always meant to be shared, and I think he’s right.

This year our family decided to only give gifts for Christmas that blessed the poor and oppressed. Maybe next year we’ll skip gift-giving altogether and give more to the people who are further down on the list. Merry Christmas.

After Jesus

Posted: December 20, 2006 in Everything

Tonight CNN will air After Jesus: The First Christians at 7 and 10 pm EST. It will be interesting to catch the news network’s take on a small band of believers, with a crucified leader became one of the most dominant and popular religions in the history of the world. Tune in!

Congrats to Me

Posted: December 19, 2006 in Christmas, priorities

I would like to be the first to congratulate me on being Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’. Honestly, I can think of thousands of people who have had better or more interesting years, but it would be in bad taste to turn down such an honor.

After all, this year has had it’s ups for me. I was honored to be able to be a reviewer/reader for Sarah Cunningham’s book, Dear Church: Letters from A Disillusioned Generation. I have also had the opportunity to contribute to the writing of The Voice Bible Project, which I’m extremely honored by. I was blessed to teach at both the winter ACU Lectureship and Pepperdine University Lectures on topics which I think are important to the church. In addition, I’ve had a pretty full speaking schedule, speaking to hundreds of teens, ministers, and other adults — which is always needed when a family is living on one income. Plus, this year my wife became pregnant with our second daughter. And my brother — whom I come to love and appreciate more ever day — became engaged to a nice young woman who obviously loves him. Most importantly, I’m still the husband to an absolutely wonderful woman and father to an incredible 3-year-old girl.

I’ve noticed since high school graduation that life seems to move pretty fast — faster every year, it seems. Ferris Bueller was right, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” I have to confess that I’m one of those people who can easily become so engaged with projects and work that I forget to “look around.”

That’s why it’s probably a good thing that Christmas is so close to New Year’s Day. The combination of the two forces us to reflect on where we have spent our time, and what we have done with our minutes, and the whole time the birth of Jesus looms over us reminding us of what is most important. As I reflect on my year, it’s not the projects or production that make me feel like the person of the year, it’s the people whom I love the most that make me feel special, wanted, and loved. Those are the things that last.

Plus, you have to remember, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Nikita Kruschev have all been Time’s “Person of the Year.” Not the best company!

Merry Christmas.