Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2013

March Madness, Blog Style

I don’t do repeats here until the piece is a year old.  So a new month always offers new items from the previous year that you may have missed… (Apologies to email subscribers…this is long!)


A Letter to the Nominating Committee

Dear Nominating Committee;

Visiting your church for the first time last Sunday, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin concerning the need for board members and elders for the 2012-2013 year. I am herewith offering my services.

While I realize that the fact I don’t actually attend your church may seem like a drawback at first, I believe that it actually lends itself to something that would be of great benefit to you right now: A fresh perspective.

Think about it — I don’t know any one of you by name, don’t know the history of the church and have no idea what previous issues you’ve wrestled with as a congregation. Furthermore, because I won’t be there on Sundays, I won’t have the bias of being directly impacted by anything I decide to vote for or against. I offer you pure objectivity.

Plus, as I will only be one of ten people voting on major issues, there’s no way I can do anything drastic single-handedly. But at the discussion phase of each agenda item, I can offer my wisdom and experience based on a lifetime of church attendance in a variety of denominations.

Churches need to periodically have some new voices at the table. I am sure that when your people see a completely unrecognizable name on the ballot, they will agree that introducing new faces at the leadership level can’t hurt.

I promise never to miss a board or committee meeting, even if I’m not always around for anything else.

I hope you will give this as much prayerful consideration as I have.

Most sincerely,


This Song Should Be the Anthem of Churches Everywhere

I was scrolling through the CCLI top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — http://wp.me/pfdhA-3en — to the worship leader at your church.

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.


Qualifying “It Gets Better”

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139, the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect.

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.


A Powerful Story Echoes Three Decades Later

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession — on VHS, no less — and have always felt that more people need to see it. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

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March 20, 2012

Powerful Testimony: Nancyjo Mann from Barnabas

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession, but for the last few days I’ve had this very strong leading that more people need to see this. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

 

January 27, 2012

Close Up: How Church Discipline Happens at Mars Hill Seattle

This is an article about how Mark Driscoll’s church — Mars Hill in Seattle, WA — handles church discipline issues and excommunication, presented anecdotally and in painstaking detail.

I have no hesitation in importing large amounts of text from other blogs if I think it means that people will actually read the subject matter in question, but in this case, you are indeed going to have to click, because the narrative is lengthy; but also because you need to reward all the work that went into making this story available.

In a two-part blog post,  Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract: Looking For True Repentance at Mars Hill Church? Sign on the Dotted Line and Mark Driscoll’s ‘Gospel Shame’: The Truth About Discipline, Excommunication, and Cult-like Control at Mars Hill author Matthew Paul Turner introduces us to a young man named Andrew.

Shortly after graduating from high school (he was homeschooled), Andrew wanted a change in scenery. The then Tennessee resident says he needed a change in scenery. He needed to get away. He needed to grow up. He needed to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

So when he turned 20, Andrew moved away from his quaint life in America’s Bible belt, and he moved to Seattle, and yes, in hopes of finding himself.

Once he was settled into life in the great Northwest, Andrew took the advice of an older sibling and visited Mars Hill Church, the congregational home of Mark Driscoll.

Andrew was born and raised Independent Fundamental Baptist, so not only was Andrew accustomed to Mark’s anger-laced fiery style of sermon, he had a deep appreciation for it. In the beginning, some of Mars Hill’s reformed theologies rubbed against Andrew’s Baptist roots, but Mark’s enthrallment for preaching “Jesus Christ crucified” eventually was what relieved Andrew’s doctrinal concerns, and it wasn’t long before he became a member. Soon thereafter, he was wading heart deep amid the friendly, committed Mars Hill community, becoming more and more comfortable in his born again reformed skin, guzzling the Driscollized water.

According to Andrew, joining Mars Hill was a good move for him. While he didn’t agree with every theological declaration that came out Mark Driscoll’s mouth, he loved his community, a devoted group of believers who seemed to love, support, and value him the way Jesus commanded. Over the next couple of years, Andrew became well connected. He volunteered. He became active in a community group. He even volunteered on Sundays as church security.

Toward the beginning of 2011, Andrew met and eventually began dating the daughter of a church elder at Mars Hill. The two fell in love quickly. Last fall, they were engaged to be married.

But shortly after becoming engaged, Andrew made a costly choice…

Again, here are the links:

April 19, 2010

ReChurch: A Book About Healing, Restoration and Renewal

After more than a decade of writing about the lives of others, author Stephen Mansfield looks at his own experience, and in the process delivers what must certainly be his most significant book to date.

ReChurch:  Healing Your Way Back to the People of God is aimed directly at the all-too-common condition in which individuals find themselves estranged from a local church they love, and had found a place of service.   The book is also written in such a way that it functions on another level for pastors who find themselves in this identical situation.

If the book offers one thing — and it certainly offers much more — it is empathy.   Mansfield has been there personally and also offers the examples of history as well as Biblical stories of people who know what is like to be wounded, or to be outcast.

I’m reminded of an experience I had in the Syrian Desert.  I was speaking with an Arab friend of how foreign the desert is to me and how — raised as an Army brat in Germany and now living in Tennessee — lush hills and flowing rivers are more to my liking.  My friend took humorous offense and began extolling the glories of the “desert under God.”   Waving his arms in what I am sure were ancient ways, he said, “There is as much life in the desert as there is in the sea, but you must know where to find it.”

I cannot judge whether he was right about the physical desert because I have worked hard to spend as little time there as possible.   I am sure, however, that he is right about spiritual deserts.  In other words, during our dry and painful spiritual seasons, there is much life to be found, be we have to find it in places we have never considered before, digging for it in ways we have not yet tried.

Using a masterful economy of words, he allows also that sometimes we are victims of things beyond our control, while at other times we form recurring patterns in our journey.   He also avoids situations where want to lash out at those who have ambushed us, realizing that God may have had a part in all that happened; all the while recognizing that these choices may run counter to our natural instincts:

I grew to hate sermons on forgiveness, even my own.   They convicted me, true, and I did the things I was asked to do to deal with my offense and hurt.  But it seldom worked and I soon came to understand that there was a stronghold in my soul.  It seemed as though my inner life was coated with Velcro that trapped hurt and offense and held it tight.   Though I thought of myself as a fairly loving person, I could never let the impact of being wronged go.  I fed it.  I fantasized about it.  I even used it to fuel my intensity in sports or my efforts to rise in the world.  Because I could not let what offended me go, I used it as fuel and this only caused it to attach more firmly to that Velcro of my soul.

Relate?  I know I do.   The final chapter, “Coming Home,” deals with the recovery process, using covenant theology as a way of rethinking what the Church is and what should guide our decisions to reconnect.

ReChurch is available in hardcover from Tyndale under the Barna imprint, and in the foreword, George Barna shares his own personal experience with all that this book entails.   My one regret is that the book was so concise that I have liked to dwell longer in some of its subjects rather than the 166 digest-sized pages; however this work is really a pivotal, transitional title for Mansfield, and I’ll grant him a very high recommendation, on the condition he promises to write more of the same.

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