Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Why Are You Asking Me?"

I am a person that asks many questions. My sixth grade teacher saw this quality in me and encouraged me to keep asking. God made me this way. I can’t help it. One of the questions that I have asked of late is why do we (a church tradition that clams to be of the Word) have so many beliefs (therefore practices) that are outside of the Scripture? We claim to be one thing but our actions at times speak otherwise.

I was listening to a sermon of Dr. David Eubanks, former president of JBC (click HERE to listen). His sermon was entitled, “Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?” At the front of his sermon he confessed,

“One of the early mottos of (our movement) was, “We speak where the Scriptures speak and we are silent where the Scriptures are silent.” Now I have to say to you in all honesty we have not always observed that motto and certainly no one has observed it perfectly. It’s a wonderful motto…but it is our goal.”

My question was put as ease after hearing these words. Dr. Eubanks, an icon in my Christian tradition, changed the parameters of my concern. It’s not that we are a people of the Word (present tense); rather, we are people that strive to be a people of the Word (future tense).

By the way, his sermon on baptism is worth listening to. It wasn’t what I expected this Christian Church icon to stay. For some reason I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll give you the answer to his question/sermon tile, “Why are you asking me? Ask Paul. Ask Peter. Ask Jesus. Let God be God.”

Saturday, February 23, 2008

David Crowder Challenge

David Crowder's blog has been blow'n up on my Christian blog list. A few took a challenge of his so I took it was well. Hit “shuffle" on your iPod and list the first ten songs. No cheating.

1. Where to Begin by My Morning Jacket of Elizabethtown (Sound Track)
2. Drew’s Theme by Nancy Willson of Elizabethtown (Sound Track)
3. Just a Friend by Biz Markie of The Biz Never Sleeps
4. Zapata by Nancy Wilson of Elizabethtown (Sound Track)
5. Don’t Want to Grieve You by Vineyard: Holy
6. Holes to Heaven by Jack Johnson of On and On
7. Surrender by Vineyard: Beautiful
8. The Friend I Never Met by Andy McKee of Dreamcatcher
9. River Drive by Nancy Wilson of Elizabethtown (Sound Track)
10. Twenty Four by Swithfoot of The Beautiful Letdown

#3 is a tad embarrassing to let people know about my music selection but the rap has a powerful and timeless truth: never talk to a girl who says she just has a friend.

JBC Homecoming (cont.)

I made it back for JBC Homecoming. Having racked over 1,200 miles on my truck this week, I’m a little tired...from all the driving. On the way home I went out my way to meet some new friends at the Central Christian Church in Huntingburg, IN. I seldom go to that part of the state so I enjoyed exploring a new portion of Indiana. I made my way up through Bloomington then head to my Mom and Dad's new place in Hendricks County. It was my first time spending the night at their new home. Today I went to Dad and Brock’s worksite at the home of Fred and Heidi B., a very important couple in the life of the Fleming Garden C.C. and the French family. It was good to see them. Then I made my way to the upper east side of Indy to join Rae and her family for dinner at Italian joint. Good food and good company. Every one went shopping but I went home. Pick up Duke. Now I’m at home. Good day.

P.S. Duke stinks and needs a bath

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

JBC Homecoming

The first night of JBC’s Homecoming has come and gone. It is good to be back on campus and it is good to be back in East Tennessee. On the way down I stopped at the Museum of Appalachia only for it to be closing. Having driven past the musem’s road signs for 15 years I thought to stop to see what it was about and judge if students would like walking through it. I’m coming back down with a group of students next month.

Last night’s homecoming session went very well. I was somewhat surprised by the amount of contemporary worship music. The homecoming crowd is on the traditional side. Jeff Walling gave a very impactful message. Using Luke’s account of Jesus being anointed by the sinful woman (Luke 7:36ff)l, Walling spoke about passion; the passion of being right verse the passion of falling before Christ. Very good message

I’m staying with some college friends. They rented a very spacious cabin about 30 minutes away for the college. We played a game of Monopoly before going to bed. I lost.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Picture of the Week

Is this for real?

I'm A Bad Boyfriend

Shhhh…don’t tell anyone. Today, on Valentines Day, I spent more money on my dog than my girlfriend. Close to 5X the amount to be more accurate. My dog ran away last week. Luckily, he was found after been missing for seven days. Today I had him “fixed.” He also needed his shots up-to-date and heart worm medicine. With all the poverty in the world, I’m ashamed for spending so much money on my mutt dog. The irony is that my girlfriend was the one that found my dog. I’m a bad boyfriend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reveal: Section 4

The fourth section of Reveal asks the question “So What Can You Do Now?” For the team at Willow Creek, it lead them to a new vision and strategy. They stated three things they changed but recognized it was not changed for every church. Then they stated three practical steps that every church could take.

1. Ask More Than “How Many” – The question of “How many” is a good start b/c it tells us what attracts people to the church program. “How many” is a superficial question that doesn't scratche the service of spiritual growth? The two questions to ask after “how many”? is…
• “How did this event help people grow?”
• “Which segment (levels of spiritual maturity)of people was this event intended to help, and did it actually help them?”

2. Go Beyond “How Are You” – Personally, I find it very difficult to get past this question on Sunday morning. It saddens me to think of the Christians that only reach this level of fellowship by only being Sunday participates. However we get past this stage we need these recommend question…
• How is your relationship with God?
• What’s helping you grow spiritually these days?
• What ministry is making a difference in your life? How?
• What could the church do differently that would help you grow more?

“What do you do with what you hear? Resist the urge to be defensive if people say things that are hard to hear. Instead, listen intently. Afterward, reflect on what you heard; let it sink in. If you hear the same things over and over again, chances based on what you hear regularly over time.”

3. Ask “How Does That Help Someone Grow?” - Reflection after an event is one of my weakness.

Each ministry program should ask, “How does that help someone grow?” The key word is “does” and not “should.” Ministry leaders have a way of creating programs then assume the desired result took place when it actually does not.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Reveal: Section 3b

“The decline of the church’s influence as people mature spiritually suggests that the church may have put too much emphasis on the spiritual equivalent of diaper-changing and homework-helping stage of care. Much like parents, the church may need to shift its relationship with it’s maturing disciples into something different in order to maintain an appropriate level of influence and provide the support they need” (p. 55).

A few things come to mind:
• Christian Education has just taken on a new responsibility. Equip the saints to equip themselves.
• Christian Education has just been relieved of some of it’s duties. Sunday school no longer needs life long participates. The most mature in Christ do not need to come! (What a relief!)
• Christian Education should be about equipping people with spiritual skills not just providing spiritual information. Curriculum is not the answer. Spiritual practices are.

Diaper-changing…what a great image.

Reveal: Section 3

A working definition of “spiritual growth” was needed so the Reveal team came up with “An increasing love for God and for other people.”

Then they came up with three hypotheses about spiritual growth:
1. There is a migration path for spiritual growth based on church activities.
2. The most effective evangelism tool is a spiritual conversation.
3. Spiritual relationships are a key driver of spiritual growth.

Before stating what their research found they stated three things that were NOT found.
1. Gender does not impact spiritual growth in any significant way. (There was a female bias because more females participate in programs but the differences between males and females were small)
2. Age does not appear to have a significant impact on spiritual growth.
3. The pattern of spiritual growth does not differ significantly by church. (No doubt the churches surveyed were large in size but I believe that the path of spiritual maturity looks the same regardless of the size of a church. This survive has implications on every church!)

Here’s what they found:

1. Involvement in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. But there is a “spiritual continuum” that is very predictive and powerful. An increasing level of activities did not predict an increasing love for God.

As people grow in their relationship with Christ their spiritual behavior will increase.

2. Spiritual growth is all about increasing relational closeness to Christ. (Spritiaul growth in not about program participation.)

3. The Church is most important in the early stages of spiritual growth. It’s role then shifts from being the primary influence to a secondary influence. I found this insightful. Church programming only has so much to offer. When a participant has maxed out a program’s usefulness they naturally move on to other things. This could be an explanation why 10th – 12th graders tend to drop out of youth groups (though I think it has more to do with social needs instead of spiritual). Maybe this is why adult Sunday School “appears” to be struggling all over the nation. Instead of making Sunday School attendance a goal, maybe we should be equipping people to “feed” themselves. Therefore, the goal of Sunday school could be to teach self feeding skills to growing Christians. Adult Sunday school could have a graduation and once graduated they no longer need to come back. (That's a new though.)

4. Personal spiritual practices are the building blocks for a Christ-centered life. The church plays an important role in the early stages of these practices, but as people grow the church’s role naturally begin to play less of a role.

5. A church’s most active evangelists, volunteers, and donors come from the most spiritually advanced segments.

6. More than 25 percent of those surveyed described themselves as spiritually “stalled” or dissatisfied” with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. A “stalled” person says, “I believe in Christ, but I haven’t grown much lately.” A “dissatisfied” person says, “My faith is central to my life and I’m trying to grow, but my church is letting me down.” This may shed light on the fact that churches are not equipping people to feed themselves. These dissatisfied participates assume it is the church’s responsibility thus deflecting responsibility to themselves. No wonder so many wonderful Christians are grumpy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Reveal: Section 2

Hawkins and his team organized their work around three “simple but profound” questions.
1. Where are we? – to define our current reality
2. What do we see? – to have a clear vision
3. How do we get there? - to form an action plan

The first question, “Where are we?” defined the current reality of their church. This is the formula they came up with to measure the heart.

Attitude + Behavior = Christians with unique needs (or unmet needs)

o Attitude – How people feel determines how they react. The research team looked at emotions and motivations.
o Behavior – What people do because of their faith. (e.g. serving at church, bible study, attend services, small group, prayer, solitude, and internet use in spiritual life.)
o Christian – Not all are at the same spiritual level. The research team divided the “segment” of Christians into four groups – Exploring Christianity, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ, & Christ Centered.
o Needs – What is needed (or not being done) to advance their spiritual growth.

This is what has grabbed me personally – before we can talk about vision (what we see) and before we can talk about programs (how we get there) we need to understand who we are as God’s people. We need an understanding of the our heart before we can do anything else. My experience has lead me to believe that too many assumptions have made about the heart, despite the fact that programs have been created and managed with church resources. “Build it and they will come” or rather, “Do stuff and people’s hearts will be changed” is an assumption I've been growing out of for some time. Reveal has helped me understand why I can no longer assume.

Reveal Section 1

For as long as I been involved in a local church, success has been gauged by the numbers. The assumption goes – the more people that are present in a church program the greater the impact. Greg L. Hawkins put it another way,

“Does increased attendance in ministry programs automatically equate to spiritual growth? To be brutally honest; it does not….Attendance numbers help determine if people like what you are doing. ”

Figures only tell a part of the story. Instead of gauging the effectiveness of a church program with numbers, Hawkins suggest we need to gauge the heart of participates.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Reveal - Intro

I have long believed that we church leaders (not just at FCC) pay too much attention to numbers. Reveal opened with this very issue. “For as long as anyone can remember, the only question we knew to ask about the church was, ‘How many?’”
• Decisions for Christ?
• Baptisms?
• Members?
• Attend each weekend?
• Tithe?
• Are in small groups?
• Actively serve?
It went on to say, “’But how many?’ – by itself – doesn’t completely address what the church is called to do. That question is a good start, but it measures only what we see. When it comes to spiritual growth, we need to be able to measure the unseen. We need a glimpse of people's attitudes, thoughts and feelings. We need words that reveal the heart of each person. We want o know what moves them at the deepest levels.”


It is the result of a project from a study of churches of the Willow Creek Association. A few weeks ago I read a blog post that referenced this work. The head line read “Willow Creek Repents.” The basic idea was that not every church program creates the desired results. Dispit the fact that Willow is the mother of all mega churches, the content of this work has implication for every church – big or small. I read the short book today. It spoke to me and I am wrestling if any actions should be taken. I’ll write a few blog entries on what I found.


Through a series of events I was invited to the Bethel Bible Church for a round of basketball. It's been years since I've played a game a ball. My shooting ratio was 2 out of 21 but my over all goal was not die as a result of my effort. It was a good time and I will likely go back for exercise and to meet new people from the eastside of the county. Ed the Barber was there. He said on a few occasions, "It's better than sitting at home." I would have to agree.