Thursday, March 19, 2009


Today my Subaru got the equivalent of a black eye. New Englanders don't care to yield to oncoming traffic very often, so sure enough, I plowed into someone on my way into work this morning. I was going straight through the intersection and she tried to turn left right in front of me. No worries though--nobody got hurt and the Subaru runs and drives just fine. But I'm anxious to see the accident report tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009


As I've already shared, my time in New Hampshire is coming to an end. At the end of the summer I'll be loading all my belongings into my Subaru and relocating to Chicago. Unfortunately, this means I won't be able to take certain things with me. For starters, I won't be bringing my ultra-comfy Lay-Z-Boy recliner or the dresser in my bedroom. Although I hate to leave behind such nice pieces of furniture, knowing that I'm limited on what I can bring feels almost liberating.

When we "detox" our bodies, we deprive our selves of food for a period of time. We starve our bodies so we can get all the bad stuff out. We go without so we can be healthier--so that we can have more life.

Instead of lamenting all that I must leave behind, I'm seeing this as an opportunity to purge my life of this "creeping materialism" that I always seem to be battling. This move is forcing me to decide what's really important in my life and what is not. I guess you could say I'm "detoxing" my life of materialism.

It's only March, and yet, I'm already pulling unworn clothes from my closet and making a mental list of other things I can give away or put on Craigslist. I'm almost to the point of making a game out of it to see how much I can get rid of.

In the future, I hope I don't have to rely on a major relocation to make me aware of how much I have, and instead, do a better job of discerning which possessions are good and useful in my life and which things are unnecessary.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Four Reasons Not To Podcast

Podcasts are all the rage theses days. Lots of people are broadcasting their audio files (video, too) all over the place. Churches are no exception. It's not uncommon for churches to make their pastor's messages available online for download. This technology has created an exciting medium for getting the [W]ord out. No longer is distance or lack of mobility a reason to miss out on a good sermon. Certainly, there are some good reasons for churches to take advantage of this technology, but I have some reservations. Here are four reasons why churches should not make their pastor's messages available online.

1. Unrealistic Comparisons
There are some gifted preachers out there. Men and women who are dynamic, charismatic, communicators of the Gospel. So why wouldn't we want to make these preachers' sermons available to everyone with an internet connection? Although there are some fantastic preachers in the pulpit, the vast majority of preachers are not going to blow you away. Did you know the average attendance for churches in the United States is less than 100? Do you think the members of these average sized churches hear the kind of preaching that could be compared to say, Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell? Of course not. Listening to podcasts from the likes of Driscoll and Bell create unrealistic comparisons. And yet we begin to wonder, "Why doesn't my pastor preach like those guys?"

2. Where Is The Relationship?
This may be be an obvious observation, but there is no way to have a substantial relationship with someone through their podcast. Unless one was very ambitious, there is no opportunity to shake hands with the person you just heard from. There are no conversations over coffee. Podcasts are a one-way road. The preacher talks and you listen. That's it.

3. Enables Passivity
For many people, Church is reduced to the hearing of a sermon or the worship music. Someone asks, "how was church?" and more than likely the response will be, "the sermon was really good this time," or "the worship could have been better." Church is about participating in a community of faith. Fewer and fewer people nowadays take the risk of engaging in real Christian community. Podcasts allow us to hear great sermons, but how do they afford us the opportunity to engage in community?

4. What Else Are We Missing?

When the sermon is isolated from the other components of the worship service, we do not experience the fullness of what is being conveyed through the message. The proclamation of the Word (preaching) finds its rightful place when it is accompanied by song, liturgy, prayer, confession, alms giving, the celebration of the Eucharist, and service. The significance of the sermon is enriched by these other aspects when properly situated in the context of corporate worship.

So What's The Alternative?

A more robust invitation to engage in authentic Christian community where the sermon is not detached from human relationships; where the the message is allowed to flourish in the hearts and minds of those listening as it is accompanied by the other aspects of corporate worship.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm Down with Rick Warren

I must admit, I've never been a big fan of Rick Warren--the Hawaiian shirt wearing, cheesy joke telling, mega church pastor. I've never even had a desire to read The Purpose Driven Life. I guess I've just never been drawn to his expression of Christianity.

But I've grown to appreciate Pastor Warren for the ways he is helping the Evangelical community to bridge the gap between evangelism and social justice.

The other day I read an article in Relevant Magazine that featured Warren's work in Africa. In the article, Warren identifies what he believes to be the five biggest problems in the world:

1. Spiritual Emptiness
2. Corrupt Leadership
3. Extreme Poverty
4. Disease
5. Illiteracy and Lack of Education

I was really impressed with what Warren had to say about these issues. Commenting on extreme poverty he said, "The answer is not charity. When you give money away--when you give people things they could do for themselves--you don't teach them to do it for themselves. You rob their dignity, and you create victims. You create dependency and a 'what have you done for me lately' attitude. It actually removes initiative."

So what is Warren's response to the five "global giants," as he puts them? He says that Jesus gave us a model to defeat the world's biggest problems. According to warren, "[Jesus] promoted reconciliation, equipped servant leaders, assisted the poor, cared for the sick and educated the next generation." Those five tenants are put into an acronym to create the P.E.A.C.E Plan strategy.

For Warren, it all begins with the Church. With more than 2.3 billion Christian in the world, it's the largest "network" with the potential to combat the world's greatest problems. Moreover, the P.E.A.C.E Plan is an attempt at creating lasting, sustainable, solutions that help people stand on their own two feet and escape systems of injustice.

Warren admits the problems facing our world are huge. In response to the "global giants," he says, "It gives God honor when we try to do something that's impossible."

The entire article can be found online HERE

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Liturgical Stumbling

It would be much easier if we English speakers just had a single way of reciting the Apostle's Creed. But instead, some of us like to say "living and the dead," while others prefer the more traditional "quick and the dead." And then of course there is the dispute about whether or not we should say "catholic" or "Christian."

At my church, we recently updated how we say the Apostle's Creed. "living" sounded better than "quick" and we don't know the difference between "catholic" (lower case "c") and "Catholic" (upper case "C"), so "Christian" sounded better to us, too.

Now, this might not seem like a big deal to you, but since making the change a few months ago, we still can't seem to get it right. It's right there, printed in the bulletin, but still we mess it up. I was reading out of the the Covenant Book of Worship (incorrectly), and our senior pastor was reciting from memory (incorrectly). The only people in the sanctuary reciting the creed properly were the folks in the pews. This is problematic, though, because they are supposed to be following our lead.

For me, sharing in the Lord's Table is such a high point in the life of our worshiping community, so I get really frustrated when we botch the preparation so badly. And although we're without little excuse for stumbling our way through the Apostle's Creed, I do find comfort in the Words of Invitation that beckon us to share in this sacred meal: "Come not because you are strong, but because you are weak; not because you have any claim on the grace of God, but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of his mercy and help."