Friday, December 22, 2006

My night as a computer geek

I am not a computer geek (not there’s anything wrong with that). I can prove I’m not one. I don’t own a pocket protector and I don’t know what a protractor is used for (unless it’s some dental tool). But my typical Sunday afternoon is spent surfing the channels for any semblance of soccer on television while my wife and two of my daughters sit with their laptops surfing, playing, learning, and most importantly, spending. So, I decided that this soccer nerd should join the computer geeks by getting a great deal on a laptop. That way, while they are all surfing the web, and I am surfing the cable channels, I can feel secure that I might someday surf the web too.

Well, apparently the best deals on laptops require personal torture and sociology lessons. A local computer superstore was having a day after thanksgiving sale. It started, for some reason at 4:00 am. I’m not sure why someone thought that was a good idea. It seems that, with enough caffeine, people could be equally irritable and irrational after the sun has come up. I figured I would go with the flow and show up at 3:00 or3:30 and be really early. My wife (who speaks computer geek with greater fluency than I) told me we should check earlier, like noon on thanksgiving. Now, I want a good deal on a laptop I will rarely use, but I’m not un-American. I refuse to go anywhere until I have eaten more turkey than some third world villages have ever seen, and then taken the requisite post-tryptophan nap. So, at about 4:30 pm on Thanksgiving Day we drove through the parking lot so I could prove to her that no-one in their right mind would be in line almost 12 hours in advance. I was right, no-one in their right mind was in line, but 11 people were there.

One rule in my life should be “never make a quick decision.” I always regret it when I do. But I foolishly made one. Since the sale flyer promised “a minimum of 10 items at each store” I decided to get in line and let her go home and come back with supplies for us to spend the night. Beyond the obvious, my first hint that this was insane was when I sat on the sidewalk it felt like I sat on a sheet of ice. I found out later that the temperature dropped to 35 degrees Fahrenheit which translates to too @%#) cold to be outside all night. My wife returned with lawn chairs, sleeping bags, coats, thermal underwear, and thermal socks. She made two errors, she didn’t bring enough sanity to tell me to go home to my heater, and she brought coffee. I think it would have been better to bring sleeping pills, so we would be unconscious through the torture that was to come.

The sociology lesson began immediately. Almost everyone in line ahead of me had been in the same line last year. They were talking about all the great deals they got last year. Some of them were talking in English. Oh, there was one group speaking Farsi (I think) and another right behind us speaking Korean, but the rest were speaking some language I’ve never heard. I think it was geek, but I couldn’t really tell any more than I could swear the one group was Farsi.

My first conversation went like this. Geek: “What are you in line for?” Me: “A laptop.” Geek: “Which one?” Me: “The one on a good sale?” Geek: “The HP or the tosh?” Me: “The what?” Geek: “The Hewlett-Packard or the Toshiba?” Me: “What’s the difference between them?” What followed was a string of letters and numbers that I assume were technical details about the two options. I thanked him for the input and said I would think about it a while.

He was polite after that. Like competent employees with a new hire that is rumored to have faked the High School Diploma on the application.

The “Farsi” group was visited by family twice. The Korean group had a party. They had a kerosene heater (I don’t know why my wife couldn’t have brought one of those… a much bigger one). They brought a portable putting green, a trampoline, a beach volleyball set, and a DJ. At about 9:00 pm, the local news station showed up. I pulled my blanket all the way over my head. I didn’t want my soccer nerd friends to see me hanging out with a bunch of computer geeks. The camera man thought my pose conveyed the sense of being cold and “camped out” for the night. So he got a 30 second close up of my blanket gently moving up and down to rhythm of my muttered “I’m not a geek, get out of my face.”

From 10:00 to midnight was quite pleasant, aside from the mind-numbing cold. All the people in line, which was up to about one-hundred (still none of them in their right minds), were chatting, talking, reading, or playing korean volleyball. It was quite the little social group. We all laughed together at the guy who drove by offering $100.00 to whoever would give up their place in line (my wife restrained me).

Shortly after midnight, things got interesting. The interlopers arrived. One lady walked right up and sat down next to my wife like she had grown out of that particular spot on the sidewalk. All of us in our little Korean, Farsi, Geek, friendly, group looked puzzled and then loudly told her that the end of the line was about 50 yards to her right. She said she hadn’t been able to tell where it ended when she arrived. I told her it ended “right behind all those other people.” She left and went to her car and got warm. About 30 minutes later she tried the same act about 25 yards to the right. What amused me was that the entire line started yelling at her. These geeks are a tight knit group. Here they were defending the place-in-line rights to complete strangers of varying nationalities. It was humorous until it got scary.

The trash can was near the door. Everytime somebody from the rear or from a warm car in the parking lot walked toward the trash can, you could hear the suspicious growl rumbling along the line. It was safer, if you needed the trash can to carry your trash in plain sight and walk with head bowed apologetically. Then people started walking the line counting how many were in front of them. Depending on their level of paranoia, they did this every hour or every 12 seconds. If the count from one walk was higher than the previous count, a direct confrontation with somebody was in order. The first 30 or so all banded together and made a list that we all approved and signed in blood as to who was first, second, etc. I contributed the pen and paper as I found myself willing to fight for the death for a Tosh or HP either one, regardless of the RAM or CPU. (I still don’t know what those are, but I was willing to fight for them anyway.) I don’t know who we were thinking would carefully follow our list, but we made it!

One group of 4 hoodlum teenagers decided to play hacky-sack in front of the door at 2:00 am. Now, these geeks are no fools, they immediately calculated the odds of 4 teenagers randomly being here in lightweight clothing, playing hacky-sack at this particular door, in this particular strip mall, at 2:00 in the morning. The suspicious, angry glares reminded me of a dog when you try to take away it’s bone. That’s when the line Nazi’s appointed themselves.

Two very small ladies, who are probably delightful people that keep the nursery in their church, decided it was their job to insure the fairness of this line. They walked up to the teenagers playing hacky-sack and announced that the line started “about 250 people that way.” Then these sweet ladies stood and ridiculed the young thugs until they went crying to their car. The line Nazi’s then went on patrol. Everyone seemed to feel safer because of it, but I found them so intimidating that when they walked past I hid under my blanket again.

At 3:00 the store staff started to arrive to rousing applause, I say rousing because it woke me up from where I was shivering, hiding under my blanket. At 3:30 the “line crashers” began to arrive. When people cut in line at 2:00 they tried to be subtle (remember the, “I couldn’t tell where the line started” lady?). At 3:30 it became all guts. “I’m here! I’m walking in when the door opens! You can’t stop me! I don’t care.” These would-be toughs didn’t know about the line Nazi’s. I really thought fisticuffs were likely. I think the fact that the line Nazi’s were so tiny and petite protected them. Nobody wanted the label as “the one that hit the 85 pound little lady” no matter how intimidating she was.

The store had wisely decided to make sure there was a police presence; they unwisely thought it wouldn’t be necessary until about 30 minutes before the scheduled opening. But thanks to the line Nazi’s there was no physical violence. I was worried when they chased off the lady on crutches. She whined about not being able to stand in line all night. They squealed back “you could sit on your rear out in the cold like the rest of us!” Anyway, when the Police arrived, he officiously said, “all right people, let’s settle down, if you haven’t been in line all night you need to go to the end of the line.” Nobody moved. The line Nazi’s screeched “He said, settle down, if you haven’t been in line all night you need to go to the end of the line.” Most everyone, including me and the Police Officer, until some others grabbed us, bowed their heads in shame and trodded past all 847 people in line.

When the store opened, we were the 11th and 12th person in the door. We bought the laptop I had endured all this torture, suffering, and fear to obtain. But, because we had stood in line all night, we also bought another $600.00 worth of stuff that we don’t need but was at a really good price. It seemed to us that we earned the right to this stuff we don’t need by sitting in line all night. It was also unfair if didn’t buy it, that would just leave something for that lady on crutches who was still trying to talk someone in the next county into letting her get in front of them.

I learned a whole lot more about the sociology of perceived scarcity, but I need to stop writing now. I contracted bronchitis from the cold, and have a doctor’s appointment.

So, for a night of cold, I got a laptop, a credit card bill I can’t afford, a bunch of sociology lessons, and I bonded with people I barely understand and, even though we parted by saying, “see you again at the sale next year,”

I will never see any of them again…. Unless, next year on Thanksgiving night, I decide that I need a flat screen TV….or pneumonia.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A day in our church...

I’m going to relate a phone call my wife received. But first I want to describe our time today from my perspective.

We started with prayer that God would bless our time together; that He would remind us to keep our conversations focused on Him and on loving each other; finally, that He would bless the food.

Then we ate and talked. Ten adults and five kids spread over two rooms. We chatted about the events in our weeks as we ate together. After about 15 minutes, I raised the question about our plans for next weekend. Every household in the church (except one) is traveling to a tourist area about 5 hours away. We will enjoy the mountains, a special dinner show, an amusement park, and extended fellowship. I'm still praying and plotting what we can do to "include" the one family that can't come.

After most were through eating and our travel plans were settled, I asked, "Who would like to share what God is showing you lately?" Four people shared. One of those seemed more "raw” so I asked a few more questions about it. It dealt with the perception that God wanted this person to grow in a specific way. Without giving details, the general theme was that the community affirmed for the person sharing that God was working to accomplish something painful, but very good in her. We commented on her courage for facing the issue and for being willing to share it. We took a quick side trip to note that her family members (that were present) would naturally feel some desire to reduce her discomfort. But that they should not yield to that. "Give God room and freedom to do His work in her life. That will sometimes feel to you and to her, like you are being mean, but you really are giving God the freedom to complete the work He has started."

We prayed and then shifted into our teaching time. I had felt impressed this week to give a very simple message about how God looks at people, and feels toward them, and how we do.

We discussed this together for a while and then dismissed. People lingered and talked for an hour or more.

Church happened.

Phone call: "Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I love my church. I was talking to my grandmother and telling her how much I loved going and meeting together. She asked me 'why?' I told her that while we were talking today, in the middle of our lesson, my 18-month old came rolling into the room on a little scooter. He just learned to do that this week, and the meeting stopped while everyone commented how wonderful it was that he could do that. You all praised him, recognized his accomplishment, and then went back to the conversation. He was not an interruption; he was a joy to be celebrated in the middle of our time."

I plan and pray for hours about what God would have me do on Sunday. What I believe He led me to, and what I therefore did, was good, but what was most powerful was our love for an 18-month old that was greater than our commitment to a planned agenda. It reinforces for me some of the things I believe God is teaching's not about propositional truth, it's about relational touch; it's not about teaching or leading a flock, it's about learning from and loving His loved ones.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Great Sermon

Just because I have two posts that criticize the traditional sermon format and the stereotypical church service, please don’t take that to be the sole theme of my very young blog. It just so happens that these things have come up in my experience recently.

I got an e-mail with a link to streaming video of “a great sermon.” So I watched it.

It started with a professional quality video of an IPod (registered trademark of somebody, I’m sure). The IPod was shuffling to a series of songs that deal with time.

Does anybody really know what time it is – Chicago
Working 9-5 – Dolly Parton
Take it Easy - Eagles
Tomorrow – Annie
Life is a Highway – Rascal Flatts
Groovin – The Young Rascals
I’m in a hurry and don’t know why – Alabama

The pastor then appeared and asked for a round of applause to welcome the internet and remote audience. His sermon was about time. We’re all too busy and we need to slow down and focus on the priorities.

Anybody that doesn’t think that American Culture props up the idol of activity is not being realistic. Every sound bite, every alarm clock, every speed trap, and every fast food place witness to our obsession with doing more all the time.

The pastor made some good points, fundamentally it was about how we need to slow down, take time for the priorities. Some of the priorities he listed were time with God, time with family, and “sharpening the saw.” Several things in this “great sermon” bothered me.

1) I like Stephen Covey. I like his book on the seven habits. I don’t see them as canonized.

2) Setting better priorities is good, but leaves the real problem unaddressed.

Nobody would argue that as a culture we are too busy. Nobody would argue that our busy-ness generates an imbalance in priorities and we dash to the next project rather than relish God and people in the moment.

Fundamentally, we are too busy because we haven’t learned contentment. We rush to do more, be more, have more, accomplish more, because we believe that we need more. The worst danger of capitalism is an addiction to more. So we simply feed our addiction by racing through every moment, so that we can have “more.” That is the problem that needs to be addressed.

But the sermon did not focus on our idolatrous desire for “more,” he focused on the “more important more” of time with family, etc. He took our utterly selfish drive and re-directed it to a different set of “more.” Now instead of pursuing the “more” of a better job evaluation, I pursue the “more” of time with family.

He didn’t address our sin of a selfish passion for more. He baptized it by encourage us to pursue better things. It’s like saying that beating you spouse is bad, so beat your dog instead. The behavior is better but the core problem is unaddressed.

He’s right that the priorities he suggests are better priorities. He ignores the more central issue that we are not content and believe the fantasy that “more” will make life better. “I’ll be more time conscious and not rush, so that I can have “more” with my kids.” It is a good step, but it only reinforces our foolish, idolatrous idea that if I do “more,” things will be better.

Here’s the message I wish the sermonizer had given.
“The reason we are so busy is that we are rushing to do more, be more, get more, enjoy more. We have bought the idolatry of “more.” It is rooted in a lack of contentment and trust in God. It assumes that I cannot trust Him to provide for all my needs. It is a slap in His face as the sustainer, provider, loving, and good God that He has proven Himself to be. We need to abandon the rush to do more, be more, get more, accomplish more. It is idolatry. We do not need to pursue better idols or pursue idols more effectively. Instead of rushing to obtain and have more, we need to strive to GIVE more. Give your time to God in prayer, worship, meditation. GIVE His love to family and others.”

I am so convinced that the real problem is not what we are pursuing in our rush, but the idolatry of the pursuit, that I need to add this. “Beware in giving your time to worship (and everything else I listed above) that you are not doing so for your own benefit. Our idolatrous hearts are capable of corrupting every good action. If you worship so that you can obtain God’s favor, you are stuck in the same idolatry of getting more for yourself. There’s a test of whether you are selfishly pursuing “more” for self, or humbly giving more of self. It is, what is your attitude, when you give, and “get” nothing in return. Do you keep worshipping when you don’t feel His presence? Do you keep giving His love to a teenager who seems to resent your every word?”

I challenge you to let go of the rush to get “more” but also to let go of the rush to get a better “more” by merely shifting to better priorities. I challenge you to realize that the calling of God on your life is to love your family and the best way to do that is to invest time into His purposes for them. Give Him your time in the form or praise, prayer, worship, meditation. Give others His love, His attention, His interest.

Without that shift in motivation, the shift in priorities stays self-centered. I can foresee people convicted by this sermon spending more time with their kids, but the basic idolatry that says “I need more” is left unaddressed. These folks are spending time with their kids but the focus is still on what I will get out of it. “My deathbed will be a happier place.” “My kids will love me in my old age.” “I feel important, loved and cared for.”

My final complaint with this sermon may be quite petty, but it’s very practical. How much time did it take for a really savvy computer guy to create this wonderfully professional video of music being selected on an IPOD? I can’t do it justice in describing it. Suffice it to say there’s not a television show in the nation that would be ashamed to play it, for its production values. What were his kids doing while he spent the time making it?

Monday, October 23, 2006


I have been praying about the passions in my own life. As I have done so, I have come to a few conclusions.

1) Know your passions. They are powerful. Passion will lead people to great achievements and great evils. Think about the things you ARE passionate about - Not the things you SHOULD be passionate about, but the things you ARE passionate about. There are some things that motivate us to get out of bed in the morning and approach the day with enthusiasm. Then there is the rest of life.
2) If you honestly discern your passions, you will find some that lead to sin and death. I have very simple advice about these passions. Do NOT pursue them. But don’t deny their reality. Spend time with trusted advisors discussing them. Let people that love you, care about you, and can see the spark of Christ within you, help you to understand those passions. They are false passions. (See Jeremiah 2:12,13) Satan and sin have deceived you into thinking that the things that will in reality destroy you are deeply desireable. If you trace those passions back, you will find a “good” passion beneath them.
3) If you honestly discern your passions, you will find some that lead to love and life and service. If you tried to stop one of these, it would become a “fire in your bones, that you could not contain.” (Which is what happened when to Jeremiah when he decided not to proclaim the word of God.)

I’m going to suggest a task that will help you identify key passions. Make a list of your daily activities. Then put those activities into three groups.

The first group is those that you are truly excited about. If your day will be spent on these, you will look forward to that day for weeks in advance. I absolutely look forward to teaching scriptural lessons on life. When I don’t teach for more than a few weeks I start feeling the fidgety need and annoying the people around me by turning everything into a “teaching moment.” I have actually said the sentence “Yes, I know your broken leg hurts, but let’s think about what pain means in your life.” – I know, it’s ridiculous – but it is also my passion demanding expression. The activities on this list, the ones you love to do and look forward to, are close to your passions. One last point of clarity should be made. I’m not talking about things that are fun. (I don’t think Paul enjoyed stoning or rejection.) I’m talking about things that are so meaningful to you that you will endure the stoning and rejection in order to keep doing them.

The second group is those things that you are not passionate about, but you do them in order to make the investment into something you are passionate about. I do not go to my office daily because I love what I do there. I go to my office because I am passionate about being a responsible provider for my family. I do not run nearly every day because I am passionate about running or sweating. I run because I am passionate about refereeing at a level that requires fitness. These sometimes feel like obligations. They feel that way because our passion forces us to do them, even though we would not otherwise choose them.

The third group, is everything you haven’t put into one of the other two categories.

O.K. I expect this will shock some of you. The things in that third list are things you do for no good reason. (Watching Fox & Friends, most trips out to eat, and most movies I see go in this list for me.) You see, I’m going to argue that if your activity isn’t something you’re passionate about, or something that indirectly leads to your passion, it’s a waste of your time. You are not at that moment spending the days wisely. You are engaging in activity that is not furthering your relationship to Christ, or your fulfillment of His call on your life. I’m very tempted to call that sin. It is certainly not “redeeming the time.”

If it does not lead you to your passion, why are you doing it? You probably need to stop. Even good things can go here. We can be doing so many good things that we are not doing the most important things that God has called, gifted, designed, and tasked us to do. What work of God are you leaving out so that you can spend your time on this activity?

There are two important applications here.
1) If you are doing it because it indirectly leads to your passion, but it feels like tedious drudgery, it’s time for a step back from the trees to see the forest. I need to be reminded of the passion behind my shuffling papers across my desk. This is the means God has provided for me to meet my passionate desire to provide for my family. That “forest” the big picture behind my activity, stirs passion, stirs hope, stirs contentment. With that focus it becomes easy to “whatsoever you do, in word or deed, do it all for the glory of God.”
2) If you are NOT doing the act directly or indirectly out of your passion, it is probably not part of God’s calling on your life. And even if it is a good thing, I don’t think God is pleased. He’s not in the business of creating round pegs for square holes. I really wouldn’t expect much reward for doing even wonderful tasks, outside what God has called me to do. If it’s not part of His purpose for your life (and your lack of passion is great confirmation that it is not…) then you cannot possibly do it “for the glory of God.” Please stop wasting your time and energy on these things. Save your energy for those that lead directly or indirectly to your God-given passion.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What’s wrong with the church in America?

I just read several other blogs. They were all on the topic of “what’s wrong with the Church in America?” They pretty much agree that whatever the American church is doing isn’t working. Attendance, membership, giving, missions, and nearly every other measure of “working” is declining.

The discussions disagree when they address “what’s causing the failure and what should be done about it.” Some think the mega-church is to blame. Some think that an emphasis on small groups and connecting is taking away from a focus on teaching truth. Some blame culture. Some blame seminary training.

I wish I had an answer. Please don’t read that as a stock disclaimer. I really mean it. I don’t have an answer! I would just like to rephrase the question, and give a context for answers.

Rather than asking “what’s wrong with the church and how it should be fixed?” I would rather we ask:

“What does a genuine follower of Christ look like in 2006?”
“What are the obstacles that discourage or prevent that?”
“How can a community of faith remove those obstacles?”
“How can a community of faith encourage that life-style?”

When the question is “what’s wrong with the church?” The process cannot help but be negative. The process of answering the questions I suggest would be more positive, I also think it would be more useful. But please don’t infer that by useful I mean to imply that we could all agree on a standard set of answers.

In reality, I’m quite certain we would never get a convincing, satisfying, unified answer to any of the questions I propose. I recently read a book that implied you couldn’t be a good Christian if you weren’t actively working on environmental issues. I saw a Television show that implied you couldn’t be a good Christian unless you were financially blessed.

So, what are we to do? I suggest that we graciously allow anyone and everyone to try. It may be that we couldn't agree on a single answer because there IS no single answer.

In this season in my life, I do not need a mega-church. In fact, its polished professionalism would be quite an obstacle for me. Please don’t decide it’s the answer for America today. Likewise, please don’t decide that every person in America needs the relationships, connections, honesty, and accountability in a home church. My living room isn’t big enough.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Sit-Com and the Sermon

I enjoy a good sit-com. Thirty minutes of laughing at people that are even less competent than me does my self-esteem a lot of good. Almost all comedy is rooted in creating the feeling that we are superior to someone else. (pay attention to what makes you laugh over time, you’ll see there’s a lot of truth in that last statement.) The key ingredients to a really good sit-com are these:

1) the stars are in a problem situation that they really had to be less competent than me to get into
2) they make even more stupid errors and comments as they try to resolve the problem
3) they do manage to get out of the problem just before the 30 minute show is over

It actually reminds me of most sermons. Generally, in order to make a worthwhile point, the problem has to be caricatured. “Abortion is killing a baby. Only God should have that right” is a caricature of the problem. It doesn’t recognize that a 14 year old girl was raped by her uncle. It doesn’t recognize that the amniocentesis shows that the child cannot possibly live outside the womb. But it makes a much better sound bite, and in the 30 – 45 minutes the sermonizer is allotted, he cannot realistically consider all the points. He is forced to caricature the arguments in order to reach the third goal of a good show. He cannot address the fact that “the pill” is little more than an abortion of an already fertilized egg. The problem must be resolved.

The sermonizer will say, “John the Baptist leapt in the womb when
Elizabeth met the pregnant Mary, so we KNOW that he was a person.” But Jesus said the rocks would cry out in praise to him, would that mean the rocks were human? Whether it’s a valid argument or not isn’t debated or discussed, it’s made and accepted because it gives the 30 minute conclusion we all crave.

The sermonizer will say that God formed all people in the womb, and knew them before they were born. I agree, but I think God also formed and “knew” the chicken I ate for supper last night (and the broccoli if you are a vegetarian). I don’t think that makes either of them human life.

Because the community gatherings of Christians have fallen into the pattern of a sermonizer condensing all pertinent truth on a topic to 30 - 60 minutes of powerful problem solving and entertainment, most sermons can only be contrived caricatures and partial truths. I think we like them because of that. When a difficult situation is simplified to a caricature we can see what the awful people do, and we can see what the good people do. Armed with that information we can align ourselves with the good people, feel appropriately superior to the awful people and resolve the whole problem in one simple sit-com, er, I mean church service.

When was the last time you heard a sermonizer raise a major question or problem and then say, “I don’t really have any good, clear, consistent answer to this. I sure hope you can help me figure it out. Let’s close in prayer.” If you’ve ever heard it, I think you would agree you have rarely heard it. Why? If a sermonizer didn’t give an answer or at least a tentative, suggested answer, the people would be hugely disappointed, and the sermonizer would feel inadequate. We must not permit either of those feelings to exist in a “happy place” like church.

What about these answers? “I have been able to see both bad outcomes in a good light, but I can’t decide which one I want” (Paul in Philippians 1). It would make for a very unsatisfying sermon. Or, “having problems is really good for us, so let’s just relax and learn to live comfortably in the middle of helplessness and pain” (James 1). Not a popular conclusion.

This week I talked with a friend because he and his wife were in a major conflict. They heard a powerful sermon about living beneath your means so that you can be more generous with others in need (clearly a Biblical concept). But she wanted to reduce their expenses, while he wanted to slash their expenses and sell everything. He was feeling like he had heard from God and had figured out the right path for the family while she was opposing him. (Please note that this subtly implied that she was aligned against God, and therefore alligned with Satan. My friend was too wise and kind to ever think that, but he didn't realize that his viewpoint inherently implied it.)
The sermonizer could not possibly have foreseen that he would have been wise to temper his sermon with a caveat that you must love and sacrifice to give to your spouse and family first (Is. 58:3-7, I Tim. 5:8, not to mention I Peter 3:7).

I don’t think this is the sermonizers fault. It is impossible to adequately address all aspects of truth in a 30-45 minute sermon. (At Pentecost Peter may have gotten close, but his only real point was, Jesus is God. It’s a great point, but it left a lot of questions unanswered.) I think it is the fault of the church in general. The church has come to see the sermon as an authoritative source of information for all of life. It is not. It cannot be. It was never intended to be. We ask too much of what is little more than a sound bite.

Now, I would appreciate it if no-one would accuse me of tackling an important topic such as the sociological failure of the role of sermons in the modern church in much less than 30 minutes. I make no pretense that this should be authoritative for anybody. I also make no claim that it is thorough.

I suggest you do a small bit of research. Ask 100 Christians if the most profound moment of spiritual realization in their life came while listening to a sermon. You will find that it’s not the norm. My most profound moments have been in private prayer, during worship choruses, and in one-on-one or small group dialogue.

My church doesn’t have sermons any more (makes you wonder what they pay me for, doesn’t it?). We have discussions. Sometimes it’s more funny than a sit-com. Sometimes we end up with no resolution to the problem (we got lot’s of ideas and thoughts about the matter, but no solid conclusions). I hope we NEVER put the presumption of authority on what we discover in our discussions and I hope we remember that the relationships we are shaping in our discussions are more central to our walk with Christ than any “truth” we may discern.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


O.K. So I have decided to try blogging. The disturbing thing for you should be that I don't really know what my goals are for doing this. I just feel the need to have a place to express some things. I may use this as a vent for all my frustrations and struggles. Or, I may use it for really cool and inspirational messages of hope and healing. Can you tell I'm a mixed up and confused person?

The truth is, I'm just as normal as normal can be. I have days when there is a spring in my step and a gleam in my eye. I also have days when I am muttering profanities under my breath. What makes me abnormal? It think it's that I am a pastor.

There are actually people who rely on me for spiritual leadership. They are either drawn to a spiritual walk that has it's feet firmly in the muck of a messed up planet or they are just really naive.