Follow by Email

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What makes a church unique? (part I: the problem of uniqueness)

A friend of mine here in Cayman recently received an email from a co-worker entitled: "Only the King James Version is the real Bible." The introduction to the email claimed that any person or church using a translation other than the NIV was denigrating the deity of Christ and the existence of His Kingdom. That's meshugenah!. Beyond the facts that there are good reasons to be both thankful for the KJV translation (see 17th-19th centuries + only English translation) yet also move on to other more reliable translations (see here for more), the larger question this email brought to our minds as my friend and I discussed it was:
Why are many churches so aggressive about making a little thing into their ultimate thing? 
Our conclusion was ultimately that churches often feel the need to set themselves apart. In a consumer market in which all churches find themselves and each must decide to what extent they are going to play that game, many churches feel like they need to not just make Jesus their thing (every church gets to claim Jesus) but Jesus + something else.  This something else makes us unique.

Enter the church of which I'm blessed to be a part - Sunrise Community Church. Since we are non-denominational, pretty new to the scene (ie. new to being a church), non-sectarian in our doctrine/beliefs, thankfully our people are pretty much immune to the pressure of distinguishing our church according to "+ something else." Right? Mmmm...not so much. 

This became clear to me during our search for an associate pastor. Not only did the other elders and myself find ourselves describing & distinguishing our church in ways that weren't just about Jesus, a truly cautionary tale made it clear to me that even churches trying to keep the Big things Big and the small things small can get caught up in this. One of our pastoral candidates mentioned, off-hand, that should he come to visit & preach, he would wear a tie. I cautioned against this primarily because I've never seen anyone in our church wear a tie and people feel weird when I wear dress shoes twice a year (cuff links three times - but that's only because a dress shirt I got from a TJ Maxx Clearance Bin that lacked sleeve buttons...Get it together Van Heusen!!). This caution crystallized how many of us promote our church according to the following terms - we are casual, welcoming, wear whatever you want, & 'not legalistic.' And in promoting it we might become just as rigid as KJV-mania in keeping to it -  how accepting would we really be toward someone who regularly donned a formal, full-length dress or a coat and tie (especially if he was one of the pastors!!)?? At the very least, there would be looks and whispers.

What about your church? How do you describe/promote it to others so as to make it sound unique, different, distinguished? 

So what does God's Word say should make unique the gathering of God's people? That's the subject of my next post: What makes a church unique? The glory of uniqueness. 

As I discovered this week, the whole Bible (yes, including the Old Testament) echoes a consistent theme.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Free Audiobook for May: Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande

Are you like me: I feel something near compulsion to alert people to free stuff. Not free junk, but quality things from the land of the free and the home of "there's no catch." This month proves to be more than an easy call to alert you to's free audiobook of the month - Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande.

I recommending clicking right here, taking the 30 seconds to fill in your info, and get to downloading for your listening benefit. I do so for two big ole honkin' reasons:

#1: Peacemakers Ministries and Ken Sande. I remember attending my first Peacemakers Seminar at my old church in Chicago nearly ten years ago. Since then, I've used Peacemakers materials with youth, in counseling, in helping lead frustrated people to Jesus, in my marriage, in martial counseling, in sermons, in basic conversations. It is simple, biblical, and practical. Also, conflict is just one of those things in which passions (especially the desire to get what we want) runs so high, we need some kind of concrete, firm plan we can 'cling to' in such moments lest everything else in us erupts or implodes (passive-agressive) to cause pain for ourselves and others. In other words, it's hard to trust ourselves and our instincts in such moments - we need a plan/strategy outside ourselves.

#2: If you have any relationship of depth and/or meaning, you experience, have experienced, will experience conflict. So if you have a heartbeat and have uttered "hi" or "sup, holmie" to someone today, then this audiobook will prove intensely relevant.

May God use this resource to prevent pain, heal hurts, and bring glory to Himself through your conflict.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Sunday Follow-up: More Work found in God's Word

This Sunday under the big top we had a chance to examine a brilliant passage on living Christ where we work from Colossians 3:22-4:1 (sure, we had get through the whole 'slave' part of the passage & determine if one can legitimately apply a 1st century passage about slavery to 21st century work - which I argued one can!! - geez, thanks for slowing us down, SLAVERY!!).

For those interested or who'd like to do a little Bible Study/Devotion, here are some critical biblical passages on work:

Genesis 2:2 - God works...and then rests...but mostly, He works. [And considering Genesis 1:27 says we are made in God's image and, thus, purposed to imitate God...we also work].

Genesis 2:2   2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Genesis 2: 7-9, 15 - Even before sin and evil enter the world, man works.

Genesis 2:7-9, 15   7 The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ...15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 3:17-19 - Man decides not to trust God. God, being perfectly just, must punish. He punishes (or curses) man through his work.

Genesis 3:17-19  17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 

Exodus 20: 8-11 - Even still, work goes on in the pattern of it's genesis (ha...ha...get it? Homonym!)

Exodus 20:8-11   8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

Psalm 8:3-8 - God works which is evidenced in creation, and he has given us dominion to work his creation (notice: vv.7-8 contains most common Ancient Israelite jobs - shepherd, farmer & his oxen to plow, fisherman).

Psalm 8:3-8   3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,  4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,  7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,  8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 

Psalm 90:16-17 - A prayer of praise for God's Work and a prayer of petition to establish the work we do (ie. make it 'matter').

Psalm 90:16-17  16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.  17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! 

Colossians 3:22-4:1 - Do what your boss says, but work for the Boss of bosses.

Colossians 3:22 - 4:1   22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.   4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. 

Proverbs 6: 6-11 - The foolishness of a sluggard, whose usually rationalizing a little laziness/me-time here and a little there.

Proverbs 6:6-11   6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,  8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.  9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?  10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,  11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. 

I Timothy 5:8 - Working at any job is better than remaining unemployed while holding out for your dream job (or that upper management position).

1 Timothy 5:8  8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

II Thessalonians 3:10-12 - Working is essential to eating. 

II Thessalonians 3:10-12  10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 

I Corinthians 3:9-15 - The quality of some work is better than others - work done, by faith, for and with God.  

1 Corinthians 3:9-15   9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.  10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-  13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 

Ephesians 4:11-12 - In God's economy, we don't clock out of work when we clock out at our job (cf. II Timothy 3:16-17, II Corinthians 9:8, I Thessalonians 1:2-3). 

Ephesians 4:11-12   11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Isaiah 65:21-22 - Work continues in eternal life, but this time we'll enjoy perfect rest while doing it through the full enjoyment of the fruit of our labors. 

Isaiah 65:21-22  21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 

Revelation 14:12 - One day the toil will be taken out of work. 
NLT Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from all their toils and trials; for their good deeds follow them!"