Unknowns

We don’t know how to pray as we ought is a striking and often overlooked line. Yet, it may be the truest thing the Apostle Paul ever wrote. It is not in human nature to distinguish between true and false communion with God. We think praying is simply a matter of closing our eyes and folding our hands. Or mentally doing something like that. Some describe prayer as simply talking to God like you would a friend. God is wholly other. The pre-socratic philosopher, Meno, asks, “How do you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” Having glimpsed God down a long corridor, dimmed by your own inadequacies, how do you pray?

Pentecost 12
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wheat and Tares, together sown

It seems strange dealing with the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) in the middle of the summer. The hymn, “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” puts this parable to music. It is rarely sung except at Thanksgiving. Then, the actions of the farmer make sense. By telling Jesus’ parable in the summer, we preserve its shock value. The farmer lets the weeds grow among his corn. He’s my kind of gardener. We aren’t meant to imitate the farmer of this story. We are meant to think about what it means to be wheat or corn. We are meant to think about what happens to the weeds in the end.

Pentecost 11
Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Planning Retreat

Give a people ownership over their own land, some basic tools, and the fruits of their labor, and most communities will build homes, educate their children, and peacefully meet their basic needs. I guess that I am optimistic about human nature. Give a congregation some sense of control over their own destiny, a few basic tools, and a process for guiding group decision making, and even the most pathetic local church leadership will chart a path towards parish fruitfulness. I guess I am optimistic about the power of God’s Spirit to speak to people gathered in biblically centered discernment, prayerful fellowship, and weekly worship.

A good Visioning Process sees the whole church

Wasted Seed

Anne Dillard whacks us on the side of the head when she says, “Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is…  Extravagance! Nature will try anything once.” Jesus likens God’s evangelism to a farmer who throws most of his seed away (Matthew 13:1-9). The profligate sower throws his precious seed out on the path, where the Devil and the birds whisk it away. Then there is the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-34). We would like to blame Esau for wasting his birthright, but it’s God who puts the red-headed man on the stupid path where the Devil steals his soul.

Pentecost 10
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Imitating Apple

In my workshops, I often show a slide of Steve Jobs introducing us to the first iPad. Then I ask the question, “How should we design our life together, as a congregation, so that we become what Christ has in mind?” The analogy is simple. The success of Apple Computer stems from the vision that Steve Jobs had for insanely great products. He was a tyrant, constantly berating people who were content to make “pretty good” computers and cell phones. The corporate culture that grew at One Infinity Drive, Cupertino California, is exactly the same culture as we desire for the church, only with Jesus at the helm.

Redesign your church so it becomes what Christ has in mind

Child's Play

Someone has observed that Americans play at their work (hence our declining productivity) and work at their play (hence the billion dollar recreation industry). To those who trick out their computers to play video games, spend hours perfecting their golf swing, and exhaust their weekends in constant motion, the Lord says, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Many of us don’t know how to rest. When Jesus calls us to come to him and find rest for our souls, something in our hearts says, yes! But then we ignore Jesus and listen to our busy calendar.  Others, though, have a problem being fruitfully employed.

Pentecost 9
Sunday, July 6, 2014

5 Leadership Questions from the Good Samaritan

Jesus tells a powerful parable in Luke 10:30-36. It seems that the more we preach it, the less we hear it. We certainly don’t want to apply it to ourselves, even though clergy and church leaders are its target.

1) The theme of the parable is missional relationships. Jesus is asked, “Who is my neighbor?” It can be reframed, “How should church leaders relate to the world?” If we narrowly interpret the missional neighborhood to be the members of our congregation, everybody but God will be happy. We will inherit honor and position, but not eternal life.

Do you make time to touch and heal?

Faith of Our Isaac????

If we listen to Spock and follow the dictum that the good (comfort) of the many outweighs the needs of the few, then we best do the usual talk of Abraham’s faith in nearly sacrificing Isaac or skip the passage all together. The truth is, Isaac is profoundly passive throughout his short trip across the Bible’s stage. He is a young teen when he carries the wood for his own impalement, making him an accessory to attempted murder. You have to put the near-sacrifice of Isaac within the context of a life, almost not worth living. Not only does he pale in comparison to Abraham and Jacob, Sarah and Hagar, but hopefully, he compares badly to you and me.

Pentecost 8
Sunday, June 29, 2014

Twittering Church

Went to the new movie The Chef yesterday. A major theme is the power of social media to make or break any enterprise. The Chef’s twittering brought new people into an established old restaurant, but the management was unwilling to change its menu to meet the new expectations of the new people. The restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman) shouts, “from now on, I have to approve all tweets.” In other words, we can only use this revolution if everything is run through the council that meets every other month. Sounds like the church.

 

It's not just the jargon that we need to learn

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