Your Church is Like an Acorn

Jesus tells a parable about your church in Matthew 13:31-32. He says that your congregation is like an acorn which is planted and becomes, in time, a mighty oak. OK. Jesus uses a mustard seed instead of an acorn. If he were preaching in your church, I’m sure he would choose a plant familiar to your people. His parables were meant to be simple. Too often we get hung up on the fact that there are other seeds smaller than the mustard and other plants more majestic than the mustard bush. This all misses Jesus’ point. The church (kingdom of heaven) is meant to grow until it becomes shelter for the birds of the air.

Every church has a lifecycle

Coward!

I can still remember my shock when my Old Testament professor called Jacob a coward. “Look at what he does,” Dr. Szikszai said. “He sends his wives and children across the river, giving them as slaves, to save his own miserable skin. He waits in the dark, trying to find a way to sneak away.” This is how one of my favorite Bible Stories begins. Jacob, like us, doesn’t have the courage to live the life he is called to live. God has to wrestle with him. God has to bring pain into his life, putting his hip out of joint. God has to leave him limping with broken-ness. Out of broken-ness comes transformation. A new name. Israel.

Pentecost 13
Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hospice, Hospital, or Hospitality?

My friend, Ed Kail, developed a useful tool for discussing your church’s attitude towards the outside world. By attitude, we are talking about the mid-point of the congregation or its collective DNA. On the whole, congregations think of themselves as either; being in Hospice, being a spiritual Hospital for those who join them, or as providers of Hospitality towards strangers.

Where you steer your church depends upon HHH

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

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