Monday, June 30, 2008

A bit of a bug . . .

On Saturday, I got hit with some kind of stomach/body bug that has not gone away. So I'm a bit slow on the email right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The devestating effects of divorce--how can the church help?

On Tuesday, Becki and I went to look at apartments and homes that are for lease. One home was very sad. The yard was in terrible shape. The locks on the door were in poor condition. And the home in general was very dirty. From the interior furnishings, it looked like it was a divorce situation. There probably was a father with a child, living by themselves, working two jobs and just barely hanging on. No time to spend on the lawn. No energy to clean. No hope to give to the children.

I was struck with a profound sense of sadness. What problems exist in a marriage that are so bad that it was worth risking home, companionship, a mother for the children, time, energy, and so much more?

The divorce rate in the US used to be 1 in 1000. I still can hardly believe this statistic, which was taken straight out of the leading book on families, Family Ministry by Charles Sell. Today, as a nation, we are far to quick to divorce. We need to encourage married couples to stay together, to learn to love one another, and to help them conquer selfishness.

At the same time, we need to minister to those who have gone through divorce. Those who have gone through this are often financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually overwhelmed.

In recent weeks, after having spoken of the need to minister as a church to those who are hurting, several have come to me about the need to begin a divorce recovery ministry. This is indeed a great need, both for our own members and for the community.

How can the church help minister to those who have experienced divorce? How can we help couples stay together?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Pew Research Poll of Americans Shows Fluidity in Beliefs

I have been hit with several people who are either interested in or concerned with the recent pew research poll. In a sentence, the study finds that Americans are "spiritual," believing in God, but that they are increasingly pluralistic, non-dogmatic, and fluid in their belief systems.

Pew research looks at religious trends in the US across all religious groups. Because this is an election year, their findings are receiving additional. See the findings at

I'll spare you a discussion about shift from modernism and postmodernism and its relative benefits and drawbacks. The fact is that people are much less concerned about beliefs today, and much more concerned about a practical faith that impacts their lives.

I know that these trends are disturbing to many. Certainly, the Christian faith has core beliefs that we must adhere to. We need to teach our children that, according to Scripture, Jesus is the only way. But we do this through an active faith that impacts people's lives (both ours and others) in the here and now. We will "teach" our children the right way by serving the poor, developing Spiritual practices, and showing them what it means to live under the rule or reign of God.

For myself, I believe that the current religious climate presents tremendous opportunity. Thirty years ago, the culture was secular. Religion was a private matter. And whatever belief system you grew up with, you kept. Now spirituality is in the open. And people are increasingly open to anyone who will show them an authentic faith. My friends, that ought to be us. If people will just give us a hearing, I am convinced that following Christ offers the most hope, the most meaning, the most fulillment, of any faith that is out there.

Here are various news articles, analysis, and reaction to the findings.,2933,370588,00.html

What do you think of these pew results?

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Spiritual Gifts Seminar now Available

I just wanted to let everyone know about a new Spiritual gifts seminar that I now offering. To those who have followed this blog for some time, you know how much I believe in this ministry. The seminar and and the work that I have written called Using Your Spiritual Gifts ( are a result of over two years of biblical and doctoral research on Spiritual gifts, work with a local congregation, personal assessments, and real life application.

I recently spoke on this subject at the OC Quest lectures, and will speak on it at the 2008 Harding lectures. I have a couple of upcoming seminars--one at Prince of Peace Catholic church in September, and one to be scheduled in Ankeny, Iowa.

For a possible seminar schedule, see This can, of course, be adjusted based upon calendar needs.

I have really loved doing Missional Church seminars, and I have been glad to see this new seminar grow out of it. If you would like to schedule a seminar at your church, please let me know.

What did you hear about Spiritual gifts growing up as a child? What do you hear today?

We have a contract on our house in Liberty!

Hello all. We thought that we would let everyone know that there is a contract on our house in Liberty. We are scheduled to close on July 18 if all goes well. In the end, I'll have everyone know, it was our audio-visual setup in our basement and throughout the home that sold it! :)

So we will soon be taking a trip to Liberty. We may come up early and be there at the Hess' annual 4th of July party so that we can see a lot of our friends there. We'll keep you posted on our plans.

Thank you to all of those who have prayed for our house sale--particularly Diane Newhouse's class who prayed for us this every day of school. Also, a big thanks goes to Kevin Ruth (and Matt Brunk) for watching over the house for us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Young Evangelicals have a surprising diversity of political views

Below is an intereting article on the political views of 18-29 year olds. While maintaining opposition to abortion and supporting the death penalty, they also favor strict environmental standards for companis.

Do these results match up with the values of younger people that you know?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Consumer Christians and the lack of discipleship

Popular Christian author Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy, speaks of the rampant consumer Christianity that is in the church.

"Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians. These are only effects of the underlying problem . . .The division of professin Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintian a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over fifteen hundred years."

In consumer Christianity, members pay dues in exchange for goods and services. The churches that have the best goods and services (programs and ministries for me and my children) gain the most members. Calls to sacrifice are rarely given in such a system. After all, one must keep the customer happy in a consumer system.

It is rare for any of us to make a decision about, for instance, where to worship, based upon anything other than self-interest. We will say, this is the best place for me personally to attend, rather than asking, where can I worship that I can best serve others? Where can I best be used by God?

I dream of a time in my own life in which I will ask this same question without self-interest.

Where do you see consumer Christianity manifest itself in the church or in our personal lives?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The solution to classroom space for churches

it really is amazing how our experience of church life shapes and sometimes, sadly, stifles our imagination. Take for instance, classroom space. In growing (or swelling) churches, classroom space often begins to become short in supply. The automatic thought? Let's build more classrooms.

Sometimes this may be necessary. But instead of doing this automatically, why not explore other options? I can vividly remember missional leader Reggie McNeal, one of my D.Min. teachers at Fuller Theological Seminary, speak on this topic. Why not hold a "Sunday School" class in a restuarant? Have members go to a local eating place, share breakfast with one another, and have a Bible lesson right there. This would allow the workers and other people eating at the restaurant an opportunity to come into contact God's people, creating openings for conversation, prayer, and dialogue.

If we are going to be God's people on mission, we will have to sacrifice. If we cannot "sacrifice" by meeting in a restaurant, how will we be able to sacrifice in bigger things. Sometimes we are waiting for that "big sacrifice," and meanwhile we miss out on daily sacrificial living.

What do you think of having "Sunday School" in a restaurant or other public setting?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts on Giving

I received an email today on giving which was quite interesting. See below.


A friend sent this to me and it made me think.

It seems a big amount to give back to God 10% of our income, but what if it were reversed?

I dreamed that the Lord took my weekly contribution to the church,multiplied it by ten, and turned this amount into my weekly income. In notime I lost my furniture and had to give up my automobile. Why, I couldn'teven make a house payment. What can a person do on a $100 a week?
Suppose the Lord took your offering and multiplied it by ten and made thatyou weekly income? How much would you earn? This might give us some freshinsights into the stewardship needs of the congregations."Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, ashe may prosper, that no collections be made when I come" (1 Cor. 16:2).
Think About It!

What Percentage of the Church has what Spiritual Gifts? (Corrected)

Below is a corrected version of a previous post on this subject.


I have been working on Spiritual gifts discovery, development and application now for nearly three years, and it is a part of my doctoral work. I so strongly believe in this ministry, both from a missional theological standpoint as well as a practical standpoint. The Spirit is often compared to water--fluid, changing, refreshing, at work, essential to life, and uncontrollable. Still, I am excited about the discoveries that are coming to light as I do more and more research in this area.

One question I have often had is, what percentage of a church has what Spiritual gifts. How does it vary from church to church? Is it affected by the preaching and teaching that is done there? For instance, will people who are in a church with an evangelistic culture be influenced by this and see themselves as being more evangelistic? Is this a psychological influence or a Spiritual one--or are these too closely related to differentiate? Are there generational differences in gifts distribution? How much do different fellowship experiences affect these results? How about education level? Number of years a person is a Christian? And I have many more questions. It is exciting to think about knowing some of these results with a few more years of research.We have collected 55 Spiritual gifts inventories so far at High Pointe, with many more in the works. I thought I would take a snapshot of the gifts distribution at High Pointe so far.

Percentage of Each Gift as Compared to the Total Number of Spiritual Gifts Reported
3% - Administration – Coordination of People & Projects
7% - Administration – Tasks
1% - "Apostolic" / Missional Leadership
3% - Discernment
9% - Encouragement
4% - Evangelism
13% - Faith
4% - Giving
8% - Helping
5% - Hospitality
5% - Knowledge
4% - Leadership
7% - Mercy
3% - Pastoral Care / Shepherding
4% - Prayer
1% - Prophetic Ministry
6% - Service
2% - Speaking
6% - Teaching
6% = Wisdom

Percentage of People Who Have a Particular Gift at High Pointe
16% - Administration (Coordination)
39% - Administration (Tasks)
7% - "Apostolic"/Missional Leadership
16% - Discernment
50% - Encouragement
20% - Evangelism
77% - Faith
23% - Giving
48% - Helping
30% - Hospitality
27% - Knowledge
25% - Leadership
39% - Mercy
16% - Pastoral Care/Shepherding
23% - Prayer
5% - Prophetic Ministry
34% - Service
9% - Speaking
36% - Teaching
34% -Wisdom

These results are very interesting. For instance, these numbers confirm a very high percentage at High Pointe report a gift of faith. What are the implications of this as we plan our ministries, goals, and missional outreach? I plan on comparing these numbers over time, as well as comparing them to the Liberty Church of Christ, where I was previously a minister. These numbers also have a high percentage of church leaders who have taken the survey, which probably tilts the numbers towards certain gifts.

What do you think of these numbers? Is there anything that stands out in your mind, is surprising, etc.? What implications does this have for ministry at High Pointe and in the church at large?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday Reflections on Fatherhood, Tim Russert

Sunday was Father's Day. Sadly, one of the great fathers and propropents of fatherhood, Tim Russert, died last Friday. Russert was one of my favorite political commentators. As the head of NBC news division and host of Meet the Press, Russert was one of the most influential men in our nation. I liked the fact that he was tough on all politicians, asking real questions. But he always did this without being mean-spirited.

Russert wrote two books on fatherhood in the last few years. The first, Big Russ and me, tells the story of his relationship with his father. This personal story had unexpected success, becoming a New York Times bestseller. Tim received 60,000 letters from people who told the story of their own fathers, and he compiled many of these in the book Wisdom of Our Fathers. Tim not only loved his father, but he loved his son, and himself sought to be a good father.

On Sunday, I weaved Russert's life throughout the sermon, talking about how good fathers are hard workers, providers, disciplinarians, encouragers, and lovers of children.

Fatherhood is so little appreciated today. This was one of the reasons I so appreciated Russert. Despite his incredible work ethic and ability, he always said that his family came before his work. His joy for family, people, and life will be missed as much as his incredible mind.

At the end of the sermon, I encouraged fathers to tell their children that they loved them, and vice versa. Russert died at the age of 58--too short a time. If you have not said these words recently to your father or to your children, there is no better time than now. We may not get another chance.

Why do you think fathers and fatherhood are not held in higher esteem in today's world? What do you think are important characteristics of good fathers?

Friday, June 13, 2008

How the Clothes Closet led to a new Bible study

I had meetings just about all day, all of which went well. One of the meetings was with those interested in the clothes closet ministry at High Pointe. We have some older workers who need to take a break from this ministry, and a need for newer workers, including some younger ones, to come on board.

It looks like a good team is emerging for this, with people gifted in service, mercy, and evangelism like Garth, along with those gifted in administration like Teresa. We even have people gifted in "tongues"--well, at least people like Diane who can speak Spanish! It was a blessing to be able to help get this ministry re-charged, facillitate the process, and then to let others run with it as much as possible. I'll be there to provide some guidance, evangelistic thrust, funds, and attention wherever needed.

While we were meeting, an single African-American mother named Pauline came in who had recently been released from prison. She needed a ride over to a house. One of our secretaries, Rebecca, offered her kindness, treating her with respect, talking with her, and listening to her story. Rebecca and I prayed for her, and then I took Pauline over to the hourse where her car was. As we rode, we discussed her life. I told her about the clothes closet, which she was interested in. She then said that she was looking to do some Bible study to "keep her out of trouble," and of course I offered to study with her. We are planning to study together after she comes to the Clothes Closet opening on Sat., June 21st. She was also looking to connect with some other single parents. I recently had some people in the congregation who came to me, wanting to start this type of outreach. So perhaps I can bring them into the study.

So while meeting about the clothes closet, God sends someone our way who is interested in the clothes closet and Bible study. Wow! God is at work.

This ministry has great potential to expand. Several people came up to me on Sunday after I mentioned it in the sermon, wanting to help. One was even a visitor! People really want to be a part of a church that serves the community. In fact, they will flock to such a church. Many times it is not the people that you serve whom who reach through the service, but others who see these works and who want to be a part of them.

What do you think abou the importance of service ministries like the Clothes Closet?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who was Titus?

Last night in our Wednesday night class, our teacher, Bill, gave an overview of the Pastoral letters. One of the Pastoral letters is Titus. Bill raised a good question there, saying, who was this Titus? And what did he do that made him so important as to have Paul write a letter to him that would become part of the New Testament canon?

So I did a search for all of the references to Titus in the NT, and the search came up with the following 13 verses.

  • 2 Cor 2:13 - I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.
  • 2 Cor 7:6 - But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,
  • 2 Cor 7:13 - By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.
  • 2 Cor 7:14 - I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.
  • 2 Cor 8:6 - So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
  • 2 Cor 8:16 - I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.
  • 2 Cor 8:17 - For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
  • 2 Cor 8:23 - As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.
  • 2 Cor 12:18 - I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?
  • Gal 2:1 - Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.
  • Gal 2:3 - Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
  • 2 Tim 4:10 - for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
  • Titus 1:4 - To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

From these passages, it is clear that Titus was a great help, comforter, and co-worker of Paul and others. It is always great to find close companions and friends in the Lord, people that we dearly love. I am blessed to have many friends like this.

What do you find most interesting in these references to Titus?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thoughts on Shepherding

Yesterday, we installed four new shepherds at High Pointe. Following along with the typical Timothy/Titus minister role of installing new shepherds, I gave the new shepherds a charge to be the type of shepherd outlined in Scripture. I read from John 10, 1 Timothy 3, and 1 Peter 5.

As I read these passages, there were several things that ran through my mind then and today.

First, Jesus said that the shepherd knows the sheep and that they know his voice. In order to truly be a shepherd, one must have a following--a group of people who willing follow this person and come to them for help and guidance.
Second, the "characteristics" of shepherds that are listed are almost exclusively about character and way of life. This should point towards the emphasis in shepherding--that these are men who demonstrate to God's people what it means to walk with God.

Third, not only is shepherding itself a gift (Eph. 4:11), but there are at least other gifts associated with shepherding: teaching and hospitality. Teaching is related to not only knowledge imparted, but to a way of life that can be imititated. Since we are in the middle of a series on hospitality, I found the reminder that hospitality is a quality of a shepherd interesting. The word for hospitality in 1 pet. 4:0 literally means "love of stranger," and refers to the welcoming of those who are aliens, strangers, and those in need. This is a behavior that Peter encourage Christians to extend to one another. Shepherds must be welcoming!

What do you think are the most essential qualities of shepherds?

Friday, June 06, 2008

A church that voluntarily gave up a $50,000 sign

As a guy with interest in advertising and design, I am a fan of having church signs. Of course, this is about step number 19 or 20 in reaching people for Christ. People have to be looking for God and looking for a church in order to want to worship with a church. And some of the places that Christianity is exploding are in places like China, where Christianity is basically illegal and no signs are allowed. So we definitely should not overly rely upon them. Still, I'm for them in the US.

I was pretty amazed at a story that David Duncan, minister at the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, TX, told at the OC Quest lectures. The Memorial church sits in a 1 mile by 1 mile little province in the middle of Houston--a province that is notoriously difficult to deal with. The church had decided to add a new sign on their property, a $50,000 sign, no less. Hey, if you've got the funds (and they definitely do), go for it. Well, the day the sign went up, the city said that they were in breach of code. The church said that it had been approved. The city then fired the person who approved the sign that very day.

The church took a stand for some time, insisting on their legal rights. But then they said, this is not the kind of relationship we want with our community. So they voluntarily took down a $50,000 sign.

They then went over to the high school, which is literally across the street from the church, and they asked them how they could serve them. Parking is horribly limited there, and so the church began to offer free parking for some of the groups that met at the school. They even allowed their parking lot to be striped like a football field so that the drill team could practice in their parking lot. They now have more traffic on a weekly basis from this than they probably would have ever had from their sign. Most importantly, they became a servant to the community.

Having had some history with this congregation, I was very encouraged and inspired to hear this wonderful story. I'm greatful for David and his leadership there, seeking to help the church there become a "missional church."

What do you think of this story?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Bush administration and WMD--discounting contrary evidence

A recent report charges that the Bush administration discounted intelligence discussions that doubted the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. See the article at: To be fair, "intelligence" by its nature usually fails to be 100% conclusive. I want to use this example to bring out a point on biblical issues.

There is a tendency to create a Scriptural paradigm, and to discount any passages that seem to conflict with this paradigm. But Scripture often has a funny way of not blowing paradigms.

For instance, Paul took a vow, even though Jesus spoke against vows.
Paul went and offered a sacrifice in the temple, even though he was under the new covenant.
The kingdom of God is said to come upon those whom Jesus healed, even though the kingdom was supposed to come in a fuller way at Pentecost.
Creation is longing to be restored, even though there is supposed to be destruction by fire.

Being intellectually honest requires us to fairly acknowledge all legitimate points of view. In fact, when we do this, we actually make our argument stronger.

What verses do you feel that the church discounts or ignores?

Monday, June 02, 2008

My experience at OC's Quest Lectures

Last Thursday afternoon, Becki and I got into the car and headed off to Oklahoma City for OC's lectureship. The OC Lectures are now named "Quest," and they have a new format that includes some highly interactive sessions after each lecture. They are also offering specialized tracks throughout the year.

I am one of those helping with the Missional Church track. Last year I was on the Missional Church panel and helped facillitate, and this year I gave three presentations on the missional church. It seemed to be well received, with high attendance in the classes and good participation. I am encouraged that the missional movement has begun in the heart of Oklahoma, and that people are responding. A couple of years ago I had done some presentations on this concept with the staff of the Edmond Church of Christ, sponsored by my dear friend and mentor, Don Vinzant. One of the deacons from Edmond that was at the session said that the Edmond church had been seeking to go down the missional path for the last couple of years. It was great to hear that this was spreading beyond the top leadership there.

I also heard some great missional concepts in David Duncan's presentation. David, who was on staff at Edmond a couple of years ago, and who is now the preaching minister at the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, gave a fabulous talk on serving the community. More on that later.

One of the things that was suggested that we cover next year in the missional church sessions was practical implications of the missional church. Mission's relationship to worship was also suggested as a topic. I am excited that people are looking forward to next year. I'm grateful to John Harrison and Don Vinzant, the co-directors of Quest, for their leadership in this area. Interactive formats are the way of the future, and may be able to help bring back the next generations. See

Do you like interactive formats, lecture formats, or a combination of both?