Thursday, April 30, 2009

Just how badly are BIble classes failing at spiritual formation?- Part 1

I confess to you that I have always loved teaching. It is the first spiritual gift that I discovered. I can remember in college teaching my friends material that they missed in our biology classes. I started in ministry by going down to the jail and studying with inmates. Then I began teaching the college class.

I love the dynamic of a Bible class. I enjoy the exchange of ideas, the exploration of the biblical text, the give and take of discussion.

But a couple of years ago I began to notice something. People would nod their heads in class. Acknowledge truth. And then do nothing of what we talked about.

Classes on prayer that changed no one's prayer life. Classes on evangelism that did not result in people sharing their faith. Classes on marriage that did not result in changes in behavior in the marriage. And when I discovered this, quite frankly, it was despressing and disappointing.

Last Sunday we had a lesson that was exploring the goal of Bible study. One of our teachers asked his class filled with 30 something families (my age group) to raise their hands if they thought that our Bible classes changed behavior. No one raised their hands. Then he asked them to raise their hands if they thought these classes did not change behavior. Virtually everyone raised their hands.

Wow. Pretty shocking. If these classes do not change behavior, then why do we do them? And yet, I'm really not surprised at the results. Surveys of Christians have for years shown that Christians often live lives little different from the rest of the population. I have witnessed the lack of change in behavior myself, including my own at times. What is happening?

Why is it that Bible classes are not changing behavior? What needs to be changed, added, or done differently?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Critical Swine Flu Prevention Tip (Humorous)

One of our members sent me
this great Swine Flu prevention tip.

Critical Swine Flu Prevention Tip
Don't Do This!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Laws Against Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

As I am going through a sermon series on "The Office: Spirituality at Work," a question has risen. This question is, what can and cannot a Christian legally do in the workplace?

Legally, there are actually pretty broad protections for religious expression in Title 7. For instance:
  • Employers must let an employee take off for religious holidays, days, times of prayer, etc., in most cases.
  • Christians can carry around or place on their desks the Bible, if he or she believes that this is a necessary part of his or her faith.
  • Religious talk is permitted with co-workers and employees in most cases.
Check out these two links on what is legal in regards to religion in the US.

How have you tried to share your faith in the workplace? How much resistance is there to this?

Friday, April 24, 2009

What if parents do not want their kids to learn about God?

With our culture rapidly moving away from Christianity, a thought struck me today: what if parents do not want their children to learn about God? So much of not only church growth theory but church planting is built around the concept of reaching young families. There has been a belief for years that young people, once they start having children, begin to seek out a church because they want they kids to learn about God. This belief has been justified, and indeed I have witnessed this belief to be true.

But young people used to have memories of going to church. Now, many of them do not. Moreover, many are hostile towards churches and Christians, not just disinterested. How do we reach out if young families are actually seeking to protect their children against Christian beliefs? How do we reach people who do not want their kids to learn about the Bible or Jesus?

Do we even know how to reach a culture that is not pre-disposed towards Christianity? Where VBS and Children's worship and the like is something to protect kids from?

I would welcome your thoughts on this.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dave Ramsey's Town Hall for Hope

I'm here at the High Pointe Church of Christ, where we ate hosting one of the 6000 locations for Dave Ramsey's Town Hall for Hope. He has talked a lot about overall economic theory, speaking a lot against the government bailouts and government interference in the free markets.

The theme of personal responsibility keeps coming out. A popular theme that smart politicians and church leaders ought to take note of.

Here are some pictures from our church site. I've met several visitors from our community tonight.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shifting the church from program-driven to people-driven

A book that I recommend for church leaders to go through together is Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal. Reggie McNeal is a part of Leadership Network and is a nationally known missional leader. I also have an affection for him as one of my teachers in the D.Min. program at Fuller Theological Seminary.

I owe a lot of my ideas for the practical outworkings of missional theology to Reggie. (He also is a pretty engaging speaker.) In this new book he shares a lot of these practical ideas. He goes through three major shifts that the church must take to be missional. These include:

  • Shift from an internal to an external focus.

  • Shift from being program-driven to being people-driven.

  • Shift from a church-based leadership to kingdom-based leadership.

Let me comment a moment on the second shift (from program driven to people driven). What is the difference between a program and a people focus? Admittedly, sometimes there is a fine line between these two approaches. Here are some usual differences:

  • A program focus is usually inflexible. It has set times and ways of doing things. A people focus is adjustable and customizable.
  • A program focus leads to a failure to reexamine why programs exist and if they are effective. A people focus is by nature flexible and adaptable to the particular people involved.
  • A program focus measures success by number of participants and smoothness in operation. A people focus measures success by the impact something has upon people's lives.

We live in a constantly changing world. With the Internet, more and more employers are offering flex time and the ability to work at home. Degrees are offered entirely online. Help on most any topic is available day or night through Google. And yet, most churches all "do church" the way that they always have. Set times for every meeting, with no alternatives. No help available for spiritual formation outside of these times. A curriculum that was made up in another state, for another community, for another era. People are drafted for ministries which they have no gifting in, and the very life is sucked out of them by serving for long periods filling someone else's agenda or a program that was begun 50 years ago whose original aim was forgotten . . . . (I ran that sentence on on purpose).

Being people focused requires more intimate time spent with people. It requires listening to where they are in life and helping them grow in the areas where the Holy Spirit is prompting them. It is hard to think of Jesus being program driven, as most every conversation that he had was uniquely, well, personal!

What do you think of the program-driven vs. people-driven models?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle inspires the world on "Britian's Got Talent"

In case you somehow missed it, here is a link to one of the most inspiring vidoes in a long time. (I would embed this, but unfortunately, the embedding was requested to be disabled by someone.)

This video shows, Susan Boyle, an unemployed 47 year old cat owner who has never been kissed, on the show, "Britian's Got Talent"--the precursor show to American Idol. No one expected anything from this woman. People were ready to laugh at her. But listen to what happened.

What an inspiration! This story and video needs to be shown. It made me think of how God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Surprising things. Amazing things. Inspiring things.

What do you think of Susan Boyle's performance? How do you think this story could apply to us spiritually?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why does the date of Easter fluctuate so much?

Easter is historically the day in which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In reality, each Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, this is the reason we meet on Sunday.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God who became human, lived a selfless, sinless life of service, and died on the cross for our sins. Three days later, God raised him from the dead. Sunday, or the first day of the week, was the day that Jesus was raised or resurrected, coming back to life and putting on a new, transformed, spiritual body. The earliest Christians referred to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” and took the Lord’s Supper on this day to remember Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why the date of Easter fluctuates so much? So have others! Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon after the Spring equinox. In 325 AD the Council of Nicea determined that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the Spring equinox, unless the full moon falls on Sunday. If this happens, Easter falls one week later. The date for Easter thus ranges from March 22 to April 25.

Much of the world has set its calendar around Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. There is a reason for this. With Christ’s resurrection, a whole new age was ushered in.

What traditions do you have in your church or family for Easter?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"The End of Christian America" by Newsweek

This week Newsweek came out with a front page article entitled "The End of Christian America."This article was prompted by the recent religious survey of Americans that we recently reported on. This survey showed that the percentage of Americans that identified themselves as having no religion has doubled in the last decade to 15% of the US population. This is but one of many signs pointing to the crumbling of Christendom in the US.

Here is an excerpt of the Newseek story:


In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism."The moral teachings of Christianity have exerted an incalculable influence on Western civilization," Mohler says. "As those moral teachings fade into cultural memory, a secularized morality takes their place. Once Christianity is abandoned by a significant portion of the population, the moral landscape necessarily changes. For the better part of the 20th century, the nations of Western Europe led the way in the abandonment of Christian commitments. Christian moral reflexes and moral principles gave way to the loosening grip of a Christian memory. Now even that Christian memory is absent from the lives of millions."


In the past, economic declines have led to people coming back to churches. This has not happened this time, the article points out--yet another sign of the religious decline in America. People are still "spiritual," but more and more they look to places other than churches to find God and self-actualization.This means that churches can no longer adopt a mere "build it and they will come attitude."

Today, I went on an exploration of the North Dallas area with a couple of our elders and two members of Mission Alive. One church in the Prosper area has devoted $20 million dollars to a new facility. With the decline in religion happening so rapidly, one cannot help wonder if these types of buildings--including our own--will be largely empty in 20-30 years.Churches must learn to recapture our mission and share Christ with a world that increasingly does not him and is rejecting what it perceives--rightly or wrongly--as institutional Christianity. Church growth theory is dead and dying. Gathering up Christians from struggling churches will no longer be sufficient to replenish the pews. We must recapture mission as the heart of the church's purpose.
For my part, I would not say that I am eager to face this future, but I am ready. In truth, nominal Christianity, both in our fellowship and in the larger Christian world, is doing little for either God or believers. When laws start to go against us (as they already are) and our political leaders no longer support our causes, this may cause us to wake up and take our faith seriously. The line between believers and non-believers will sharpen. And this may be a good thing, making us realize that we must share Christ with those around us.

What do you think of the religious decline in America? Are you scared, stoice, indifferent, or excited, about the future?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Being Missional in the neighborhood

Here is Emily at our neighborhood Easter egg party. This was one if those days when I would have preferred to hang around the house, but I didn't want to miss the chance to meet some more of our neighbors. There was a huge turnout for this.

Becki and I met some nice people. One made the comment that most people were not from around here. She and another family said that they were from New Orleans, and had moved due to Katrina. I think that this means that people are more open to friendships-that seemed to be this lady's implication as well.

Becki signed up to volunteer to help with next year's Easter party, and we got a couple of contact numbers. One woman recommended a photography class-something that we have been wanting to do together for awhile.

I wonder if we took all of the time and energy from our church events and just trained our members to go to community events that are already going on and bless people's lives there how many more people we would reach! Missional is a lifestyle, the lifestyle of Jesus.

How can we be more missional in our neighborhood?

-- Post From My iPhone

Facebook Song

Check out this video on YouTube:

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, April 03, 2009

The DMV line

Here I am at the DMV line. I am speaking on joy on Sunday. The Lord is testing my patience . . . .

-- Post From My iPhone