Thursday, October 26, 2006

Voting God's Politics

"Christians have a moral and civic responsibility to participate in the political life of society. We must, however, remember that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and prayerfully measure the policies of all candidates against a range of Christian ethics and values. A broad set of Christian values should inform our politcal decisions."

That paragraph is taken from the opening section of "Voting God's Politics," an invaluable booklet produced by the folks at Sojourners and Call to Renewal. It's not one of those right-wing "here's who to vote for" pieces of brainwash that usually come to my inbox. Rather, its design is to paint a broader picture than the one commonly woven into the fabric of the nation, that Christians are only concerned about Supreme court judges, abortion, and homosexual marriage. Sure, those are legit....but what about compassion & economic justice? What about peace and restraint of violence? Racial justice? How about all of the "ethics of life" issues, including capital punishment and genocide? Human rights and gender injustice? Family and culture renewal? Stewardship of God's creation? The list could go on & on...and it probably does. But often, we evangelicals have ignored the majority of that list and focused on what we've deemed the "top" priorities (which is another debate entirely).

So, I hope you'll check out the Voting God's Politics guide and see for yourself. You can get it here...if for some reason that doesn't work, please let me know...I'll personally email you the pdf so you can print it out. There are several other things to check out there, too. While you're at it, sign up for the Sojourners email blurbs. Always good stuff.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fancy New T's

Came across this random T-shirt company appropriately named . Thought I would share a couple of designs that made me chuckle.... most shirts are only $10. Kinda fun...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Come As You Are, We Have An Espresso Bar

Had the opportunity to preach at the weekly chapel service at the alma mater, Kentucky Christian University. It was good to be there. Interesting how different things seem having been gone from there as a student since May of 1989. Frankly, the hairstyles & clothing felt a little like the 70's (not to mention the carpeting in the chapel building that was probably put down in 1972...). It was a treat to be there, and I hope I had something to share that was worthwhile for the students that were there.

I did have one moment of attempting to be funny, and it killed. But I think it killed for a reason. I was speaking on the importance of getting Christianity "out there," instead of keeping it holed up into our little subculture. As a former student at a Christian college, its pretty easy to completely miss the reality that you're being absorbed by a subculture, and you can totally ignore the bigger culture that's happening (and changing) all around you.

Here's a piece from my message...the first a quote from George Barna, followed by a paragraph aimed at the city where I live:

"This is our reality, despite 320,000 churches, 800,000 ordained ministers, several networks devoted to religious broadcasting, evangelistic ministries that spend $200 million on television time and $100 million on radio broadcasts each year, 5,000 evangelistic para-church organizations, and a Christian book and music industry that boasts $1 billion in annual revenues." By all accounts, we should be ‘out there’, shouldn’t we?

Where I live, with a population of some 65,000, and around 144,000 in our county, we have well over 150 churches, 3 Christian bookstores, a denomination headquarters for the Church of God Anderson IN, a Christian college with 3,000+ students, a seminary with 150 or so students, 6 Christian schools and counting, more church preschools than we could count, Bill Gaither and Sandi Patti, a handful of mission organization headquarters, and new churches starting all the time because apparently there aren’t enough of those "come as you are - we’ve got an Espresso bar" kind of churches. And yet our crime rate doesn’t change. Divorce & teen pregnancy are still toward the top of state levels. Homeless ministries that continue to grow out of necessity. And thousands that are still lost and uninterested in what they see as the hollow promises of organized religion.

OK, so the Sandi Patti/Bill Gaither thing got a laugh. But I was totally unprepared for the response to the "come as you are - we've got an Espresso bar" kind of church phrase. I thought I would come across as a cynical, fuddy-duddy, out-of-touch-with-church-growth kind of guy. But what I sensed through the laughter was a little bit of agreement with the overall point I was making.

So, what's the point I was making? That none of the above "stuff" is getting it done - not even the whole "wear whatever you want, sip a cup of Joe, and sing a Tomlin song" thing. Sure, there may be a few folks who have been reached, and a handful of de-churched, turned off folks who are re-engaged with this new flavor of church that seems to be "brewing" all over America. But is that it? Is that the best we can do to make Jesus real to people?

Please understand, I'm all about finding whatever works and finding better ways to bring people to Jesus. Those guys in Mark chapter 2, who busted out a roof to lower their friend in because they thought Jesus had the answers for their friend? Those guys are my heros! I'm all for innovation & progress that brings Jesus to those who don't know Him.

However, and maybe this is just cynical ol' me, but I'm seeing two things happen. First, it just seems like a lot of shuffling the deck. The cool "church of what's happening now" just attracts Chrisitians from other churches. Sure, this is nothing new. In our particular spot on the map, they all seem to be fighting over college kids. Most of whom are Christians already, looking for the cool place to be. I know I'm generalizing here...there are a ton of reasons these kids flock to the aforementioned Tomlin-singing, coffee sippin' places. I'm sure some are legit, and most use the right terminology (they speak my language there, I can find true community, etc.) So sue me...but that's what I see.

The other thing that I see happening is really a two-fold result. Brain drain & dropout. We've all heard the brain drain explanation as our best & brightest from our states or counties or cities move on to other places where the grass is presumably greener. I see it happening in the church to some degree. Lots of established churches that really do want to reach the lost and really do have a desire to create a culture that is accommodating and speaks truth (is that possible?), and yet a whole bunch of our future influencers & decision makers are stepping out & congregating elsewhere. (NOTE: I'm not blaming them! I'm not blaming them! So before you respond & rip on!)

The other result that I've personally seen happen is when young Sally goes to college, finds the hip college/coffee/Tomlin-singing service (sorry to bash Tomlin...I'm really a big fan...but you know what I mean...), and then Sally moves away and winds up somewhere like Toledo or Omaha or London, KY, and she can't find "the church of what's happening now." If, and its a big IF, if Sally's faith is tied up in her experience at the hip college deal, what happens when the best option guessed it...some sort of organized, evangelical congregation down the street? If your faith is tied up in experience only, and that experience comes to an end, what happens to your faith? Take a look at the giant sucking sound of kids who leave church youth groups and go to college and walk away from their faith! Isn't that telling us something? Maybe we're pretty good at converting kids to love their youth groups or whatever and all of the warm fuzzy feelings that go with it, but maybe we're not pointing them to Jesus?

Yes, I'm part of the problem. All of us in church leadership are part of it. The cultures we've created don't address the heart of the reason(s) that those who flock to the coffee bars & such do so in droves. Sure, we spend a lot of time keeping the machine going, and putting bandaids on the concerns of the already convinced.

Is this really the best we can do to engage our culture? Candles & powerpoint & coffee? I wonder if those we're "reaching" with this model are starting to see through it a little. Yes, its cool & all, but its no substitute for genuine authentic faith in a God who couldn't care less about my coolness or hip factor and in most cases wants to strip me of that because that makes it all about me, not him.

Genuine, authentic faith is attractive. Regardless of music style, facility, dress code, generational differences, or political affiliation. The Church has to continue to disciple people toward being real, authentic, and dwellers in the Kingdom.

Let the ripping begin....

Free Derek Webb

I'm a big fan of Derek Webb and his music. He was one of the original members of Caedmon's Call, which will mean something to some. But as a solo artist, the guy is somewhat unglued, breaking all the rules, and saying things lyrically that I didn't think many Christian artists were even allowed to say! If you haven't heard of him or checked him out, now is the time. In fact, here's the kind of "breakin' the rules" guy he is. He's giving away his newest CD. It's been out about a year. Now you can get it free by downloading it. No kidding... go to and find out more! While you're checking out the site, find out a little about what makes him tick. Some on his website, but here's a feature article from Relevant Magazine. (OK, so this isn't exactly the cover article, which I couldn't seem to find...get your hands on a May/June Relevant and read it...)

One of my favorite lyric lines from the free Mockingbird download, I think the song is called "A King and a Kingdom" goes something like this -- "There have been two great lies: if y0u eat of the fruit of this tree you will not die, and Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican." I guess people actually get up and leave his shows when he gets to that line! I find that refreshing...check him out, and get Mockingbird FREE! Derek also has his own MySpace presence, complete with concert listings, a chance to hear his stuff, etc. Go there, too!

Monday, October 16, 2006

"I'll hit you with these crutches!"

By now we've all heard about & probably seen the footage of the footbrawl during Saturday night's game in Miami. It was an ugly mess. I of course missed it live, and went looking online to see what all the fuss was about. A couple of observations....first, before I found video, I found pictures. It became apparent that pictures of a football fight looks a lot like football. Then I came across this picture, and wondered what the guy on crutches was thinking! And if you haven't seen the footage and/or listened to the idiot broadcaster, that's worth you time. Not only should several of those players be kicked off their teams, but that broadcaster (a former Miami player, I'm told) should be looking for a job elsewhere. I'm sure there's a Shoney's breakfast bar he could stock or something. I guess the honest truth is, as ugly & wrong as the whole footbrawl incident is, do we have a certain sense of fascination at watching it unfold? Are there people who would actually pay to see this happen? Isn't this the sum total of the appeal of the National Hockey League anyway? Do we all have a little Roman colliseum mentality hidden deep within our psyche?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Meditteranean, Anyone?

So, today I broke all personal rules and went through the McDonald's drive-thru. I have been fairly good lately, and since I had a dentist appointment that was cancelled, I had a few extra minutes. I purchased one of the "meal deal" options, which gave me a tasty sandwich, a hasbrown, and a medium diet coke. Fortunately, the fine folks at McDonald's are entrenched in their Monopoly promotion, so I had the chance to unveil the "playing pieces" and win big prizes! Imagine my suprise when both playing pieces from the diet coke cup were both Baltic Avenue. Odd, but no problem, thinks I. The hashbrown "containalope" will undoubtedly bring me greater fortunes. Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when I once again unveiled 2 more Baltic Avenue playing pieces! Is there some sort of Monoply nazi out there just messing with people? I don't know...maybe mix in a railroad, one of those high-dollar dark blue pieces, maybe even have me go to jail? Is there some sort of 'Monopoly Monopoly' going on? Like a few years ago, when some folks managed to con Ronald & friends from a few hundred thousand bucks during the Monopoly bust of '03? Some disgruntled Cheesburgler dude in a factory matching all of the playing pieces on the cups & 'containalopes' just to mess with people? Well, I'm not letting this get me down. I've determined my options are this...
  1. Solicit as many Mediteranean playing pieces I can get and give the money to missions (if you have a Baltic and a Mediteranean piece, you win $ I'm halfway to $400....that will send a kid to Bible College in the Philippines for a year...)
  2. Solict more Baltic Avenue pieces and wallpaper my basement
  3. Boycott McDonalds for the good of my health and wallet (a move that needs to happen anyway)

I think I'll go with 1 and 3, but since 1 is unlikely to actually happen, I'll stick with 3. In the mean time, if you need a Baltic Avenue or four, I'm your man!

(BTW, Super Size Me is one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen it, check it out. I have the DVD...$2 in a bargain bin...and I'm willing to loan it out!)