Monthly Archives: May 2009

Saying no to God

If one searches the scriptures, are there any places where saying no to God ended with a favorable outcome? I have yet to find any, and I have tried. I have said no to God hundreds, if not thousands of times… the outcome, well as a general rule, I have yet to be eaten by a fish, but hindsight leads me to believe had I said yes, the individual outcomes would have been positive, or at a minimum neutral… and there are some lingering after effects… ranging from man was I stupid or what, to egads, I really blew that with God big time.

A distinction must be made, is it God, or is it man trying to get his own way?

Whenever I hear someone say, God told me that you should do X, the warning sirens come on. It almost always seems to be the desire of the person speaking, which does make me suspect. Otoh, when I hear someone state “God told me you should do X”, or “scripture says you should do X”, and the person speaking goes on to state they personally think doing X would be a bad idea, the light bulbs come on. God’s ways are often not mans it seems. Ultimately though, after a review of the scriptures, listening for the still small voice is key.

What if its the church who is asking?

“Churches will eat you alive, if you let them…” is what a friend told me some years back. I’ll go one further, the ministry needs of a church will expand to consume all available time, plus another 20%. Many secular folks say boundaries are the key to success. Boundary teaching is so prevalent, it is even preached in many churches and schools. Let me throw a wrench in the works…. What if one comes upon an injured church member alongside the road, and our family needs are in conflict? Should we pass by on the other side in our hurry to fullfill our families needs, and hope some dude from Samaria happens by? 

What about picking up ones cross?

A recurrent theme throughout the Bible is not to take the easy way out, but to pick up ones cross and follow Jesus. Man on the other hand, has a very very difficult time with this… what about the yard, what about the children, what about my day job, what about where I will sleep, what about what I will wear tomorrow…. but Jesus calls. The young ruler, the dude who wanted to go take care of his families burial…. Jesus had some hard to hear words about that.

Burnout is real, consequences are real

Burnout however is real, depression in ministry is real, even look at Elijah, the dude was fixing to sit under a tree and die, the work was just too great. When you have scripture telling us the burden will be easy… and one has been up for 72 hours straight, its not so easy…. its not so easy to stay awake in the garden, when Jesus is right there, its not so easy, when Jesus asked the disciples to remain awake and to watch, and they crashed and burned. Its not so easy, when you are a young kid hanging out in an upstairs window to hear Paul preach the Gospel, that you fall asleep, slide out the window, and crash to the ground to your death. Suicide exists, moral crash and burn failure exists, families get shredded, churches implode… there are real brick walls, these are real problems.

Thus, even if though the recurrent theme of scripture is to pick up ones cross, scripture also provides examples of situations where folks have run into brick walls. Society and history also show that brick walls can and do happen. 

Its not a total deal

The problem imho, is we are looking at this as a total deal… Individualistic theology has hosed over many a fine brother or sister in Christ, its wrong thinking. Obviously there are times, when we are called to act and no one else is around to help, but if one considers the big picture, short of 3AM, in the middle of nowhere and without any means of communication, those situations are exceedingly rare. Even the church organist who gets interrupted at late night practice has huge resources at hand, but more likely than not, is unaware of them. The primary difficulty of the individualistic approach, is one doesnt see all of the capabilities, gifts, skills, and help available. Even Paul traveled with a group… The second issue is a failure to make the call early on that problems exist, and that more help is needed. Acts 6, where a set of dudes were chosen to serve the widows is a prime example of this. It shows not only the problem of being spread too thin, but utilizing the resources at hand, and the power of a group… they didnt just dump the problem on one guy, and say here you go.

If God is asking us, who are we to say no? Who are we, to think we can do it all by ourselves?

Wheres the meat (no offense toward vegetarians intended)

During my blogging absence, I’ve been doing some reading, both online and off, as well as bugging folks. It seems the fear of meat is a huge thing, and imho a real disservice to the body of Christ. I don’t have the atonement deal wrapped up by any-means, but the backlog of writing ideas is expanding, so its time to roll. First some observations which lead to the fear of meat deal:

How do we keep Christianity safe?

A partner in ministry from a ways back asked me this, and its been bugging me to no end. Sure, no one wants to have heretical beliefs flying all over the place… but by putting safety on a pedestal, and not providing an outlet for “messy faith”, hard questions, or even anger at God, eek, talk about a disservice!!! The focus on leadership perfection, questions limited to only those with pre-ordained answers, and horrors that one would ever be angry at God ends up for some a major barrier. This is especially the case when folks run up against the unanswerable questions, where the milk wont cut it, and for some purposes, the meat may not either. Is the pursuit of “safe and isolated Christianity” really worth it? Is such just secular escapism with a Christian label? No doubt, there should be some times and places for safety, but in all due respect for my friend, I think he is asking the wrong questions. 

My cats like milk and the status quo

Mikey is 3 years old and is a massive, albeit neutered and laid-back Tomcat. He really likes milk, but his digestive system hates even the idea. As a kitten it was needed, as an adult, he needs meat to thrive. I think its an appropriate analogy for the Christian life. Milk may bring us back to an earlier time, a place of safety, happiness, and joy. Yet, just as Mikey will upchuck if he gets too much milk, a steady diet of milk for the growing Christian is also unhealthy.

I really liked what @tg24 on @jonestony’s blog had to say.

It seems to me that we underestimate our congregations’ faith. They can be stretched, they can be challenged, and if we continue to treat them as fragile infants whose understanding of Christianity can never change, as shepherds, (leaders, lay or vocational, or as worshippers who love the church), we are not guarding it, we are weakening it.

What about the children?

If I hear this one more time….

I’m no fan of separation in worship. Sure,children may not grasp everything, and some of it could be too intense… imho the fear is likely not so much for the children themselves, but for the parents having to answer the resultant questions. Read the whole of Matthew 19… divorce, the rich young man, the camel in the needle, leaving the children for His sake. In light of “what about the children” I can understand why the disciples rebuked those who brought the children… yet, Jesus had something else to say.

Seminary-Congregation disconnect

A common thread amongst many seminarians is “I thought I knew the Bible back then, now I realize how much I really dont know”. Why is this? Egads, since I’ve started hanging out with a facebook group of seminary guys, I haven’t been challenged like that in years. The thing is… why should I have to seek out seminarians to get challenged?

Even look at living together faithfully in the ELCA, or the opinions of 135 ELCA theologicans. There is often a major disconnect between academia and the pew, with vastly different lenses of interpretation. It doesn’t have to be this way. The meat does exist, why must we venture from the congregation to find it? Why does it take congregational change to even search it out?

Some leaders are afraid of meat (faith crisis and stumbling)

Granted, the concern about causing another to stumble is a serious matter, yet to lead another to stagnate and regress is also a form causing one to stumble. 

The relevance of meat to a wide audience

Way back when I asked my pastor, how on earth can one preach to 5000 members, as it seems guaranteed you would miss the mark for some. He had a very wise answer… how can you preach to 5? Its not just the sermon of the pastor, its the word of God and the Holy Spirit acting on folks hearts. Meat will always be relevant, and it may be someone new in their walk would be confused, but where the Gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.

Leadership uncertainty

Yep, I know this one… we did a major major rip up and redo some years back. We expected we might loose thousands of members. Yet, we knew scripture was clear, we had 99% peace with the decision… but, an underlying question kept coming back, what if we are wrong? When meat is involved, there is greater uncertainty. Yet, if scripture, prayer, and discussions amongst the leadership team and others indicate a go… to not proceed where God is calling, not cool at all.

Backing up the plumbing and its affect on the status quo

As one grow in Christ, it can’t just be a matter of head knowledge, or even heart knowledge, but further works must start to go forth, or things will start to back up often leading to congregational disfuction. A commitment to meat, also means a commitment to running with it… that is very scary to the status quo. Feral Pastor has an analogy called an L-pipe, there are many parallels.

Southeast MN Synod Assembly starts in ~4 hours

Doggone it, this would have been cool to attend, or even crash as a vistor :), but alas other commitments will keep me away. Its too bad someone isnt live tweeting or blogging it, but the news updates will suffice. If someone has a time expansion machine and an extra couple hundred bucks-25, and wants me to live blog, I’d jump at the chance 🙂

If I do get some spare time, as I understand it, visitors can attend the plenaries for no charge, so I might try to catch one or two of them (the advantage of being local) I’d really like to hear Stephen Bouman, being I bugged him back when he was the Bishop for the Metro NY synod.

The workshops sounded cool too.. but alas too many irons, too little money, and not enough time.

Some useful links:

The agenda:

The resolutions:

As expected, many are focused on the homosexuality debate, although world hunger, environment, and clergy/staff resolutions are included as well. Teaching intelligent design set me back a bit, but I guess its presence shows the diversity of the synod, and thats cool, but its also quite ironic that the discussion of such is at the Mayo civic center.

The workshops are super cool… I campaigned for Jack Nelson Pallmeyer when he was running for senate, his workshop on the Just War Doctrine would be great to hear… but thats where the $$$$ enter in.

I also think Islam-People of the Book  by Dr. Charles Amjad-Ali would have been cool. It was one of the long term leadership discussions that our leadership team often had, but it was a real bear to move forward with. Whether I ever end up in such a role again is unlikely, but greater knowledge in the arena is cool no matter what.

Lastly, the LIRS workshop would be interesting to attend, especially since I had fairly close ties to Postville, IA years ago.

It would be a blast to be there, but alas, I dont have a time expander, nor even a DMC-12 to pull it off in its entirety. Hopefully I can catch a plenary session or two.