Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October 27

That's the day I will have my corneal transplant. Around 1:30 in the afternoon. Expect me to look like a pirate that whole week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Link: Computer Aid

In case your screen is in need of cleaning, here's a special service for cleaning it off.

http://www.actrix.co.nz/special/cyberclean.html

Give it a try - it worked for us!

Thanks, Heather

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Danger of Asking for Input

Back in the day I used to occasionally turn our youth group meetings into Question-And-Answer periods. Rather than preparing a lesson, I would open up the floor and allow the kids to ask whatever they wanted, and I'd attempt to lead the group toward an answer.

In many ways, it was a no-brainer, because the kids always asked two questions. Sure, they asked a lot of questions, but in the end, they were always about the same two things:

1) Sex
2) Other religions

And I knew enough to be able to answer those questions. "How far is too far?" "Why does the church make such a big deal about sex before marriage?" "If my girlfriend and I 'did it,' does that mean we're going to hell?" and, finally, "my friend's a Mormon. Is he going to hell?"

Everything came back to that.

So a few months ago I decided to spend a couple weeks preaching in a Q&A format. We're in between series, so I thought it would be nice to let the congregation set the direction by asking me some questions. I'm not the first pastor to do this, so I can't take credit for any originality here. I just thought it would be a nice change from the normal "Dan decides what to preach on and then he preaches on it" routine. Besides, these things are pretty easy, so I would have extra time to prepare the upcoming series, as well as taking care of some other stuff around here.

Nope.

Not this church.

Nothing easy here.

"Perhaps you could speak to refute Marcionism."
"How can I be completely contented when my loved ones are spending eternity in hell?"
"Who are the 'spirits kept in prison' in 1 Peter 3:19?"
"Is God a Republican?"
"Why do some people live perfectly happy lives, while others go through virtual hell every day?"
"Jesus only suffered for a few hours - how does that compare to those who spend years in excruciating pain and suffering?"

In fact, not one question about sex or other religions. Answering these questions has taken twice as long as my normal sermon preparation.

I guess I should be happy - I serve a thinking church who wrestle with deep issues. But how am I supposed to come across as the "expert" when I can't answer 1/2 of their questions?

I need to go back and preach on stuff I know. It's a lot less complicated.

(note - that last little bit is completely tongue in cheek, in case you didn't get that)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

God wants you to vote for _____!

It's generally a fact that churches don't endorse candidates. For one, it can be dangerous, since a lot of churches are made up of people who disagree on political issues. If a church were to officially endorse a candidate, it would risk dividing many of its constituents.

For another, it's illegal. Churches, as non-profit entities, are not allowed to officially endorse any candidate or position. To make such an endorsement, the church would risk losing its non-profit status with the US Government. And since many churches barely make it by as it is, to add a tax burden might just kill other viable ministries.

For yet another, things aren't always as cut-and-dried as they seem. There is hardly ever one candidate who fits every issue Christians believe is important. Pick the issue - abortion, marriage, immigration, care for the poor and elderly, environmental concerns, the economy, war, the death penalty. . .just try to come to a consensus among any group on ALL those issues, and then try to find a candidate who lines up exactly with your group on all those issues. You can't. So then you have to pick and choose exactly which of those issues should take precedence over the others, and try to find a candidate who is closest to the issues you think are important. It's not an easy task.

And for yet another, many believe the church needs to maintain some separation from the political process. God is bigger than any political party, God is bigger than the United States. So many churches want to get their people focusing on more important things. Vote, yes - it's your honor and duty. Be informed, yes - we should all pay attention and do our part to vote as our conscience guides us. But rather than being swamped by partisan politics, churches will focus on carrying out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, preaching the Gospel and feeding the hungry and fighting for the poor and marginalized and working for the Kingdom, rather than wading directly into the political pool.

Of course, astute readers will note there's a bit of a wink-wink nudge-nudge going on here. While churches may not make official endorsements, about this time every few years we're inundated with "Voter's Guides" produced by the Right-to-Life League, the Defense of Marriage League, the Christians for Environmental Awareness Association. Slick, full color pamphlets that don't make official endorsements, yet are clearly laid out in such a way to show which candidate most clearly fits their agenda. A few years ago, when I was still in Turlock, somebody showed up during a Sunday morning worship service and stuck copies of these voter guides on all the cars in the parking lot. To read the pamphlet was to get the clear idea that God only voted Republican. I had the youth group remove the flyers before anybody else saw them.

And, of course, every year at this time we're treated to news footage of the leading democratic candidate preaching at a church service of the First African Episcopal Methodist Church of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago. While these churches don't necessarily "endorse" a candidate, you get the feeling they are certainly "suggesting" the candidate they would most like to see in office. and so it goes. Churches may subtly make their feelings known, but generally don't come out and make official pronouncements.

Only this year, a group is trying to change that. According to an article in the LA Times, "Christian ministers from California and 21 other states will use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse presidential candidates -- defying a federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups."

Their hope is to trigger an investigation by the IRS, which (they hope) would lead to a reversal of the law barring churches from endorsing candidates. By challenging the law, they hope to bring attention to it. And their long-term plan is to "'restore the right of each pastor to speak scriptural truth from the pulpit' without losing a church's tax-exempt status."

Personally, I think sometimes we've hidden behind our tax-exempt status and made it an excuse to not engage in politics. It really does make it easy for pastors to say "well, I can't make any endorsements, because it's against the law." The Church does have a prophetic voice, and it needs to make that voice clear in the U.S. Just last night I told a few people "Maybe we need to give up that tax exempt status, in order to regain our rightful place as prophet to a secular society." So I can applaud, somewhat, the general idea at work here.

What I can't applaud is the way they're going about it. Take this, for instance:
"I'm going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him," said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. "We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible."

See, that's where these things fall apart. There's an underlying assumption here that McCain is somehow the only Biblical candidate, that there is a direct correlation between Biblical Truth and the positions of John McCain. (To be fair, I'm assuming that, in attacking Obama, Drake is back-handedly endorsing McCain. Perhaps he'll endorse a third party instead?) But this line of "Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him" is not just an attack on Obama, but an attack on thousands (hundreds of thousands? Millions?) of Christians who will, in fact, vote for Obama. Because their Biblical Issues are different than the chosen Biblical Issues of the Rev. Drake. Issues like caring for the poor and the elderly, issues like ending the war in Iraq, issues like justice in the marketplace - to many Christians those Biblical Issues are every bit as important as abortion and gay marriage.

You see, it's one thing to say "In the end, we believe ____ best fits the bill for how we see God working in the world, and therefore we endorse him." It's a completely other thing to say "God wants you to vote for _____." In fact, I hate to break it to the Rev. Drake, but I'm not sure there are ANY candidates who "follow the Bible." At least not like he means.

So I'm all for carrying on this discussion about whether or not Churches should be able to endorse candidates; I'd even be up for discussing the disadvantages that come with our tax exempt status. I'd just like to see some level of adult discourse and wisdom on the subject, rather than political bombshells dropped into the pool of media bites. I'd like to see the church enter into discourse about just how we might best have a voice in the United States of America. As a Christian and pastor, I'd certainly like to see Biblical values remain at the forefront of political discussion. But we need to figure out how to do that without becoming just one more shill for any particular party.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fun Day at the Fair


All Aboard the Choo Choo Train
______________________________________


Clara Learns to Drive a Car
____________________________________________


Clara Learns to Drive a Boat
_____________________________________________


If you look closely, you'll note that this ride is called the "Funtastic Fahrten."
______________________________________


Those would be the SeaGals,
cheerleaders for the Seattle Seahawks.
Speaking of Looking Closely,
note the attentive gaze of the man on the right.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Morning Update

The corneal transplant is a go. But it's not scheduled yet, as the surgery-scheduler was out of the office yesterday. I hope to have a date set by the end of this week.

I had a good talk with Dr. Rotkis, the man who will be performing the surgery. He says he does about 60% of all corneal transplants in the state of Washington. And that when Don Mattingly, star player for the NY Yankees, began having vision problems related to his cornea, the Yankees sent him out to meet with Dr. Rotkis for a consultation. So I think I'm in good hands.

_____

We had a nice time celebrating Karina's birthday yesterday, as well. Spent an hour or so wandering around Volunteer Park, one of the jewels in Seattle's park system. Visited the Conservatory and wondered at their cactus collection, strolled beneath the walnut trees, climbed the 100-foot-tall water tower and marveled at the view, watched artists paint masterpieces beside the reflecting pool. It was nice.

Then visited the Seattle YMCA for a short workout and chance to get spiffied up for dinner. . .

Which was at one of Seattle's finest steakhouses. We had a nice coupon, so we had a wonderful, amazing, delicious dinner (Oysters Rockefeller, NY Steak, wild mushroom risotto, caesar salad made right before our eyes, and a chocolate/raspberry ganache for dessert) for not much more than we'd usually pay at your local Applebees. What was even more fun, though, was ogling all the high-spenders around us. Like the party of 6 sitting next to us, who had, by our estimation, already spent $400 on drinks and one appetizer, before even getting to the main course (the appetizer alone was $98. . .kind of out of our price range). So much for all that news about how horrible the economy is these days.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Family Makin- Music Time



From the family reunion last weekend. That's my uncle Joe on the left, my dad in the middle, and me on the right. Note the incredible Pacific sunset out the window.

Oh, and that's my aunt Win from Montana singing along.

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Just a quick personal note, for those of you who consider yourself family or friends. . .

On Monday morning I'm going in to meet with my ophthalmologist in Seattle. If all goes well, we're going to schedule a corneal transplant near the end of October. I'm not looking forward to facing eye surgery, but I am looking forward to being able to see a little more normally.

As it is, the new contact I got a few months ago isn't really working, and if we didn't do surgery, it would probably be another 4-month process with multiple trips to the doctor, multiple attempts with different lenses, all to find one that would work for another year or two. At this point, surgery seems a lot better option.

I'll let you know more, after Monday.

In the meantime, my sister broke her foot yesterday, while at the hospital for a meeting, no less. And my brother totaled his car in an accident last week. So it's an adventurous couple weeks for us all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is the men's fellowship cursed?

Back when I began at Lakebay, one of the first events I attended was the men's breakfast. About 8 of us gathered together for a fine breakfast at the New Brookside restaurant, owned by our own Ron Bustad. We met there for 5-6 months straight.

Ron passed away that summer, and shortly thereafter the New Brookside was closed, and the men's fellowship had to move.

We began meeting at the Lucky Horseshoe restaurant, at Horseshoe Lake Golf Club. It was the perfect place - they gave us their back room, all to ourselves, they treated us well, they got to know us and we had some wonderful times together with their staff.

One day we showed up to find their chef had quit, so there was no breakfast that day. We found another place to meet. That month, the Lucky Horseshoe decided to no longer serve breakfast, so we were forced into finding a new location.

We eventually settled on the Floatation Device in Purdy. If you know it, you know it's kind of a dive. Fun, with lots of character. Great staff, they treated us well, but it was always a little far to travel for breakfast.

So we were excited when the Key Center Roadhouse opened earlier this year. It was local, it offered a great breakfast menu. . .it seemed we had found our home.

After the first visit, we weren't all that impressed. But they were new, so we were willing to give them another chance. And, sure enough, the second visit, and third, were much better.

Then last month we showed up for breakfast. And the person inside said "we no longer serve breakfast or lunch - just dinner."

Anybody notice a trend here?

Now we've settled on O'Callahans, the local bar where the local bar-going folk tend to hang out. And their breakfast isn't all that shabby, and the service is pretty good, for a bar. If only I can get my head around the Men's Group meeting monthly in the local bar.

Considering our history, though, I wonder if we should warn the folks at O'Callahans that they're about to face some unforeseen disaster. After all, here come's the men's group, and wherever we go, they shut down.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CCM News

Remember Ray Boltz? The popular Christian singer from a decade or so ago? He sang songs like "Thank you for Giving to the Lord" and "Watch the Lamb." Personally, I was never a fan. That whole genre of schmaltzy, hyper-emotional story-songs seems just a little too cheesy for my tastes. (note: that's only my opinion. Feel free to disagree.)

Blade magazine, a magazine focused on gay issues in the DC area, just published an interview/story on Ray, focusing on his recent decision to come out and declare his homosexuality.

That's sure to cause some ripples throughout the evangelical world.

(a warning to my more sensitive readers: if you follow that link above, it will take you to the article. Along with the article, you will see gay-themed advertising. So don't be shocked if you're not used to seeing that sort of thing.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coming Soon: "The Blue Parakeet" - a book review

Scot McKnight is a professor at North Park University, an established author, and a prolific blogger. I have a number of his books on my bookshelf, including:

Praying with the Church (Confession: I bought it mostly because I'm quoted in it. . .)
The Jesus Creed (A Christianity Today Book of the Year)
Turning to Jesus
(I'll admit: I struggled through this one)
A Community Called Atonement
(One of the books I recommend most to others)

McKnight's newest book, the Blue Parakeet, is set for release in November. And I have a copy of it on my desk.No, I didn't get a pirated copy off the Chinese black market. A couple months ago, Scot mentioned on his blog that Zondervan was willing to give away free advance copies to 20 people who would be willing to blog about it. So I put my name in the hat, and over the weekend the book showed up in our mailbox.

So, in the coming weeks, I'll be laying aside some other reading and digging into The Blue Parakeet, offering both a synopsis of the book, as well as my own opinions and thoughts on what McKnight is saying. Should be fun. Feel free to join in the conversation.
_____

On another note, I'm still wading through Atonement for a Sinless Society (see below), but have found that it's a book that takes no prisoners. From the first word he hits the ground running, leaving the reader to breathlessly follow along, hoping to catch up along the way. I like what's he's saying. . .it just takes a lot of time to process it all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jake and the Famous Guy

Jake Dockter was a college student when we were in Turlock. He used to come over and eat tacos at our house. His parents welcomed us into the wonderful world of homemade bluegrass jams. We've been friends ever since.

As part of a book he's writing, Jake just interviewed Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill (the other Mars Hill) Bible Church, and the interview was published in Patrol Magazine. Which you can read here.

Good work, Jake!

Family - you gotta love 'em

This weekend is the great big Whitmarsh family reunion out at Pacific Beach, on the Washington Coast. It's supposed to be sunny and in the 70s all weekend. And the resort where we're all staying is apparently quite nice, complete with a bowling alley, restaurant, sauna and hot tub, workout facilities, play area for the kids, and miles of empty beach to explore.

My grandparents had 10 kids, and for the most part those kids had a lot of their own kids, so there are lots and lots of cousins and second cousins and such, many whom I haven't met, and many others who I haven't seen in 15 years. As for Karina and our kids, they've met precious few of the larger family, so I expect this to be somewhat of a shock for them. I hear there are about 100 of us Whitmarsh's expected to show up.

But good stories have come out of the last few reunions - the ones I've missed - so we're thinking this should be a wonderful time to relax and reconnect, taking long walks and flying kites and maybe even playing Uno late into the night. Add in the fact that it's one of those rare Sundays I don't have to work, and it should just about be perfect.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 redux

"You have head that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV)

++++

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

++++

"This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly." 1 Peter 2:21-23 (NLT)

++++

"The present administration has adopted a sort of official Christianity, and it obviously wishes to be regarded as Christian. But 'Christian' war has always been a problem, best solved by avoiding any attempt to reconcile policies of national or imperial militarism with anything Christ said or did. The Christian gospel is a summons to peace, calling for justice beyond anger, mercy beyond justice, forgiveness beyond mercy, love beyond forgiveness. It would require a most agile interpreter to justify hatred and war by means of the Gospels, in which we are bidden to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despise and persecute us.

. . .It is useless to try to adjudicate a long-standing animosity by asking who started it or who is the most wrong. The only sufficient answer is to give up the animosity and try forgiveness, to try to love our enemies and to talk to them and (if we pray) to pray for them. If we can't do any of that, then we must begin by trying to imagine our enemies' children, who, like our children, are in mortal danger because of enmity that they did not cause."

- Wendell Berry, Citizenship Papers

++++

. . ."This is why one cannot practically believe in the second coming and also take up arms. When we take up arms, we not only disobey Jesus' teachings, but we foolishly think that we can effectively change the course of history through force. We falsely think that violence will soon end with this act of violence, just as it was thought that World War I would be 'the war to end all wars.' We think, 'The perfect world is just around the corner. We just got a pious man in office, have killed a good share of the essential evildoers, and have set up a few good governmental systems.' This is like praying 'Give us more time.' And whether it's pursued by 'the establishment' or by zealous liberationists, the desire to be 'authors of history' ultimately ends in hubris, unending conflict, and the victimization of others. Instead of trusting in the command to love our enemies, we insist that having the right people take office to direct the right bombs to fall on the right places is a more effective way to deal with evil. We can't be peaceful now, we say. So give us time to rid the world of evil; eventually it will work. After thousands of years, we haven't learned that violence begets only violence.

As much as we balk at its mysticism, the central political prayer and hope of Christians is, 'Lord, come quickly; may your kingdom come.'"

-Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President

++++

"Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. . .Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, 'It is mine to avenge, I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Romans 12:12-21

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Conversation Overheard in the Locker Room

Hey, Steve*, right?

Yeah - John, right?

Hey, yeah. How's it goin'?

&*$%$ okay. How 'bout you?

I'm doin' %#$#$ alright. What you up to?

Nothin' %#$#$ much. Just workin' out.

You like it here?

It's
%#$#$ okay. Better than that other %#$#$ place.

Yeah. You still dating that one girl?

%#$#$ no. She was %#$#$ up so we broke up.

%#$#$ man, that's %#$#$ up.

Yeah, but now I'm checking out this other
%#$#$ girl.

%#$#$ yeah?

%#$#$ yeah. Met her at this %#$#$ party with all these friends? So we been hangin' out.

That's %#$#$ cool.

Not %#$#$ bad. So what you doin' these days?

Nothin'
%#$#$ much. Just got a %#$#$ house with my girl.

That's pretty %#$#$ awesome.

Yeah, now we can just
%#$#$ hang out and do %#$#$.

Cool. We should %#$#$ hang some time.

%#$#$ yeah.

You need to get me your %#$#$ number and we can do some %#$#$ this weekend.

Sure.

You work out here a lot?

Most %#$#$ days. How long you been a member?

%#$#$, I'm not! (har har har har har).

%#$#$ yeah? You figured it out?

%#$#$ yeah. I just walk in with a %#$#$ group and they assume I'm with %#$#$ them.

Chortle chortle. %#$#$ cool.

Okay, well, we'll %#$#$ see you around.

%#$#$yeah. Maybe this weekend.

%#$#$
______
And a couple thoughts run through my head:
1) how painful must it be to have a 10 minute conversation and not really say anything at all?
2) Do people in locker rooms somehow forget that everybody else in the locker room can hear them? Or do they just not care?
3) What I've just witnessed is the human equivalent to those nature videos, in which the male bull elks attempt to prove their virility over the others through posturing and faux-feats of strength. Nothing is actually accomplished, except that these two men proved one to the other that they are real men because a)they like women and b)they can cuss a lot.
4) Which makes me wonder - am I lacking in manhood because I don't strut around and cuss a lot?
5) Is there a record for most cuss words in a 10-minute conversation? Because I think these guys broke it.

______
*names in this story have been changed in order to protect the, ahem, innocent.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

When you want something cool and refreshing. . .

Do you ask for a soda? For a Coke? For a pop?

Depends on where you find yourself in this map:
If you can't read the fine print, blueish areas are "pop" areas, yellowish areas are "soda" areas, and reddish areas are "coke" areas.

Unless you're like me, who adopted "soda" while in California and just can't quite bring myself to say "pop" anymore.

Two quick highlights:
- this is not a joke, but a serious article in the journal of English Linguistics.
- according to the article, "Americans drink so much of the carbonated beverages sold under such brand names as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and 7-Up that consumption averages 43 gallons per year for every man, woman, and child in the United States." Anybody want to hazard a guess for a cause of the rising obesity and diabetes rates?

source.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Just What Everybody Needs

A Covenant Church for your model railroad set.


This model is called "Covenant Church with Parsonage." I can't seem to find it on their order form, but according to this ad on the Model Railroader website, it's only $98.25.

Oddly, that MR website flips their pictures, and actually shows this image as the "Covenant Church with Parsonage":

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why yes, you did see me on television

King 5 news in Seattle headed out this way yesterday to do a story on gas thieves who hit the local food bank. They got wind that gas thieves had gotten to our church van, as well, so they headed up the road to hear our story. Both Howard Johnson, our M&M Outreach director, and I got a little bit of airtime, with a nice shot of the church in the background.

You can go watch it here.

If you watch really closely, right at the 1 minute mark, you can sort of make out Clara running toward the back of the Jeep, as well.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dan's Pet Peeve of the Day

(while listening to Worship Leader's Song Discovery, v0l. 71)

Worship leaders who say "Somebody just give God the praise."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Book Reports

Just before heading off to family camp, I finally finished Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw's Jesus for President.


If you spend any time searching internet discussion boards for opinions about this book, you'll realize it's struck a chord. People either love it, believing it's the answer to the malaise facing the 21st Century church, or they'll hate it, believing it twists and distorts scripture to promote a pacifist, communist, anti-american agenda. Like a Rorschach test, reactions to this book probably say as much about the reader as they do the content of the book itself.

I should begin by saying the book isn't saying anything all that original. In other words, Claiborne and Haw aren't promoting anything they've discovered for themselves. Instead, they have ingested the work of people like Wendell Berry, Gregory Boyd, John Howard Yoder, Marva Dawn, and Walter Wink, they have listened carefully to the anabaptist voice within Christianity, they have synthesized the work of those thinkers and writers and theologians and peacemakers, and they have published a manifesto to the 21st Century Church - a call to the church to return to its roots as an alternative community, a seperate, holy people, called apart from the kingdoms of earth to live as the Kingdom of God on earth.

Two quick strenghts of the book:
1) This is biblical theology as opposed to systematic theology. In other words, the book focuses on the broad sweep of Judeo-Christian history, beginning in the garden and carrying on through Abraham, Israel, Jesus, the Church, up to the images of victory in Revelation. They then take the large sweep of biblical history to paint the full picture of rebellion and redemption in which we find ourselves. Thus, rather than nit-picking what "this verse over here" means up against "that verse over there," they instead ask "what has been God's plan all along?" This, to me, is the healthiest way to let the Scriptures speak into our lives.
2) It's a beautiful book. Literally. Shane and Chris employed the work of artists to craft a book that is fascinating to look at. Every page is a painting, a photo, a stitch-work, a challenge, a delight. Thus, the book challenges not just the intellectual side, but the artistic side, as well. Sometimes the pictures, the questions, the images speak even louder than the text on the page. This is obviously a labor of love for the authors.

My take on the book: For the most part, I think Shane and Chris are dead-on. Their critique of the 21st-Century American Church nails us all. They rightfully see the ways in which The Church has sold out to a culture of shopping, a culture of idolatry, a culture of power-play, and how the church has abandoned the call to "take up our cross" and follow Christ. At the same time, they don't stop at critique. In fact, most of the book is given to suggestions on how to move forward, and examples of communities of faith who come close to reflecting Christ in their lives. So they challenge the Church, but they challenge the individual Christian as well. How, exactly, do we follow in the pattern of Christ who had no home when we spend massive amounts of money on plasma televisions and name-brand sneakers? How exactly do we claim to follow the Prince of Peace when we so enjoy violence, when we so quickly call for retribution upon our enemies? How do we show love to our brothers and sisters when we participate in an economy that is so unequitable? How do we worship both the Father of All Nations and at the same time worship the country in which we live?

To read this book is to read a call to live a different kind of life. It challenges, it exhorts, it pushes on some tight spots. But I think it's a necessary read by any who would claim Jesus as Lord. So go read it. Then let's talk some more.

______

So this is what came out of the Amazon box last week, and now is on top of my reading stack:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

David Gibbons on Church Building

David Gibbons is a Covenant Pastor, so he's got that going for him. And he's rethinking how we plant and build churches.

On his visit to Bangkok - "I visited other churches and discovered that the Evangelical Covenant denomination there had 4,000 people in roughly 400 churches. It hit me. Back home NewSong had about 4,000 in four congregations.

I saw four churches with 4,000 people versus 400 churches with the same number of people, and the question I felt God posing to me is, Who's stronger?"

Funny - I remember Brad and I talking about this model 5 or 6 years ago. David must have been listening in.

In all seriousness, I think David's getting it - smaller really can be better in the Kingdom. And considering the size of David's church, it's refreshing to hear him recognize that.