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Monday, June 30, 2008

Lord Save Us From Your Followers Movie Synopsis

Have any of you watched the movie: 'Lord Save Us From Your Followers'?

The movement starts here. Coming to theates in June 2008. The most talked about film in decades. Pass the word.

Though nine out of ten Americans claim a belief in God, public expression of faith is more contentious as ever. Even as discussion of religion floods the media like never before, the rhetoric is divisive and hyper as the 2008 elections loom on the horizon.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers is the energetic, accessible documentary that explores the collision of faith and culture in America. Fed up with the angry, strident language filling the airwaves that has come to represent the Christian faith, director (and follower) Dan Merchant set out to discover why the Gospel of Love is dividing America.

Utilizing a broad array of expert interviews, man-on-the-street bits, hilarious animations and “I’ve never seen that before” stunts, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers brings everyone into the conversation that this country is aching to have.

In the tradition of “entertaining documentaries” like Super Size Me, Bowling For Columbine and What the Bleep Do We Know?, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, employs the language of pop culture to create a provocative, funny and redemptive viewing experience that will leave the audience talking for hours.

From the man-on-the-street blitz of “Bumpersticker Man” to a “Culture Wars” game show, from Dan’s proclamation drive to re-name St. Paul to New Leningrad to the controversial and moving “Confession Booth” at Gay Pride, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers delves into all the hot button issues with candor, humor and balance.

With exclusive interviews with comedian/Senatorial candidate Al Franken, former Senator and Religious Right inside man Rick Santorum, noted “liberal evangelical” Tony Campolo, conservative radio host Michael Reagan, racial reconciliation activist Dr. John Perkins and features with Bono, Pastor Rick Warren (“Purpose Driven Life”), James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, no stone is left unturned in this engaging, unpredictable and challenging look at the conflict over religion in America.

Bribing People to Church

Gas cards draw people to God - RecordOnline.com - The Times Herald Record

An A/G church on downstate NY gave away $10 gas cards to families to get people to come to church. 22 new families show up -- 80-100 people and 20 people accepted Christ.

Chinese Church Growing Out From Underground

Jesus in China -- chicagotribune.com
A number of Chinese churches and ministries are coming out from underground. Though still illegal, they function openly and authorities are ignoring them. There is just an avalanche of Chinese people becoming Christian, even some celebrities and Communist Party members. Some estimate that the church is now as big or bigger than the Communist Party. Their Christian values are also having a positive impact on the economy.

Very exciting to see how God is growing the church in China. We read church history books in the US about great revivals with Finney, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Graham, Azuza St., etc. I wonder if future history books will write a global church history and we'll learn about the Chinese awakening. Who are the Billy Grahams of China that we don't know about yet? Or is there an altogether new way of doing evangelism that only happens "underground"?

God is good.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Will a Computer “Symbiote” be Implanted in Future Human Brains?

A quote from the article:
"Scientists at the University of Florida aren’t just creating a neural implant that can translate human brain signals, but one that can act independently to increase its efficiency and synergy with the brain as it learns new things."
Just another technology that the church is going to have to be prepared to engage and think about theologically, morally and philosophically. What if neural implants could be programmed to help us sin less, know the Scriptures better and give us boldness to evangelize? Will churches then have programmers on staff updating people's brains turning them into techno-disciples? What if someone's computer chip is reprogrammed by someone evil person causing them to do something heinous? Did they sin or was it just a computer abuse or glitch?

This is not just some far fetched scientist's sci-fi idea. Real scientists are working on this stuff. Hopefully real theologians might begin thinking about it also.

Virtual Church

I commend this site to you with both audio and visual resources for practicing Christian spirituality: the Daily Office, Lectionary, Liturgy of the Hours, Ignatian and Benedictine readings, Anglican Prayer Cycle, even Taizé and an icon with a couple reflections.

I just listened to the podcast of New Zealand Prayer Book office. Very well done. I also prayed and read Scripture using the Missio Dei Breviary.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Next Generation Alliance

Here is a little information about the Next Generation Alliance:

Luis Palau Association hosts the Next Generation Alliance web site.

Next Generation Alliance Facebook page: "In light of Luis Palau’s vision of raising up the next generation of evangelists, NGA exists as a global network to identify, affirm and equip evangelists worldwide to complete the Great Commission in our generation."

If your community of churches are willing to work together for the furthering of the Kingdom and the evangelization of your area, here are some groups that will partner with you to make that happen.

Featured NGA Evangelists

Frank Alexandre Espoir et Deliverance

Bob Boyd Bob Boyd Ministries

Brad Butcher Passion 4 People

Jeramy Burchett Global Music Evangelism

Keith Cook On The Go

Scott Dawson Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association

John Garrick Eternal Impact Ministries

Brock Gill Illusionist

Nick Hall Pulse

Christian Holst For His Glory Evangelistic Ministries

Bob Mortimer Bob Mortimer Motivational Ministries

Bill Newman Bill Newman International

Mike Parker All Nations Ministries

Reid Saunders Reid Saunders Association

Mike Silva Mike Silva International

Greg Steir Dare 2 Share

Bill Thomas Bill Thomas Evangelistic Association

Mark Thompson Mark Arts Inc.

Martha Wagner Hope Ministries International

Rob Welch For His Glory Evangelistic Ministries

Johnny Wilson Johnny Wilson Evangelistic Association

Rusty Wright Probe Ministries

Steve Wingfield Steve Wingfield Ministries Inc.

Jose Zayas Jose Zayas Evangelism International

Lean A New Language

8 Free Online Resources For Learning A New Language
Saw this resource link and thought of a couple of you that are attempting to learn new languages for missional purposes.

Gen Y Friendly Churches

PC World has a succinct little article about: 5 Ways to Make Your Company Gen Y-Friendly. Which of course makes me think about what are 5 ways we could make the church GEN Y Friendly.

Here is PC World's advice for employers:
1. Offer attractive benefits.
2. Promote work/life balance.
3. Narrow the rungs of the corporate ladder.
4. Ensure managers are engaged and accessible.
5. Foster "face time".

Here's some advice on making the church GEN Y friendly
1. Be Honest About Sin But Forgiving, Loving & Non-Judgmental Toward Sinners. Sure this is the generation that is more pluralistic in their beliefs, tolerant of alternative views and sometimes holds competing views simultaneously. But they absolutely respect people who are sincere, devout and honest about their beliefs, even strange or odd beliefs, as long as doing so doesn't make them self-righteous, smug, mean or uncaring. And most of all, church leaders need to be honest about their own sins, faults, shortcomings and mistakes.

2. Offer Eternal Salvation and Temporal Life Transformation. All churches must preach the truth that Jesus Christ died for the sins of all humanity and offers them the free gift of eternal life. But we must also preach about how Christians can carry the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the world we live in. Christianity is more than a ticket to heaven. God speaks through His Word about how His people can heal the evils of this world.

3. Have a Holistic Ministry Approach. How does our faith in Jesus Christ and the truths of His Word speak to our physical and mental health, our work and/or student life, our friendships, our marriage and family life, our sex life, our decision making, our use and accumulation of wealth, etc. Christianity is more than a theology to be believed but is a faith that drives us to live.

4. Offer Options. If you haven't already, end the mindset that says everyone works M-F, 8-5 in an office and is free evenings and weekends and that is when they will come to the church building to be ministered to. Experts I hear these days say an overwhelming segment of our workforce are self employed and are creating multple revenue streams to support them. Find creative ways to make church life available at alternative times, in various ways and have it brought to them.

5. Be Interactive. Have you done a Q&A lately in church or at church meetings? More than once when I was preaching, I used note cards in the bulletin to field questions that people had about God, the Bible, spirituality or the Christian life. I've used the sermon as a Q&A time, sometimes I preached and did Q&A following, and even did an entire sermon series based on questions received. Also, give the young, inexperienced, non-expert a voice in church life and leadership and make church leaders available for conversation and receptive to input. Younger generations do not believe they have to "pay their dues" before they are heard or received.

6. Be Real. Allow the opportunity for leaders and lay people to tell their story of how God and His church are a part of their life. Let people tell the story of how they came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Let people tell the story of how they have seen or experienced God and His people at work in their life. Do it in worship, in newsletters, on websites, etc.

Who Speaks For You?

Recently James Dobson of Focus on the Family spoke critically of Barrak Obama's use of Scripture. Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell has created a web site: James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me defending Obama and attacking James Dobson.

I like James Dobson. He's a smart person and his ministry has spoken into my life on more than one occasion. I work with is daughter, Danae, on occasion and she is a delightful person. I like Focus on the Family's ministry. I admire their commitment to pastor's families and the multitude of resources they make available to everyday Christians. They'll help anybody who asks them.

But I tire sometimes of hearing Dr. Dobson's voice in the public discourse. Granted he is often being quoted by media who use sound bites and aren't accurately representing him. I've had that happen to me also. And furthermore, if he doesn't speak up, who will? But I think we've reached the point where many evangelical Christians are tired of hearing the latest difficult statement from Dr. Dobson and tired of feeling like the media looks to him to speak for them and they don't want him to.

All that led me to the question recently, "Who does speak for me?" Who do I trust to speak on behalf of evangelicals? Certainly not Dobson or Pat Robertson, Falwell never did, -- those guys are the common ones the media refers to as evangelical leaders. Joel Osteen is getting more press time these days but I'm not sure I trust him to speak for me, though I appreciate his humble, gentle spirit. Rick Warren? Possibly. Bill Hybels? Probably, but we're hearing less and less from him.

I guess that's why I have my own blog. So I can speak for myself.

Who speaks for you?

US Slavery in the 1940's?

According to this article, STLtoday - Slavery by Another Name, slavery existed in the US until the 1940's through "legal" means.
"In March 1908, an unemployed black man named Green Cottenham was arrested in Alabama and found guilty of the vague charge of vagrancy.

Unable to pay exorbitant fines and fees that accompanied the conviction, he was sentenced to a year at hard labor and "sold" to a mining subsidiary of U.S. Steel, which agreed to pay his debts in return for his services and sent him in chains into a coal mine."
This kind of servitude continued into the 1940's. Still slavery. Numerous African-Americans were arrested on trumped up charges and "sold" into servitude for their debts to be paid.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gary B. Walter Elected Ninth President of Covenant - Evangelical Covenant Church

Congratulations Gary! These are exciting times for my beloved Evangelical Covenant Church .... we continue to succeed with church planting and growth, have added a revitalization ministry, are becoming passionate about compassion, justice and racial reconciliation ministry ... and now have elected as President one of the denomination's very best leaders. I'm extremely optimistic for the future health and growth of our denomination.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

[heavy sigh] Another Senseless Death at the Hands of Religion

Autopsy: Easy treatment for teen who died in failed 'faith healing' | kgw.com | News for Oregon and SW Washington

A 16 y/o boy died because he did not seek/receive medical help for a urinary tract condition that would have been solved with a simple catheter. He refused treatment while believing in faith he would be healed.

Would it be safe to say that any church that discourages one from seeking medical treatment in lieu of faith healing is dangerous?

A quote from the news story ...
"The family belongs to the Oregon City Followers of Christ Church. The church is a fundamentalist Christian denomination that recently made headlines after two members were arrested and accused of using prayer instead of medical care to try to cure their deathly ill daughter."
Do you think it would be appropriate for other Christian churches in their community to publicly denounce them and call them to repentance? Would it be appropriate for them to say, what is happening in this church is not part of the teachings of Jesus Christ and his message found in the Bible? What do you think?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some of My Favorite Photographers

Jim Whitmer Photography. This past week I had the privilege of working with Jim and Mary Whitmer, both of whom are outstanding photographers. For the past several festivals we have done, Jim & Mary have captured our festival in photos. They are a fun, absolutely delightful couple to work with.

Need a great photographer in Northern Minnesota for weddings, graduations, family portraits or other events? Contact Lesley Wyman: LA Photography. I worked with Lesley nearly daily for just shy of a year. She's a brilliant artist, terrific mom and wife, and good friend.

GAFCON on AnglicanTV.org

For church history watchers: this week brings us GAFCON aka the Global Anglican Future Conference being held in Jerusalem. This meeting is extremely important for the future of Anglicanism.

In the Anglican tradition, there is a decennial (every 10 year) meeting that is held at Lambeth Palace in England, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. EVERY Anglican bishop from across the globe is invited and the meeting is considered one of the symbols of unity.

When The Episcopal Church in the US decided to split from the wider Anglican Communion through their actions in consecrating a bishop living in a sinful lifestyle, it was hoped that the rest of the church would stand up to them and call them back to righteousness. That has not happened. In fact, it has become even more apparent that there is a significant minority of the Anglican Communion that has become apostate, quite likely including the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the first among equals in terms of bishops of the Anglican Communion, and the one who calls the meeting at Lambeth.

Thus, the theologically orthodox bishops of the church have obeyed Scripture and called for their own meeting -- GAFCON, where they will seek the will of God for the future of the Anglican Communion. You can watch some of the addresses from a variety of leading bishops at: AnglicanTV.org and get regular updates at VirtueOnline.org.

The schism of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is now in full bloom. Discussions appear to be focusing on how to realign the various entities.

Watch the Covenant Annual Meeting Online

I have only been to one Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church -- ever. It was the 1997 meeting in Anaheim, CA where I was ordained.

Over the past couple of years, I have grown to greatly appreciate the online broadcast of the AM's worship services. You can watch them online again this year: Website to Broadcast Annual Meeting Worship Services - Evangelical Covenant Church

Science Studies Religion

Church provides hope of faithful spouses - being-human - 20 June 2008 - New Scientist

This article is a fascinating view into the realm social scientists studying religion to ascertain why people go to church. According to scientists: [heavy sigh] from an evolutionary point of view, people go to church to find other people who will provide the best family settings. Not surprisingly, the article fails to mention God's role in the matter.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interact With The Bible

Scripture Union - WordLive

A web site that allows you to "interact with the Bible whatever way suits you best." Audio, with music, with images, Bible study, more. Get Scripture delivered to your email box or cell phone.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Church Revitalization. I Haven't Been Optimistic But This Might Work.

Revitalization Assessment Center May Be First of Its Kind - Evangelical Covenant Church

Here's a new approach to church revitalization: Churches who are at a critical survival moment in their life come into an agreement with the denomination with a revitalization plan and then receive a pastor who has gone through an assessment, gauging their readiness to do the hard work necessary to bring an established church to new life.
“Revitalization is two to three times harder than planting,” says Dave Olson, director of church planting. “It’s harder to remodel a home than it is to build one.”
Someone could have warned me before I tried! Perhaps I should have gone right on to church planting and skipped the revitalization lessons.

I have to admit to being very skeptical of church revitalization efforts. Not just because of my own personal experience of failure at it. In so many cases of churches falling into unhealth and numerical decline I see power brokers sinning against the church and pastor. And in Covenant churches where they are congregational with, in many cases, poorly written constitutions, there is no leadership given the task of disciplining belligerent members and very rarely do their leaders have enough courage to do so.

However, the linked article is suggesting the Covenant has signed agreements with the church. Which might mean the churches have relinquished some control. That could be promising. To get out of the dysfunction churches need to break out of the same old decision making patterns with the same old power brokers influencing the decisions. Let's hope.

It's funny, I honestly believe most of the churches that have reached the point of needing revitalization need to be closed or allowed to die in peace. I just don't think very many will really turn around. On the other hand, I would love to be a successful revitalization pastor — emphasis on successful.

Bishop NT Wright on Colbert Report

Bishop NT Wright appeared on Stephen Colbert's show to discuss his beliefs on heaven. Funny and theologically interesting. Thanks to Xorey for sending the link.

A quick YouTube search for NT Wright brings out an extraordinary number of interesting interviews, sermons and other dialogs of his.

Branding As A Means of Evangelism

Report: Ohio teacher burned cross on kids' arms

Somehow I'm guessing burning a cross on a student's arm is not the best means of evangelism.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ultra Rev Home From Festival

Spent last week in the Butler, PA area for a major evangelistic festival. Here's some miscellaneous observations:
  • Got to meet Duane Allen and William Golden along with the other Oak Ridge Boys. Very classy group.
  • Ricky Skaggs is a fabulous musician, but he is becoming know for his ministry as well. He spent time praying over the hands of a young musician.
  • Team Xtreme has a great ministry and is not just a bunch of big guys busting up bricks, bending rebar, rolling up frying pans, etc. I've worked with the Power Team also and they are really super people and solid Christian leaders. Their emphasis is on a good show and the evangelistic invitation. Team Xtreme's is on the invitation and ministry time afterward. They spent a ton of time praying for people, and then after their show was over they prayed over Pillar and Manic Drive. For the record they cost less than the PT too.
  • I saw God move in a powerful way with Nikita Koloff and the Christian professional wrestlers. Their show was somewhat distasteful to my sensibilities and Koloff's message was passionate but not overly emotional. But I saw a number of men and other people of all ages coming forth at the end to receive Christ crying, under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Powerful.
Overall it was a great event with tens of thousands of people attending and a couple of hundred coming to Christ. We had great music, professional wrestlers and skateboarders, strength team, ventriloquist, car cruise, biker ride, sports competitions, battle of the bands -- all at a beautiful state park. Is your community ready to host an evangelistic festival? Let me know. I can help.

How to Chill a Hot Beer or Soda in 3 Minutes

Just in case you were going to buy a six of Saranac, here's some instructions on how to make them cold quickly: How to Chill a Hot Beer or Soda in 3 Minutes. Essentially, it's using ice, water and salt and then twirl the drinks. FYI: a good cold drink should be about 38-40 degrees.

F.X. Matt Brewery Fire - Utica, NY

F.X. Matt Brewery Fire - Utica, NY 13501 - The Observer-Dispatch

A Utica landmark caught fire recently: the FX Matt Brewery. Known for it's Utica Club and Saranac beers and softdrinks. When I was a kid, we used to tour the brewery at least a couple times a year, ride the trolley and get a root beer at the end. The community and beyond has given incredible support to the company. Other breweries have offered to bottle for them. Governor Patterson, our senators and the Utica Mayor have all offered their support. The residents of the community have come out in full force for the weekly brewery festivities and are buying a few more beers in support. Even I went out and bought a six of Saranac Caramel Porter. Funny how this company has created such fierce loyalty.

Archaeology Find

Jordan archaeologists unearth 'world's first church'
Jesus really new what he was doing when he turned the water into wine. There appears to be a growing body of evidence that wine is apparently a health food. Look at these articles and headlines. Is it time for certain Christian groups to give up their campaigns against alcohol?

New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging - NYTimes.com

FOXNews.com - Drug Companies Rush to Harness Red Wine's Anti-Aging Properties - Health News | Current Health News | Medical News

Alcohol cuts risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis

Previous posts about wine and the Holiness tradition: link 1, link 2

Pervasive Skepticism

What Happened to Ricky - WSJ.com

This Wall Street Journal article tells the story of a couple that had a mentally disabled child born to them in the 1950's. As was common, the advice of the child's doctors was to have the child institutionalized. So they did.
'"Fifty years ago, families were often advised to place their child in an institution, and basically told that, for the good of the child and family, to forget that the person existed," says Charlie Lakin, project director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota.'
The child was never forgotten and the article also tells of his family's search for him and eventually renewed relationship.

I was astounded to find that this was common advice. But then again, we used to make toys with lead and promoted smoking medicinally too. There is this history of really bad misinformation in America that is being corrected in recent years. It's a sort of backlash.

It's happening in the church too. The church used to preach against the pleasure and enjoyment of sex between a husband and wife. Now we have great web sites and ministries dedicated to absolute enjoyment. It still baffles me that Christians ever supported slavery and joined the KKK. Now we have racial righteousness ministries. The church took an alcohol prohibition position, and in some cases still do, but now we find a moderate use of alcohol to be healthy.

While on the one hand it's healthy to see all this correction happening but I see that it promotes skepticism. No one solidly believes any thing from an expert or authority any more. We question everything. It's no wonder our culture has lost the concept of truth. Will we ever find it again?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Map of World Religions

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Balancing Act: The Evangelistic Teeter Totter

When I was young I would go to a park that had a set of teeter totters (see saws to some of you). These particular teeter totters shared a common cross beam and were positioned relatively close together. Because of their close proximity I could stand on them with my feet in the middle of each teeter totter as if I was wearing a pair of skis. My friends and I would stand like this and attempt to manipulate the teeter totters up and down. It was real challenge bringing both planks into balance. Leaning forward or backward too much sent the planks to the extreme up or down position with a seemingly unstoppable momentum.

Engaging the our world with the Gospel can be like my childhood game of riding two teeter tooters at the same time. In this case the teeter totter image serves to illustrate two spectrum on which a Christian must find the right balance or in the right conditions the proper extreme.

The fist spectrum (teeter tooter) is that of Acceptance - Challenge. As people who love God we are called to love others. God's love and acceptance fell upon us as he called us to faith in Christ. This love fell on us in our current reality. So too we need to have a measure of acceptance of where people are in life. Our picture of people must be based in reality, who they are, what is happening to them and where they live. On the other hand our role is to bring the message of the Gospel which challenges people to change to a better way than their current state. Our mandate is to accept the reality of people while challenging their reality with the good news of the Gospel.

On the second spectrum (teeter totter) Christ followers must address the continuum of Engagement and Separation. This is the "in the world but not of the world" conundrum. Some are comfortable jumping into the deep end of the pool and swimming in some very worldly situations while others shudder at exposure to anything ungodly. In the middle is a host of activities and actions that are matters of conscience. Needless to say this is a difficult spectrum to manage in fellowship with believers and it is a potentially deadly spectrum if addressed in isolation. Either extreme (chosen for the wrong reason) on the separation-engagement spectrum can leave a trail of human wreckage.

Acceptance - Challenge and Engagement - Separation are the two teeter totters Christians live on as they seek to present the gospel in word and deed. Appropriately, each spectrum can be in balance or in the extreme depending on the situation. God is faithful and 1 Corinthians 2 gives us hope that the Spirit of God is with us to make us wise. Fellow Christ followers can help us. One such person is Kevin Vanhoozer. His book Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends is an excellent discussion book for church leaders who believe they need to pay attention to culture as they attempt to proclaim the gospel to their communities.

Dennis Humphrey
The Accidental Educator

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Batmobile and the New Call

A few months ago my wife and I decided to sell our minivan, our much-beloved Honda Oddyssey, use the cash and purchase an older, more economical second car. This was not an easy decision. I like my cars new, shiny and utterly without maintenance needs. With the extra cash we made from selling the van (a moment of silence, please), we bought a 1994 Honda Accord with 163,000 miles on it.

Each month I have the knowledge that I am no longer making one of my original two car payments, and that's a nice feeling. But, alas, with an older car (even a Honda) there is ongoing maintenance and things that don't sound quite right or need a little adjusting here and there. This stresses me. As I said, I like things to work. Period. I prefer a no mess relationship with my cars.

So far, the brakes have needed a complete overhaul, the oil needed changing and now the speedometer is on the fritz, and soon we'll have to re-charge the AC. Stress. Planning the visits to the mechanic, spending the money, rearranging our schedules to get these things done. What I've had to realize is that I need to simply accept that this is the way it's going to be and get over myself and my desire to have a stress-free relationship with my car.

Less than a year ago my family and I moved to a new town when I accepted a call to a new church as its lead pastor. The call, in many ways, was and is very exciting. I mean, I have staff, a bigger budget to work with, more people, a great facility, lots of good, missional, ongoing ministries and terrific potential for the future. All shiny and new and without problems, right? Not right. But you know that already.

Churches -- regardless of size, budget, facilities, whatever -- have one thing in common: they are all made up of people. And people need maintenance, even when new cars and beautiful facilities do not. My old Honda Accord (affectionately named the Batmobile) is a parable for some of what it means to be a pastor, I think. Stress, maintenance, planning, listening for what isn't working right, setting up trips to the mechanic, rearranging my schedule to fit the need, you name it. Whatever the particular issue, it seems to me that there is a strong correlation between my relationship with my car and my relationship with my church. I do well, of course, to just accept this on some level and deal with it, diligently, passionately, patiently.

And here's what's true in both cases: when they are running right, they can be a whole lot of fun to drive.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Will This Persecution Arrive in the US?

Alberta Pastor Fined $7000 and Ordered to Publicly Apologize and Remain Silent on Homosexuality

Freedom to express your personal religious beliefs and traditional beliefs of Christianity is no longer allowed in Canada.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Jello, X-rays and Education: Asking the Right Questions

I recently had a conversation with a man named Tom who made fortune from extracting silver from old x-ray film. Curious to find out how he got into this line of work I pursued his story. He told me that the practice of extracting silver from x-ray film was complicated, costly and dangerous since it involved the use of cyanide to beak down the x-ray celluloid so the silver could be extracted.

One day he was in the kitchen making red Jello with fresh pineapple. He noticed that the Jello would not set. Curious, he investigated and discovered that pineapple contained a protelytic enzyme known as bromelain. Bromaelain prevented the Jello from setting. Tom wondered if Bromelain might have a similar effect on x-ray celluloid thus eliminating the need for cyanide. It worked!

What is fascinating about Tom's discovery is it begins with a question. Why won't the Jello set? Rather than toss the lot and start over Tom's question drove him to find the answer - bromelain. It could have ended there but Tom had another question. Could bromelain do for x-ray celluloid what it did to Jello thus eliminating the dangerous cyanide from the process? The answer - yes.

Tom's story is a lesson for educators everywhere. Too often educators focus on what they are teaching and lose the process of learning. This is the problem in many educational systems around the world that teach to the test and narrow the scope of learning to data transmission and acquisition. To its detriment the church has followed the path of public education.

The right data and right answers are important but equally important are the right questions.
Tom's story shows us that the right question can lead to the right information and the right answer. Educators in the church need to encourage curiosity and questioning; trusting that the right answer(truth) will come to meet the needs of the question.

By the way, for his curiosity Tom was rewarded with a patent and a penny for every pound of recycled x-ray film. A small question turned into a big payday.

Dennis Humphrey
The Accidental Educator

The Ultra Rev on Tour & Guest Bloggers

This week I'll be at the Moraine Park Summer Festival so I have invited some special guest bloggers. I asked a couple of my bff's to post something interesting this week: Dennis Humphrey is PhD candidate at Trinity University from Hoffman Estates, IL, Xorey Johnsrud is a Covenant pastor from Ellsworth, WI and Stacey Littlefield is a Covenant pastor from Lafayette, IN. These guys are way smarter and way better looking than me and I'm forever indebted to them for their friendship.


Steven Curtis Chapman was to be a special guest at the MPSF but changed his plans due to the painful circumstances in his life. So at the last minute the Oak Ridge Boys were asked to fill-in and graciously accepted. These guys really are legendary. However, . . . I talked about this with several people this week -- all under the age of 31 -- and none of them had heard of the Oaks. No clue.

Also on stage this week will be Dennis Agajanian — as my kids call him: "The Goth Cowboy", Pillar, Manic Drive and Ricky Skaggs as well as, Team Xtreme, Untitled Skateboards, Nikita Koloff and the professional Christian wrestlers and Lesha Campbell (ventriloquist). We'll have a car cruise, motorcycle ride, craft show, sports competitions and kids blow-up games. Should be fun.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Ultimate Guide to Motivation - How to Achieve Any Goal | Zen Habits

Do you need to develop some new habits in your life? Maybe this article could help. Leo lists "20 Ways to Sustain Motivation When You’re Struggling". One important component that I would add is prayer. Prayer energizes me, gives me faith and dispels hopelessness. There is power in prayer.

The Ultimate Guide to Motivation - How to Achieve Any Goal | Zen Habits

Catalyst Church — A New Church Plant in Syracuse, NY

Catalyst Covenant Church will be serving the Syracuse City School District, Nottingham High School and the community this weekend with a clean-up project at Nottingham High School on Sunday morning, 10:00 am. Bring a rake, a weedwacker and some energy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

VirtueOnline: Four out of ten pastors lack strong interest in increasing community outreach

Research by the Ellison Research Group shows the apparent abysmal evangelistic and outreach efforts of churches. HOWEVER ....

Their research was done an a representative sample of 811 churches. Some how I'm just not convinced that 811 churches gives a solid picture of the church landscape in the US. I'd love it if someone did research like this and said, "We've polled 10,000 churches and found ...".

Regardless, the numbers portray a really anemic effort by the church. The data may be solid and evidence compelling that changes need to be made in the wider church, but I'm not sure much will happen.

Between Barna, Gallup, Zogby and other pollsters I think the church has become immune to statistical evidence. It doesn't move us to action. We hear it, think it sounds bad, hope it gets better, maybe even silently wonder if it really is that bad, but aren't really motivated to action by it.

The linked article is really work a read.

Townhall.com: Gay Activists Headed For Churches: By Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. writes of gay activists groups visiting and protesting at churches over the next two weeks. Apparently they have meetings set up with Hybels and Warren are will be visiting other influential churches.

Jackson writes,
"Their goal is to force us to accept their lifestyle by slowly desensitizing us to their aberrant theology and practices. This change in tactics is an attempt to play the pity card.

During the next ten years, I predict that gays will attempt to invade the conventional, Bible believing church. They realize that their plan will not affect the current evangelical movement very much. On the other hand, they can set the stage to mainstream gays into membership at the average Baptist or even Pentecostal church."

I'm sure most of us would like to think that will never happen. But I'm guessing we're just one, maybe two, generations from it in the US Protestant church. The Roman Catholics and Orthodox will hold out though.

Monday, June 02, 2008

God is An Atheist?

Is it true that God is an atheist because he doesn't believe in a higher power?

Church Financial Insecurity

Recently I posted about churches that are moving away from using volunteer ushers for security reasons: Church Security. No More Ushers Collecting Offerings.

There is also a growing problem of embezzlement. From this Buffalo new article: Erie County churches seek to stem embezzlement : The Buffalo News:
"In 2006, Zech and another professor at Villanova, Robert West, surveyed 78 chief financial officers in U. S. Catholic dioceses — 85 percent of whom said their dioceses had experienced some form of embezzlement within the previous five years."
My brother is a certified fraud examiner and works with non-profits. He says every NP, including churches, needs to have a system of checks and balances where multiple people not related to each other count an offering, one person is the financial secretary who deposits the funds, one person is the treasurer who writes the checks, and a third person who opens the bank statements.

Find out if your church is doing this. If not suggest they do. If they are resistant to adding another level of security, that should be a major concern.