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Saturday, May 30, 2009

In Pittsburgh. Off to MA on Monday with the Anglicans.

I'm in Pittsburgh this weekend speaking at Stoneridge Covenant Church's Friendship Weekend events. Had a great time watching the Pirates v. Astros last night at PNC Park. Today I spoke three times, golfed and saw part of a Switch Kids concert.

Should be home by 11 pm tomorrow.

Most of you know I'm a huge fan of the AMIA. Monday morning I'm going to their Northeast Network June Retreat with Dr. Sean McDonough from Gordon-Conwell as their guest speaker. Very exciting.

I also have an interview next week on Friday. I'm pretty busy for a guy with no job.

The Church Year Graphics

For those who would like a visual picture of the Church Year. The graphics come from this site: The Church Year which also has some further explanations and links.

Who Are Your Cousins?

In doing all this genealogy work recently I've had that age old question, who are my first and second cousins, once and twice removed, etc. Here's a chart that answers that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vision G12 - Our Vision

Imagine a church where there was near 100 percent involvement in evangelizing and discipling others. Impossible? Consider the controversial Vision G12.
The Vision of G12 (Government of Twelve) is founded on the great commission given by Jesus. Its main objective is for every member to become a leader who will transmit Christ’s character and form his group of twelve.
Vision G12 - Our Vision

G12 Vision - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There have been problems for the Vision G12 movement as there have been with others. Some say it functions like a cult and others have some theological concerns. However, I think there are some important things to have learned from this movement, namely the cultural expectations.

An Expectation To Be Involved in Discipleship
Firstly, Vision G12 expects all of their people to be involved in evangelizing and discipling -- emphasis on all of them. In all of the churches I have been involved in, personally discipling others was left to the professionals and zealous, i.e. a very small percentage of the church. There were many active in the life of the church taking care of property and finances, attending meetings, providing care, etc. All doing good things. But very, very few were involved in mentoring another into Christlikeness.

The value of the Vision G12 movement is that it creates a cultural expectation in the church that all believers have a role in evangelizing and discipling others. In other words, it's the norm and not the exception that the average believer in the church is involved in discipling others.

Similar to Purpose Driven Church -- there is an expectation of progress
Many of you are not Purpose Driven Church fans. You mock the "bases" analogy/strategy. But the plus side of the PDC is the expectation that people make progress and experience growth in their Christian faith. Certainly you can argue whether or not rounding the bases, taking 101, 201, 301, 401, etc. classes actually means you made progress.

Vision G12 also has personally growth as an expectation. Certainly they don't believe that everyone has the gift of leadership, but they believe that every believer is to be involved in leading others to Christ and then discipling those persons deeper in the faith. Every believer makes progress from being a new believer to a guiding mentor in faith.

Both of those expectations are missing in many of our churches. We need to examine why and consider if and how that should change.

Important Church Property Case Heading to Supreme Court

VirtueOnline - NEWPORT BEACH, CA: St. James Church's Property Battle Moves to US Supreme Court

In the ongoing saga of Episcopal parishes leaving the denomination and wanting to take their property with them, a California church is attempting to take their case to the US Supreme Court. This is a very important case that could impact possibly hundreds of churches involved in property disputes -- not just Episcopal ones.

The Episcopal Church claims to have the "Denis Canon" on it side -- canon law which states that local churches hold their properties "in trust" for the diocese of which it is a part of, meaning they do not own the property. Many have argued against the Denis Canon and many have lost.

As I understand it, the difference in argument this time that will likely propel them to the Supreme Court is: St. James is arguing their Constitutional freedom of religious expression is being hampered by the Denis Canon.

A quote from the article:
Under longstanding law, no one can unilaterally impose a trust over someone else's property without their permission. Yet, in the St. James case before the California Supreme Court, named Episcopal Church Cases, the Court created a special perquisite for certain churches claiming to be "hierarchical," with a "superior religious body," which may allow them to unilaterally appropriate for themselves property purchased and maintained by spiritually affiliated but separately incorporated local churches. St. James will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that this preferential treatment for certain kinds of religion violates the U.S. Constitution.
Many churches invested in properties that they agreed to hold in trust for their diocese, never imagining that their diocese/denomination might walk away from the Christian faith. Now they want out of the denomination. Do they fight for their property or just walk away? St. James is fighting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brian McLaren speaks on the Episcopal Church

Episcopopcorn: Brian McLaren: The Episcopal Moment

The linked video is Brian McLaren speaking to leaders at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington recently about the how he believes that the Episcopal Church -- and at one point, he says Anglicanism -- are poised to meet the needs of a spiritually hungry culture. I think there is some truth to what he says, despite the fact that the Episcopal Church is shedding tens of thousands of members every year.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Related to the Hawley's

The Society of the Hawley Family, Inc.

I've been building on the extensive genealogical work my father has done. We are related to the Hawley family whose progenitor was Joseph Hawley. Joseph Hawley was born in 1603 in England and emigrated to the either MA or CT in about 1630 +/-. The Hawley web site says, "Joseph Hawley held several offices in the local government over the years, and acquired large land holdings in Connecticut. He died May 20, 1690."

So how are we related to Joseph Hawley?

Joseph Hawley begat Capt. John Hawley, who begat Henry Hawley, who begat Henry Hawley Jr., who begat Riggs Hawley, who begat Henry Lewis Hawley, who begat Henry Moore Hawley, who begat Mary Moore Hawley, who was married to Hammond Poineer Evans, who begat Ralph Evans, who begat David Evans, who begat me.

So what I'm saying is, unless you are related to an indigenous North American, my people were likely here first. :)

It also appears that I am related to a Viking named Thor Finn the Skull Splitter but I'll say more about that another day. Initially it appeared we might be French, which distressed me greatly. However, it is more likely we were just visiting France pillaging their land and women.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Urgent Humanitarian Need

Please read: Christians caught in the crossfire of Sri Lanka`s civil war, drought and persecution

Pastors Involved in Politics

Pastors win challenge to political involvement

A Houston based non-profit foundation held issue education and voter registration promotion meetings in Texas was investigated by the IRS. The IRS found their activities to be legal.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Institute, further explained to WND the ramifications the ruling holds for churches.

"The Niemoller Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, just like a church," Sasser explained. "So by the Niemoller activities being granted as lawful, then any church that engages in the same kind of voter education combined with voter registration drives on the moral issues of the day is perfectly fine with the IRS regulations, according to the IRS itself."

Sasser reiterated, "The whole point was to educate everyone about the important social issues and get them to go vote and register others to vote, and the IRS said this was perfectly okay."

It seems that since the foundation was not promoting any ideology, candidate, etc. that their activities were legal. The important issue for church leaders is: they could do the same thing without fear of losing their tax exempt status. However, they cannot cross the line from education to candidate campaigning or issue promotion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Land of the Ultra Rev

June 1st is the 5 year anniversary of the Land of the Ultra Rev. I'm thinking about giving away something for free and pimping my space.

Catholic Sex Therapist likens JP II & Hef: "Catholicism, properly understood ... is one of the sexiest of the world's religions"

Sex Sermonist's Heroes: Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner - ABC News

ABC News reports Roman Catholic sex therapist Christopher West sees sex as a way to get closer to God and sees connections between Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner. West wants to reform people's view of sex, especially God's blessing of and plan for our sexual expression.

West speaks extensively with a schedule and media available at his web sites:

Christopher West Home

Theology of the Body Institute

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I continue to run across leaders of churches and ministries (even business people) who have no web site or an embarrassingly ugly, useless one. And I continue to wonder "Why?" when there are simple, free options available. Here is a new one:
Create a Free website, Flash website builder & Flash MySpace Layouts

Previously on The Land of the Ultra Rev regarding Free Web Sites:
Why Buy When It's Free?

These are especially good options for church plants and small budget ministries.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Ultra Rev On Tour in Pittsburgh

I'm excited about my upcoming speaking engagement at Welcome to Stoneridge Church of Allison Park, PA. I'll be speaking at all the following events:
Saturday, May 30
10 a.m. – “Making Life Simpler” Women’s Tea (at Stoneridge)
Come learn “once a month” cooking preparations!

4 p.m. – Men’s Golf Outing (at Pheasant Ridge)
Pre-golf cookout (starting at 4 p.m.), with 9 holes of golf to follow!

7:30 p.m. – Teen “The Switch Kids” Concert (at Stoneridge)
Come and rock out with this great local group! Pizza too!

Sunday, May 31
10:30 a.m. Outdoor Worship Service (behind Stoneridge)
Enjoy the beauty of worshiping outdoors (bring chairs)

1-5 p.m. – “Community Day” (at Stoneridge)
Kids will enjoy a “moonwalker, obstacle course, & dunk tank”
Entertainment & food too!
Welcome to Stoneridge Church of Allison Park, PA
Stoneridge Church
811 Dressel Road
Allison Park, PA 15101

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Missions Trips To Missional Living

Fuller Reveals New Justice Model for Effective Short-Term Missions| Christianpost.com

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ed Stetzer: Church Planting Guru

EdStetzer.com This is a blog that is absolutely worth reading.

I recently posted a book recommendation list from Ed Stetzer that I got from a podcast I heard. Here is his more exhaustive bibliography: Church Planting Bibliography - EdStetzer.com

What does Ed think about the state of the church? State of the Church for Duke Divinity - EdStetzer.com

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Church Getting the Boot Over Sex?

UPDATE: 5/5/09
Church that sent sex flier will stay in school | floridatoday.com | FLORIDA TODAY
New Hope Church can continue to meet in Sherwood Elementary though school officials asked that future advertisements be appropriate for children ages 5-12. That seems reasonable.

Original Post: 5/2/09

Church giving sermons about sex faces controversy - FOX 4 Now - WFTX

New Hope Church of Melbourne, FL meets in Sherwood Elementary School. Apparently their mailer about a recent sermon series on sex has offended residents, who don't think a church that meets in an elementary school should be advertising about sex. The school district is reviewing the church's contract.

What happens when the church does a sermon series on hell? Will that threaten their contract too? Can churches only rent from schools if the schools approve their messages first? This doesn't appear to be well thought out.

Extra Rant
Anyone who lurks in the Land of the Ultra Rev knows that I think it is very important for churches to address matters of sexuality, especially from the pulpit. In fact, I think it unconscionable not to do so. I think that churches that do these sermon series are doing a good thing and even using sexuality as part of their promotion is a good thing. It is a topic that people desperately want to here what the Bible has to say about it. That said ...

I'm not sure I like the idea of marketing the sermon series from the vantage point of: Come to church to hear how to have a better sex life. (I'm mulling this over in my brain as I type and may end up changing my mind by the end of the post.) I'm just not sure the church is in the sex life improvement business.

On the other hand, I do think we are to be in the marriage improvement business. The Bible says clearly, "Marriage should be honored by all." If we improve marriages by improving their sex life -- well .... -- God be praised? (said with eyebrows raised and a slight tone of incredulousness)

I do think we are in the business of proclaiming who God is and His mighty deeds: He is the author of sexuality who blesses it in marriage and gives it as a generous, loving gift to His people. The God of the Bible is author of love and lovemaking. We as His people ought to be experts at both. Let's preach about that and about the God who is the healer of sexual blunders and restores the brokenhearted.

Sure, following God's plans for your sex life is better than not. Sure, social scientists have noted that religious people are more satisfied in their sex life. But I'm just not sure that's what we market for a sermon series: Come to church for "Great sex for you."??? I dunno. Do you feel me?

How Rwanda’s Christian Leaders Are Saving the American Church | Society and Religion

In my continued love affair with the Anglican Mission in America here is another article talking about the significance of this movement: How Rwanda’s Christian Leaders Are Saving the American Church | Society and Religion.

Just a word of wisdom for you: repentance always breeds revival. Where you see individual people or groups taking ownership of their sin and asking for forgiveness, get excited. Personal and corporate revival is just around the corner.

The recently retired Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini is one who has helped lead his church to such a place of revival that it has spilled over in a mission movement to the US. As I mentioned previously, this movement, The Anglican Mission in America, is now planting or adopting a new church about every 3 weeks.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Theolog: Crossing your Protestant self

It was while I was at First Cov in OH that I took back making the sign of the cross. I started each day in front of the altar and made the sign of the cross to devote myself to God. It continued for me when I was at Trinity where I could go to the chapel each day to kneel, cross myself, pray and light a candle. I miss that and am thinking about making a home altar.

There was a time when I angry at the Roman Catholic Church and shunned all things that smacked of Catholicism. Seminary really helped me overcome that and reintroduce certain elements of the Catholic faith as part of my worship. Crossing myself was one of those.

For me it's an act of commitment. There's no magic in it. I don't make God happy because I do it. He won't bless me more because of it. I'm not more pious because of it. There's no liturgical rule that I'm following that says I must. But I do it -- after I take communion and often at the beginning of my day. It's an ancient way that I use as an act of devotion.

I admit that I am a little self conscious about it when I do it in church but for me it's a symbolic action that is a connection point with God. When I cross myself it is a way of consecrating my head, my heart and whole being to Christ again. It's an act of consecration -- a way of pronouncing the cross over me -- of saying that I am Christ's and subject to the cross.

When done publicly it is a pronouncement of faith and letting others know that of my faith and to whom I belong. I am not my own. Crossing oneself is an act of consecration but it is also an act of adoration, blessing and honor Christ.

I know. Some of you without Catholic backgrounds actually need instruction on how to do this. Using your right hand, take your index and middle finger say, "In the name of the Father" while touching the center of your forehead, and then say, "and of the Son" while touching near the base of your sternum, and then say, "and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." while touching first your left shoulder and then right. Unless of course you are Eastern Orthodox, in which case you would touch your right shoulder first.

I encourage you -- do it now and consecrate yourself to Christ again or for the first time.

A friend shared this post with his pastor wryly suggesting the pastor cross himself in church on Sunday in their conservative General Conference Baptist Church. Surprisingly, the pastor replied that is was part of his private devotional practice though he added an element: He also touches his lips as a reminder that the Christ and the cross needs to guard what comes out his mouth. I really like that. It also reminded me that sometimes I make a Sammy Sosa heart thump too as way to say, "I love you Lord." -- but that's probably weird for those with and without liturgical leanings.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I've Been In The Wrong Churches

New Riverside Church pastor Rev. Brad Braxton's $600K compensation prompts parishioners' suit

New Riverside Church pastor says his raise was Lord-approved

Apparently I've been in the wrong churches. Pastor Braxton is pulling down $600k at Riverside Church. And I thought the Episcopal Church paid well.

This articles does bring up good questions. What do NYC churches do when they want their pastor to live in the community where their church is. A $100k here in upstate NY is living large whereas my friends down there still can't live in Manhattan comfortably for that. 600 large is lavish down there but not as much as you think. Book deals and other speaking engagements aside, I wonder if that makes him the pastor with the highest salary in the world?

Some of his parishioners are suing to have his salary reduced. That may be a first in church history: a lawsuit to reduce your pastor's salary. None of this is good.

Friday, May 01, 2009

“Faith Fighter” game unites religions in outrage | MediaWatchWatch

I stumbled across this hilarious site, MediaWatchWatch, which describes itself as:
"We keep an eye on those groups and individuals who, in order to protect their beliefs from offence, seek to limit freedom of expression. And we make fun of them."
They are just dripping with sarcasm. A recent post -- “Faith Fighter” game unites religions in outrage -- noted the outrage over a video game where Jesus, Mohammed, Ganesh, Buddha, Budai, and God Himself duked it out. For those who are interested it is a 1 or 2 player game.