Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Book Recommendation...or two

I would like to recommend a book I just finished called Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live by Will and Lisa Samson. The title basically tells you what you’re gonna get, and it’s pretty good stuff. For those who struggle to read raw information and require a storyline to get through a book: this is your book. Then again, this book also weaves in some good, solid information that informs, but also points the way to action—to incorporating social justice practices into your life.

Justice in the Burbs is probably better for someone who is already convinced that social justice is deeply interwoven into God’s plan for His followers. In other words, don’t give this one away to someone who might require more Scriptural evidence of God’s heart for social justice today. This is an “I get it, now what?” book. If you (or people you know) are wondering if God really cares about social justice, then get the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider. And grab a box of Kleenex before you dive into it. It will bring you face to face with the way things really are in the world and it will reveal God’s heart (throughout the Old & New Testament) for the poor, oppressed and marginalized and His demand that we seek justice. I’ll drop a few quotes from Sider’s book in future blogs, just to give you a taste. But if you’d like to order these books for yourself, you can get them at Amazon. Follow the links below:

For Justice in the Burbs:

For Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't GO to church...BE the church!

I've had a few people tell me they are unable to leave comments without setting up an account. Well, I've made it a little easier for you. You no longer have to have an account to leave a comment. Leave an anonymous comment or just type in your name whenever you type your response. the quote of the day. Well, this is less of a quote and more of a quip. Still, it's in line with our church theme. It's from Don Everts in his book Jesus With Dirty Feet. I didn't read this book, but found the quote in another source. Anyway, it's a fun quote that will also get you thinking. Here ya go: “Referring to the church as a building is like referring to people as two-by-fours.”

Be aware of God's presence and be a blessing to someone today!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rethinking Church

The first quote I gave you from Kimball got me thinking about some other church quotes, so I’ve decided to stick with this church theme for another day...maybe longer. Here’s one from Neil Cole in his book Organic Church:

“I have found that so many years of running church shows on Sunday mornings has imprinted upon our minds an understanding of church that is not necessarily biblical. We find it nearly impossible to even think about church without a Sunday morning service event, but this is not the biblical norm. When we read of church life, we read into the scriptural text this idea. Try reading your New Testament with new lenses. Try to imagine the New Testament church without a once-a-week service. In fact, there is much evidence that believers got together with their church families daily, not once a week—and the gathering had more to do with a meal together than with sanctimonious liturgy. How did we ever get to the place where church was nothing more than a one-and-half-hour service on a single day of the week at a specific location? I assure you, in Jesus’ eyes, the Church is more than that! He doesn’t limit His Church to a building, a location or a time frame.” Neil Cole, The Organic Church (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 40.

I know it can be frustrating to hear a critique of something without an alternative being offered. Quite honestly, I don’t subscribe to all of the alternative solutions set forth by Cole in his book. But my intention here is simply to raise questions and get you wrestling with some ideas. You can do with it whatever you please. Just don’t shoot the messenger. ;)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Today is a Gift

Shannon and I had dinner on Saturday with a couple we met recently at a worship gathering for The Well. They’re a super couple and we had a great time with them. During dinner, they talked about how they feel God leading them to some new type of ministry. They are dissatisfied with their jobs and with the present state of the church and are looking forward to the full revelation of God’s plan for them. I confessed that I could relate to their inner turmoil and that I genuinely identify with their feeling of being “lost in the wilderness.”

I was reflecting on this conversation yesterday and it occurred to me (or perhaps God reminded me) that I’ve spent a great amount of time throughout my life feeling dissatisfied; looking toward the future with this sense that “when I get there, things will be better.” But this isn’t how life should be for a Christ follower, is it? Jesus told people not to worry about tomorrow. Trust that what God has for you today is sufficient; it’s satisfying. And so I drafted a short email to my new friend and offered this word of encouragement:

“I pray that God will continue to reveal His plan to you both, although I believe that you are already in the thick of it. If I am learning anything through the ups and downs of planting this church it's this: there's never a final destination. If you live your life thinking that you'll arrive someday, you'll end up living a life of disappointment. Today is the gift. Today, when it is lived in complete obedience to God, is the destination. Savor it. Celebrate it.”

This is a lesson I am continuing to learn and one that I hope we’ll all learn sooner rather than later. The joy and celebration that are supposed to characterize us as followers of Christ depends on us finding contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment from the presence and provision of God today. So, be aware of God’s presence, celebrate it, and be a blessing to somebody today!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm a blogger

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9. The wisest man who ever lived penned these words. I tend to think he’s right (and I’m sure Solomon would be sooo relieved to have me on his side). Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought I’ve had some really original and profound thoughts only to find that someone else has already written a whole book about that idea, and very often, they’ve borrowed their thoughts from others. And so, for the longest time, I didn’t feel there would be any good reason to start my own blog. What do I have to say that anybody else would want to read or that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized that I have this very unusual gift: I really like to read. I read constantly (to Shannon’s chagrin). I like reading stuff that most people would only pick up if they were trying to overcome their insomnia. The other gift I have is a passion for the church. Specifically, I’m interested in seeing a renewal take place in the church; to help her return to her missional roots. Many of the things I read are driven by this desire.

And so, I’m bringing together these two passions in this blog. Here’s what you can expect (most of the time) when you come to my blog. I’m going to extract some of the best quotes from the best books I’ve read and present them to you here. You’re invited to share your comment about the quote, and hopefully, we’ll get some stimulating dialogue going. The theme will almost always be in the vein of the church, the kingdom, God’s mission, etc., so if you don’t like those things…well, I wouldn’t tell that to other people (at least not if you’re a Christ follower). My hope is that these quotes will stir something in you as they did in me. They may not be new ideas, but perhaps they’ll be new to you and will inspire you to think about, and respond to, God’s dreams in fresh ways.

I look forward to our dialogue. Scroll down and let's get started!

What is the Church?

Years ago, I read the book, The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. I didn’t “get it”. There were some things that were compelling about Kimball’s ideas, but mostly, I read it and thought, “yeah, we’re doing that.” The book was a required text for one of my classes at Fuller, so I read through a couple of chapters again and realized how great this book really is. Here’s a quote from a chapter that Kimball regards as the “second most important chapter” in his book:

“…what comes into our minds when we think of the word church is the most important thing shaping how we function as a church. The way leaders define church will determine how they measure success, where they focus our time and energy, how they design their strategies and form their ministry philosophies. How we define church will even determine the focus of our prayers. This, then, trickles into the minds and hearts of people in the congregation, shaping how they think of church.” Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2003), 92.

Kimball spends the rest of this chapter arguing how he believes this issue is bigger than semantics. What do you think? Does it matter if the church is understood as ‘a place you go’ as opposed to being ‘a group of Christ followers serving a common mission’?