Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trade As One

I just finished Brian McLaren's book, "Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope." I highly recommend this book. I've never been nutty over McLaren, but I have a great appreciation for his contribution to the church.

I'll share a quote or two in the days to come, but I wanted to pass on a website that McLaren introduces to his readers. It's Just go there. Look around. Buy something.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Church That Tells it Like it is

I would never have dreamed to have found this kind of information in a traditional Baptist Church's welcome material, but I guess Farmersville, Texas pastor Bart Barber is blazing a new trail. Here's what guests are greeted with:

So, you’re looking for a church home. What does First Baptist Church have to offer you? We offer you a cross to take up as Christ’s disciple. We offer you the chance to forfeit your vacation to serve a meal in a slum in Thailand, or carry gypsum wallboard up a flight of stairs to install into a Hurricane Katrina victim’s new home in Waveland, Mississippi. We offer you the chance to rush to church after a long Wednesday’s work, don an AWANA shirt, and lead a fifth-grader to a life-changing faith in Christ. We offer you a chance to lose your life, so that you might really find it.

We offer you a weekly confrontation with the Word of God. We promise that it will make us all uncomfortable sometimes. It will challenge our preconceived notions. It will make us think, and it might make us mad. It will ask us whether we’re doing the things that really matter in the long run. When the world says we’re worthless, God’s Word will pick us up and remind us what God thinks about us—God sees the value inside and loves us too much to leave us the way that we are.

We offer you the promise that you’ll have to do all of this alongside people who don’t look much like you and don’t always see the world the same way that you do. “One body...One Spirit...One hope...One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) That’s what First Baptist Church of Farmersville is all about. Why should churches be divided along lines of age, race, wealth, musical preference, occupation, or leisure pursuit? Contemporary churches. Traditional churches. Biker churches. Surfer churches. Singles churches. Senior adult churches. Is that what Jesus intended when He founded the church? We think not, and we have determined to build a transgenerational, transpreferential church in which people find their unity around the things that really matter: Christ, our salvation in Him, all of the teachings of His Word, and the work that He has given us to do.

Is that the kind of church you’re seeking? I can’t answer for you, but maybe that’s the wrong question to begin with. The question is, what kind of church is God seeking for you? We’re betting that He’s looking for a church a lot like ours, and we welcome the chance to open a conversation with you about it."

I'm not saying he's right on target (since I don't agree with everything he's written), but I'm sure I'm not entirely on target either. Personally, I like the direction this is going and can only hope and pray that more churches will start to move toward this.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Me-Centered Worship

Sometimes I raise questions about things that, I think, most people wish I would leave alone. Believe me when I tell you that I don’t take any twisted pleasure in this. It’s just that there are things about the way I have always “done church” that nag at me; they get stuck in my head and I can’t let them go. One of those things, as of late, has been corporate worship time.

By corporate worship time, I refer to the music / singing time that is a staple at most protestant worship gatherings. We stand. We sing some songs. Some churches engage in liturgy. Then we’re done. If the right songs were selected, or if the music was particularly moving that day, we feel satisfied. And perhaps some people genuinely connect with God. I certainly don’t want to deny that. Connecting with God in our music / singing is not what I’m taking issue with.

I’m concerned that a room full of people, who call themselves followers of a faith that binds them as brothers and sisters, join their voices together, but otherwise, make no other kind of connection. The “worship” they offer is worship in their heads and in their hearts to God for what God has done for them…in them…maybe even through them. Again, let me affirm that I believe that these are all good things!

But should there be more to it?

Oddly, the New Testament says very little about how to conduct our worship gatherings. The focus of the majority of the New Testament is on how we live in relationship to one another. Remaining united and committed to fellow brothers and sisters is of the utmost importance. The writer of Hebrews addresses the concern that some Christians are not meeting together as they should. They are urged to meet together and are challenged to “encourage one another” and “spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (10:24-25)”

In two other places in the New Testament, singing (presumably in a worship setting like a house church) is mentioned. In both cases, our singing is to be accompanied by the act of speaking hymns and songs to each other; to admonishing one another.

“…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…” Ephesians 5:19

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16

I picture the early church meeting together and sharing what God has been doing in each life, and through them as a unit—the body of Christ—the Church! Perhaps some are discouraged by persecution or because they have had to leave their biological families to join “the Way” and are brokenhearted over their loss, only to have their new family members rally around them to sing a hymn or psalm of encouragement to them. Then, in the next breath, they lift their voices to heaven to give thanks and praise to God for this new family, this new life, this new way of loving and being human.

I can predict that some might be thinking this thought: "Don't we have small groups for things like this?” Of course! Any environment where we can encourage one another in worship, we should! However, what do we do then with the music / singing time at our worship gatherings? Do we limit them to songs / experiences that deal largely with me—my relationship with God, my blessings, my issues while neglecting the dozens, or even hundreds, of people (brothers and sisters) we are standing and singing next to?

At worship gatherings of The Well, we’re going to begin experimenting with this kind of worship. It’s funny to say it (after 15+ years of “leading worship”), but I’m not really sure how to go about it.

But, I know this for sure: our collective worship times should be celebrations of what God is doing among us: me, you, we. I should share and celebrate the things God has done for and through you and I should share and celebrate the things God has done for and through us.

How can we change what we do, what we sing, how we interact, etc. so that our corporate, collective gatherings are not merely a bunch of Christ-followers singing me-centered worship songs? What can we and what should we do to breathe life into one another and into God’s purposes for us as a united church when we come together?

I’ve got a short list of ways to begin experimenting with these ideas, but if you’d like to contribute a suggestion, I’d love to hear it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Run For Your Life! It''s...Evangelism!!

If you’re like me, then you’ve felt a number of emotions when it comes to “evangelizing.” Namely, fear and guilt. We’ve been told that we need to talk to our friends about Jesus, but we feel unqualified or too intimidated to do it. However, if we find the “right” church, where we think our friends would feel comfortable at a worship service, then we try to muster the courage to invite them to a service and if they come, then…voila!...we have done our evangelistic duty.

But, maybe we’ve been looking at evangelism the wrong way. Maybe we’ve placed too much confidence in words—either ours or those of our teaching pastors. A lot of research today shows that people are not impelled to become part of our churches because of invitations or because of our attempts at talking them into faith. Dan Kimball, in particular has done a lot of research on this topic, but there are others (George Barna, Gordon Cosby, Shane Claiborne, to name a few) who have also made this observation.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time deconstructing and reconstructing my own ideas about evangelism and I presented them last Sunday night to my brothers and sisters at The Well. We had a dynamic conversation about it and they brought a lot of thoughtful insight to the discussion. I’ve posted the transcript of that discussion on our website, and you can follow the link below to download the pdf.

Go to and click on the “teachings” link. Then, click on the file marked Missional Evangelism to download the pdf.

If you take the time to read it, please come back here and post your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!