The Temple

Kingdom Assignment: Fair Haven Ministries Style

My good friend Tom Devries pastors Fair Haven Ministries in Michigan.  They recently did the Kingdom Assigment at their church and the story was picked up by NPR.  Pretty cool.  Check out the NPR story here.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Church | 1 Comment

Evangelicalism’s End?

Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has written a series of articles on what he calls the “Coming Evangelical Collapse” which he parlayed into an article in the Christian Science Monitor.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , | Leave a comment

The Energetic Pastor

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton writes about the position of President, and in Federalist Paper 70 he raises the issue of Energy in the Executive.  The fledgling union was struggling to put together a form of government that recognized the strength of a single Executive without the abuses of the monarchy from which they were extricating themselves.  Hence an article on the very idea of a necessary energetic executive in the running of the government.  In his article Hamilton speaks of the ingredients that lend to good energy in the Executive office:

“A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.

“Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?

“The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.”

Our new President is especially in need of the substantive ingredients constituting energy.  Elections are about the presentation and perception of “energy”.  We are sold on a prospective candidates potential energy, and then the test of office demonstrates whether that “energy” is real or contrived.  Barak Obama faces a challenge as large as any of our previous presidents, our hope is that he proves himself energetic.

Interestingly enough, there is a correspondence between the office of President and the office of Pastor, and the need for an “energetic Pastor”.  The same four characteristics are necessary for a pastor to provide energy to his office, and to energize the mission of the church.

Unity

Unity refers to a capacity to make singular the direction of an institution.  Hamilton was concerned with the distinction of King and President. The question became can we remove the tyranny that typically accompanies a singular executive, that is the king.  The challenge became, can we maintain unity in the executive with a team?  The answer was negative.  As a result, the idea of President as a singular executive, Truman’s the buck stops here, was affirmed in Federalist 70.

So in churches, a common element contributing to health is a singular, powerful pastor figure.  In the pastorate, even more so than in the Presidency, unity is a necessary component.  Church affiliation is voluntary.  Church allegiance is transitory.  Church support is negotiable, and a method of voting.  To attract and keep people, the pastor must walk the fine line of exercising authority and leadership while maintaining and integrating the necessary plurality of leadership that is prescribed in the Scripture.

One of the keys to unity is the clarity of the plan and direction (clear vision and mission) that is framed from a Biblical perspective.  Unity in the church, and hence unity that flows from the pastor, is a unity that is derived from and submissive to the true head, that is Christ.  This must define the leaders self-perception.  If he is selfish and arrogant he can still be strong and unify a group, but it is not the purpose of the church simply to have strong organizations.  It is the purpose of the church to embody Christ.  When the pastor embodies Christ personally, professionally and directionally he imparts that strong presence to the body, who in fact resonate with all the above as a result of their organic resonance with Christ, hence the pastor.

The unity desired in the body is a special unity.  It is derived from the Spirit, and submitted to by the body.  Hence the competency (see below) of the pastor becomes a key factor in achieving Biblical, Christ-centered and derived unity.

Duration

It goes without saying (doesn’t it?) that in order to achieve Godly results, duration is a necessary component.  Life change may begin with a big bang, a dramatic birthing and beginning, but its growth is elongated.  Our microwave culture mitigates against duration.  We want it now, and we encourage surface and apparent change.  The words “persevere” and “suffer long” are not popular modern Christian terms.

As far as the executive is concerned, duration becomes the appraisal of fitness for ministry.  It is easy to preach one sermon, teach a series, give people my best for a year.  It is a whole different matter to endure before a congregation.  When a group of people can watch you raise your family in their midst, they learn more than any parenting series you could teach.  The church is about life together (thanks Dietrich), and living together takes time. We need more pastors, and more people to stick around and stay put.   Sure, it points out my weaknesses, but presents just more opportunity to point to the true leader.

Support

I have discovered that the church government is not American government.  Church leadership is not about checks and balances, or competing entities striving to get their own way or wield power.  Church leadership is about support.  Church leadership is the stage upon which the church learns how to treat “one another”.  All the one another passages of Scripture are to be played out by the leadership of any church to display what it means to live with one another, to forbear with one another, to encourage one another, to be at peace with one another, to serve one another.

An energetic executive cultivates an atmosphere of support.  He does that by first being a strong support.  The daily work of the pastor is where support is cultivated.  There are some old fashioned pastoring techniques that should be revisited here to achieve the requisite support necessary to build the church.  Ultimately, people give to churches monetarily because they support the pastor.  They support the pastor because he first supported them.

Competency

Uh-oh.  Is the term “Competent Pastor” an oxymoron?  Is there a corollary to the phrase, “those who can’t do, teach” for the ministry?

There is a requisite humility required to pastor.  I often ask the question “who am I?” when reflecting on my role as a pastor.  It is truly a humbling vocation.  With the humility there must be a confidence without which no executive can exert energy.  This confidence must reflect an accurate assessment of competency.

The pastor must be competent in the following areas:

  • Spiritual health, growth
  • Integrity
  • The Scriptures
  • The mind
  • Relationships
  • Communication

I am sure there are many more.  But these seem like the critical areas to me.  Too many pastors are incompetent. This incompetence covers the gamut from big to small churches.  We often ascribe competence to church size, another accommodation to culture.  Pastoral competence (sometimes) has nothing to do with church size.  Many small church pastors are incompetent, and some large church pastors display incompetence in the above areas.  They probably have a rare competence that leads to the large church experience, but are woefully incompetent in many Biblical pastoral ways.

So there it is guys, for those of you who are pastors/elders in churches, what do you think of the list?

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Leadership, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday and Lent

I am not a holiday fan.

I know, grinch-ish.  Nonetheless, they tend to move people in the opposite direction of their intention.  Valentine’s day causes men to believe that the only day they need to buy flowers for their wife is Feb. 14.

“What more do you want from me?”

Burial of the Sardine

So Ash Wednesday and Lent birth Mardi Gras and the false asceticism of lent practices.  Mardi Gras brings out the worst in human behavior, all before we have to get better for lent.  Then we purge for forty days prior to Holy celebrations of Easter only to revert back to “normal” after it is all over.

This is not healthy Christianity.

Here are some of the things we are “giving up” for lent (from Twitter):

Facebook
Texting
Beef
Caffeine
Ben & Jerry’s
Despair
Fast food
Peanut butter
Negative Thinking
Extraneous spending
Alcohol

So the assumption behind the “giving up” for lent is that when it is over we can revert to unhealthy, petty, insignificant, destructive behaviors and restore a “normal” life.  Holidays should not discourage us from maturity, but spur us on to “holi”ness.  So don’t give up a thing for lent. Instead, add a good habit that will begin in the forty days and stick beyond Easter, and because of Easter, which is a celebration of life.  Lent , like all holidays, should be a time of exaggerated living, that is, people trying to increase good behavior.  Give more, pray more, love more, help more, make an extra effort at positive holiness.

We demean the celebration by highlighting our negative behavior, appeasing  our conscience by refraining from them for a season when they should not be a part of our life or an issue at all.  Giving up texting is an unnecessary and trivial exercise.  Texting?  We use these issues as excuses to ignore  the root of the matter.  Instead of giving up texting, do what you are supposed to do when you are texting.  If you are feeling guilty about texting, is it because it is keeping you from…working???  So get to work.  You should probably give up fast food forever, it will kill you early.  Why give it up for lent?  Why not regard your body with the respect it deserves as a precious gift from God and care for it, all year.  Are you seriously going to go back to “negative thinking” after Easter?  Stop using holidays as an excuse for mediocre living.

The Battle between Carnival and Lent

"The Battle between Carnival and Lent"

Maybe I am overreacting, but I for one find this cyclical pattern harmful to my overall progress in Christ.  Make this Holy Season a time to celebrate Christ in a superior fashion.

Christian growth is attempted in one of two ways:  The first attempts the giving up of certain practices.  “Stop doing that!” is the mantra of this camp.

The second, and superior way, attempts to add healthy and positive behaviors to life, and like bermuda grass, the strength and tenacity of health chokes out unhealthy and destructive behavior.

The first way only has limited success and results in legalism and arrogance.  The second way is rewarding and helps us to get to the goal: Christlikeness.

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, Christmas should reflect ongoing values and behaviors, affirming and celebrating the upward journey.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Praying at the Property

Nuevo Community Church is purchasing 17 acres of land in Nuevo for future development.  Last weekend was our Vision Weekend and we asked those who wanted to go to the property after services for prayer.  Pray for us, escrow is closing soon (hopefully) and we are excited at the blessing.  Great piece of property!!

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Church | , | 2 Comments

Proposition 8 & The Church

I do not intend this post to be an endorsement for or against Proposition 8 rather to raise some issues as to how the church involves itself in issues like the one surrounding Proposition 8.

The Proposition

Proposition 8 is an initiative on the 2008 California General Election Ballot.  If passed it would force an amendment to the California Constitution to include the statement “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“Prop. 8 is About Preserving Marriage; It’s Not an Attack on the Gay Lifestyle. Proposition 8 doesn’t take away any rights or benefits from gays or lesbians in domestic partnerships.  Under California law, “domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits” as married spouses. (Family Code §297.5.) There are no exceptions. Proposition 8 will not change this.” (This is from “Protect Marriage – Yes on 8” Campaign)

The Position

There is a great deal of heat surrounding the proposition and the Constitutional amendment.  I just watched a half hour video mailed to the church free of charge from AFA (You can watch the video at American Family Association) calling on churches to inform their congregations to register and to vote for Proposition 8.  The video was full of clips from homosexual “marriages” performed in courthouses soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 (passed in 2000 by California voters) was unconstitutional and opened the door for gay marriage in California.  It also made it clear that it was the duty of every pastor to get the word out to their congregations to register to vote and to vote yes on Proposition 8.

The Problem

The problems raised by the amendment and the PR campaign are numerous and regardless of your position, conversation on the process is a must. Political rhetoric has its own rules and agendas. When the church gets pulled into the “silly season” Continue reading

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values, Ethics, Politics, Politics and Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 55 Comments

The Holy Spirit is an Enchilada

PhotobucketThat makes me laugh…uneasily.

So I am trying to finish my sermon this Friday afternoon and forgot to close my office door when a woman knocks at our outer door.  She is let in by a faithful staffer who fields her questions about hiring someone trustworthy to do odd jobs at her home.  She is elderly, but competent.  She normally does her own work, but is getting tired, not lazy, and wants to hire someone.  She has money, the Lord provides, and she wants to pay by the hour…not by the job.

It is an interesting phenomenon that occurs regularly at the church.  But that is not what “got” me today.  As she was wrapping up her very loud interaction, our staff person asked her where she went to church.  She responded that she went to church in a neighboring town where a couple pastored, and proceeded to say she would come to our church but she and her church were “spirit-filled” and she would be bored here, since we didn’t indulge in tongues, etc.  Our staff person responded with “we are filled with the Spirit as well…”

“Yeah, but I want the whole enchilada…”

PhotobucketThat’s when it hit me.  The Holy Spirit is an Enchilada.

How could I have missed it?  So I am planning on Mexican food for dinner, so I can get the whole Enchilada. Could it be that simple?  You bet.  I wonder if her church serves Enchiladas every Sunday?

Enchilada is the past participle of Spanish “enchilar”, “to add chili pepper to”, so that certainly fits the functioning of the Holy Spirit – chili pepper would be the equivalent to power. We could all use some power of the chili pepper. The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada, as used in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, as a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chile sauce.Photobucket
“Enchilada.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 12 Sep 2008, 09:03 UTC. 12 Sep 2008 .

So Enchiladas are stuffed…meaning they have many different fillings…a variety of fillings so to speak, but the same Enchilada…

You can learn so much if you are just open and willing to listen and not be so narrow minded.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Silly Stuff | , , , , | 5 Comments

John Crowder: Extremely Emerging Post-modern Post-Pentecostal

Every pastor has a bad sermon. I have had a few. Now I have something new to watch to help me get over my bad sermon blah’s…John Crowder. One look at this guys sermons and I can always say…”not as bad as that guy”, or I can just send a copy to the elders every week so they say, “At least Steve is better than that!”

Unbelievable. The following are some of John’s followers…

Drinking the Word. I really don’t know if this is just a huge spoof…The guy’s name is John Crowder, but he looks a lot like David Crowder…

Well, you can check out their explanation if you want below (John Crowder and Ben Dunn, Ben is John’s “Robin”), and check out their response to another blogger at zoecarnate.

They seem to be a cross between post Pentecostals and Emerging extremists. If you read the blog at zoecarnate you will see a guy who thinks he is smarter than you are, condescending to broadly criticize the whole of the church based on his straw man construction of the church. He consistently makes the mistake of bifurcation: The Holy Spirit is either mystical (in his opinion “right” and undefined) or intellectual (wrong and reflective of the traditional church). He also thinks that the culture determines the conduit of the message: In a post-modern context the only way to communicate is to be post-modern. I think the videos speak for themselves.

John Crowder & Ben Dunn on Drugs

ht: Scotteriology

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Culture - Values, Emerging Church, Silly Stuff, Stupid Stuff | , , , | 36 Comments

Tornado destroys our Church in Windsor

Be praying for Pastor Dan Harty and our sister church Windsor Community Church (Missionary Church) in Windsor, Colorado. Yesterday a tornado destroyed their church building, check out the photos. If you want to help the church you can send a check to our district office (address below) made out the the “Missionary Church Western District” marked “assistance for Windsor”.

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Missionary Church Western District
484 E. Los Angeles Ave., Suite #228
Moorpark, CA 93021

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Church | 1 Comment

Evangelicals and Homosexuality

Michael Spencer at the Internet Monk has written a provocative and insightful post called “What Do Gays and Lesbians Hear?” on Evangelical challenges in rightly dealing with the issue of homosexuality.

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March 30, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | Leave a comment