Wednesday, April 02, 2014

No Church is Better Than a Mean Church

I appreciate this article by Rachel Evans. I believe God has raised her up to speak to the church in these days. She addresses the recent fiasco with World Vision that I mentioned last week in a Facebook post (see March 27).
Along with Rachel, I'm really concerned about the mean-spirited portion of the evangelical church. I know they are only a portion, but because they often speak so loudly, people tend to see them as THE CHURCH.
Dialogue and Dignity
The church today needs to learn to promote dialogue over dogma...or more simply, relationship over rules. That doesn't mean we abandon our beliefs but it means we prize the dignity of people right behind the worship of God. We may not agree with what others think or how they live, but as God's creation, they have inherit dignity/value that we must honor if we are to honor God.
Let's Listen More, Speak Less
Whenever there is controversy it tells me we all need to listen more and speak less. Christians are too quick to take a stand on an issue they haven't fully thought through. But feeling the need to defend God and the Bible, they "take a stand," often polarizing the discussion into a no-win scenario. We need to find a third way to approach whatever the problem is because clearly what we are doing isn't working.
Respect Means Safe
We've worked hard through the years to make Cedarbrook Church a safe place to disagree and ask questions about faith. I don't expect everyone to agree with us but I always want people to walk away feeling respected and heard. I'm just writing to reaffirm my commitment to this and let people know that as we help Jamie Staples start a church in Eau Claire, we will work to create the same environment there.
As Rachel says, there is a new generation of believers and they won't tolerate the mean spiritedness. They will choose no church over a mean church. Here's to a church that not only preaches salvation by grace but living with grace for others.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why We Don't Say the Lord's Prayer on Sunday

I taught on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount on Sunday. I gave a sweeping overview of his Sermon to help us see that Jesus was calling us to a kingdom lifestyle NOW to start the process of bringing heaven to earth, as Jesus will do fully when he comes again.

I touched briefly on the Lord's Prayer. I had written the following comments as a part of my message but then realized that they weren't relevant to my point, so I deleted them. I pass them on here to simply answer the question: Why don't we say the Lord's Prayer on Sunday?

People often ask me why we don’t pray the Lord’s prayer in church for our Sunday services. Many people grew up praying this in unison as a part of their church service and feel it missing in their Cedarbrook experience.  

There are two reasons for this and they are both rooted in the very text where the Lord’s Prayer is mentioned. One reason is: Jesus didn’t give this prayer to pray in public services. He mentions that just before the prayer:
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

I think it’s ironic that Jesus told us to not pray this in public but now it’s a standard prayer in a lot of church services.

The other reason we don’t pray this prayer is something Jesus also said here in context:
….And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7,8

In other words, some people seem to think that there is value is saying the prayer, all on its own…like the words have some kind of magical power, even if they don’t mean anything to them. But that’s the last kind of prayer God wants to hear. He wants us to be praying prayers from the heart. Prayers that we mean.  Prayers that mean nothing are what pagans do. They are more like incantations…magical word formulas to manipulate the gods.

I don’t have anything against people saying the Lord’s Prayer in public, as long as the words are heart felt expressions of how God’s people corporately feel.

I hope this helps answer the question. Of course, for creatures of habit, this answer might not satisfy. The Lord’s Prayer just “feels right” and no answer will change that. I’m okay with that too. I just want to let people know my reasoning. Peace.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Six Weeks in Chile

You may have heard that our LEAD team has granted me a three month sabbatical.  Sabbaticals are often offered to pastors after seven years of serving a church. Sabbaticals are a time of refreshing and rejuvenation to help refill the emotional and spiritual tank of pastors. 

Why do pastors get a sabbatical when most people don't?  Professors also are granted sabbaticals. It has to do with anyone who is in a continual role of teaching. It's very draining on the mind. Teachers inevitably get stale after a while and need refreshing.

When I asked our Operations Team for what they thought might be a good idea for a sabbatical, they said, "Get as far away from Menomonie as possible. Have experiences that you can draw on for your messages."  One person suggested I go to a language school.

I liked their ideas. So Lisa and I will be heading to Chile, South America for six weeks this summer. (I decided to split my sabbatical into two six week sessions to have less of an impact on the church). Here's what we have planned:

  • Week One and Two: Language school in Vina del Mar. We'll live with a local family and be in class four hours a day for two weeks.
  • Week Three: We'll meet other Cedarbrookers in northern Chile (Calama, the driest region in the world) for a ten day mission helping the local Covenant church build a community center and minister to their people.
  • Week Four and Five: Alejandra, from the Covenant Missions office, will join Lisa and me as our guide and interpreter. We will visit the Covenant churches in southern Chile to offer encouragement and direction.
  • Week Six: We will find a quiet place to be refreshed before returning home.

I'm looking forward to this, as are Kyle and Sten as they will be speaking in my absence. We went away for a short retreat this week to plan the upcoming sermon series through this summer.

Let me know if you have any questions.