Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Small Church: A little of this, a little of that.

As I sit here in the confines of my office, surrounded by the pastoral trappings of the church, I think about our future.

The church as we know it is a mix of GPS and stained glass.  It is a mix of history, both recent and ancient and of modern culture.  It's a mix of the pipe organ and the electric guitar.  It's a mix of the Public library and of the HD Television.  Clearly the mission of the modern church requires understanding that the mission is a mix of the old and the new.

And in the church, sometimes we find that a tension exits between the old and the new.  This happened here in our church recently when we replaced the hymnals for our worship service.  You wouldn't think people would get worked up about hymnals would you?  After all, it's just songs on paper, right?  There were some who thought the hymnals we were using, which were published in 1956, were good enough.   There were other people who felt that it was time to upgrade to a new hymnal that included some of the more modern music as well as the traditional music we have become accustomed to.  So as you can see, there are times when there is a tension between the old and the new.  The people who wanted the older hymnal were threatened by something new.  The people who wanted a newer hymnal felt like the old one was irrelevant and obsolete.

Although this is a truth every Christian must understand, it sometimes becomes a barrier to the mission of the church.  What is it that makes it so difficult for human beings to make adjustments in their lives?  Why is it so difficult for churches make adjustments?  Or do they simply not see the need?  Yet, churches today continue to use the same methods that were used thirty, even forty years ago.

I lived in England for a year and served a baptist church there.  As a Staff Person at the largest baptist church in the area I was given opportunities to preach at other churches from time to time.  There was one church that I was asked to preach at several times.  I'm sure it had been at one time a vibrant and wonderful church.  But at the time I was there, it was five or six people who worshiped twice a month in a tiny building in a tiny English village.  Five or six people...that's all that was left.  I wonder if there was ever a time when they thought "Maybe we should make some changes."  I don't know if that ever happened, but if it did, they either didn't make changes or didn't change enough.  I've always wondered how they got to that point. 

I write these things not because of some need to desire to communicate certain values or beliefs of mine, but simply as a way of processing and thinking through some of these issues of the small church.  In the coming weeks, I am going to try to write a series of entries about my observations and questions about the future of the small church.  As I contemplate the future of the small church, and especially of my small church, I am convinced that it's understanding of and willingness to embrace change lies at the very center of it's future.      

So God, bring the changes we need.  Give me a heart to embrace your changes not mine.  Make my desire to lead my people a burning fire that can't be put out.  Give them a burning desire for Jesus.  Amen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I just passed a Clown in a Volvo

So the other day we were on the way back from the North Carolina Coast from my parents house.  On the return trip we were driving west on I-40.  We approached a early model Volvo driving a little erratic.  Of course, every time I see an older Volvo I think Hippie-granola.  They always seem to be the kind of people who are always talking about "going green."  Only in this case they really were green, the ugliest color of puke green you can imagine: Yuck!  As I got closer I noticed that they had a University of Virginia sticker in the back window.  My brother in law and sister in law are graduates of the University of Virginia.  As I got closer they continued to weave back and forth.  "It figures" I thought, thinking about that rear window sticker.  Finally I accelerated to pass, making sure to look over at the driver and give him or her my "You shouldn't be allowed to drive" stare.   This is where things got interesting.  When I looked over I realized he was wearing Mime makeup.  Yeah, that's right, Mime makeup, or maybe it was clown makeup.  Who knows which it was.  All I could think to myself was "I just passed a mime in a volvo down I-40."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pastor Chris' Lent Challenge

Ok Baptists, Tar Heels  and well, everybody else.
Lent starts soon.  Now I realize that as baptists we are not supposed to know what in the heck Lent is.  Unless, that is, you grew up Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican or soon other more liturgical denomination.  I know, Baptists aren't in  to that kind of thing.  Well, for those of you baptists who are saying "What is Lent?"  Lent is the season on the church calendar that immediately preceding Easter.  This is a time for the Christian of prayer, repentance and self denial.

One of the traditional ways of observing Lent is to refrain form eating Meat during the season of Lent.  This is how I am going to observe Lent this year.  I challenge you to observe Lent with me.  Join with me by denying yourself something.  Give up Coffee, or sweets or meat or, well whatever, something that you love.  Give up something that you long for, that you experience every day.

Lent starts on with Wednesday March 9, commonly known as Ash Wednesday.  It ends on April 24 on Easter.  I encourage you to join me in observing Lent this year.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't you just love Christmas?

I was at the Mall during Christmas doing some Christmas shopping with one of my children last week. My son and I were shopping for some things for my wife and daughter.  As we waited at the counter to be helped, the lady behind the counter informed us we would have to wait for a few minutes.  My son spent his time waiting by rifling through a nearby container of "clearance items," occasionally stopping to inform me of a "good deal." 

As I stared off into the distance thinking of my happy place I became aware of someone standing beside me. I really didn't pay that much attention to him until he spoke.  As we were surrounded by the trappings of Christmas he say the words "Don't you just love Christmas."  I responded by saying "I do, I really love Christmas."

Now here is the amusing part of this story.  Almost as soon as I responded I thought to myself "Wait, was he being sarcastic?"  He was.  I guess it just goes to show how different one person's view of things might be than the next person.  People are so different.  People think that other people share their values, attitudes and perceptions.  They don't   People are radically different, and that is what makes our relationships with one another so rich, we are all different.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Michael Jordan IS Tar Heel Basketball!

Hello Tar heels!

I hope you all had a good Christmas.  I had a very interesting experience recently.  I took my son Micah to his first Tar Heel Basketball game.  It was an exciting experience for both Micah and me.  The crowd, the band, the cheerleaders, the announcer, and the surrounding fans all added to the moment.

There was one thing I found particularly interesting.  During halftime and at certain points during the game the stadium does commercials on the jumbotron.  These commercials are much like the ones they might run for the universities playing during a televised game.   During one of the breaks they ran a commercial for Tar Heel Basketball.  This commercial took the form of several famous Tar Heel Basketball players and personalities coming on the screen, announcing their name followed with the words "I'm a Tar Heel!".  Some players got more response than others.  People clapped for Roy Williams.  People clapped a lot for James Worthy .  People went crazy when Phil Ford came on the screen.  There was various response to the different Tar Heel Basketball people.

Now here is the interesting part for me.  The last person to come on the screen was Michael Jordan.  But Michael Jordan doesn't identify himself.  He never says who he is.  He simply and calmly says "I'm a Tar Heel."  And the crowd goes absolutely berserk.

He never identified Himself!  He never said who he was!  Everyone else said who they were.   So Here are my conclusions.
1)  Michael Jordan doesn't have to identify himself.
2)  Michael Jordan is Tar Heel Basketball

There are times When I wonder if this is how Jesus wishes it was in His Church.
There are times when I wonder if the modern Church would recognize Him.

Again, conclusions:
1)  Jesus and His Values should be easily recognizable to the Modern Church.
2)  Jesus should need no introductions.
3)  Jesus IS the Church.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

D is for DUDE!

Hello, sorry I have been here in a while. I suppose I fell off the wagon.

I have a lot of nicknames for my son Micah.  I call him Bear, M.C., Hammer, Boo Boo, Bee Bee, Dude, Duder and perhaps my favorite, Duderonomy.  So, to summarize, Micah has a lot of nicknames that I use for Him

So recently, my wife and children went to one of those "paint your own pottery places.". The one we normal go to is the "Mad Platter" in Burlington NC.  The other day they came home with these decorative ceramic letters that they had made when i was away somewhere.  They all wanted to show me the decorative letters they had made.  My wife had made a "C", presumably for our last name.  I asked them why we had a "w", to which My daughter Makaley quickly informed me was an "M" for Makaley, not a "W."

Finally, my son Micah made a "D."  Using all my empirical powers I racked my brain trying to divine why Micah would make a "D" and What it stood for.  Nobody in our family has a name that starts with a "D."  I couldn't think our anybody else that might have a "D" name that Micah might give his decorative ceramic letter to.  Finally, I was forced to admit my intellectual defeat and ask my wife what the "D" stood for.

"D" is for "Duderonomy!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons from a Fisherman

I just got back from my fishing trip in Manteo at the outer banks. We're fishing in the surf which isn't easy. I'm not much of a fisherman. I don't have the patience for it. But I'm here trying to learn about fishing. Jesus compared the core pursuit of the Christian life to fishing. As we continue the pursuit of acquiring enough fish for a fish fry I've been thinking of the pursuit of being fishers of men. That was what Jesus said we were to be.  So here are my observations about how be an effective fisherman.

1. Find the right place
The place we chose dramatically affected how effective our fishing was.  When we made a good choice and found a good spot, the fishing was good.   However, when the spot was not as good the results weren't that good either.  As Christians, we need to out ourselves in the right place to be effective.  As a Christian, you don't become effective by fishing at the church.  There aren't any fish there.  To be a good fisherman you have to go where the fish are.  Any decent church should be full of fishermen, not fish, that means we need to get away from the church.  

2. Use the right bait
On our trip in, we stopped to purchase some fish and shrimp for bait.  We could have used lures I suppose but that would not have been the right bait for the fishing we were doing.   There is such a thing as using the right bait in becoming an effective christian too.  Too many Christians and churches use the wrong bait.  They substitute morality or religion for faith and forgiveness.  Jesus never addressed people on the basis of their moral failures or successes.  He talked to them about there real need.  He talked to them about their need to know and experience the presence of God.  Too many churches use the loser bait of church attendance.  The bait that attracts people is the transforming love of God.   

3. Use the right method
I've been fishing with my father hundreds of times.  My father is a real, old timey, seaside fisherman.  I've seen him sometimes add more weight to his line.  I've seen him change the line to a heavier line.  I've also seen fish using a fly fishing rod.  He uses a variation of bait and lures.  I've been with him fishing in creeks, lakes and the ocean and seen him switch it up based on the situation.  I was talking one of my guys on the fishing trip and this is the principle he described about fishing:  "The conditions have to determine the type of fishing you do."

As I think about our call as Christians to be fishers of men, I think the methods we use are also important.  And unfortunatley some methods are losers.  Every method doesn't work for every person.  The way I would talk to a child about Jesus is very different from the way I would an adult.  I would talk to an adult I knew well differently than I would someone I just met.  There have been times when all I did was to say "do you want to be a Christian?"  There have also been times when I took food, and repeatedly visited someone in an effort to reach them.  Every person is different and methods we use might have to be changed based on the person.