Wednesday, January 26, 2011

how i learned to annoy dinosaurs

photo: Property#1
I came by my subversive tendencies honestly, and ironically they began in the church.

The world has enough blogs and books where young men bash the church from an ivory tower of either religious or academic superiority.  I don't ever intend to do that here.

The truth is: despite her faults, I love the Church.  Most of my best friendships revolve around church in one way or another.

Nevertheless, as all married people know, the longer you love someone (or something), the easier it is to see their faults.

The way my mom tells the story, I've been in church nearly every Sunday since the week after I was born, except those few where I was too sick to attend or a couple of weeks in college where I became a member of Bedside Baptist Church (not a real church - I slept in, sorry mom).

My home church growing up was pastored by a church planter who had grown up in rural Missouri.  He used words like "swimming hole", and he told us stories of his early days in ministry where farm folk would sometimes pay his salary in freshly butchered meat.

Yet, he was eloquent - incredibly so.  He started teaching adjunct classes at my Bible College while I was still attending, and I suddenly became self-conscious when talking around him.  I knew that my penchant for swear words and dirty jokes sounded cheap against his memorized quotes of Scripture, Lewis, Lincoln, Tolkien, Bonhoeffer, Wormbrand and countless others.

His was not a mouth trained by noble birth or impressive education.  Rather, it was that of a man who clearly believed that his life was precious and that his words were as numbered as his days.

This man taught me that ordinary men could be extraordinary if they followed Jesus as he did.  He knew this because Jesus chose 12 ordinary men to start with, and they changed the world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

who am I?

photo: Craig Allen

So, who am I?

What gives me the right to talk about who is a dinosaur and who is not?

I'm a church planter, and by that I mean I am training to plant a church, not that I've ever actually done it yet.

I became a Christian at the age of 12 in a fairly typical suburban church in Omaha, NE.

My mother is a Christian, and my father was and is still a practicing Hindu.

In high school, I developed a close friendship with a girl from our church.  She modeled Christian perfection: youth group leader, served in children's ministry, sang on the worship team.

During her senior year, she tried to commit suicide.

I encountered a crisis of faith when the very same religion that supposedly offered eternal life couldn't even sustain her temporal life.

God called me to ministry that same year, so I went to Bible college after high school and graduated with a four year degree in pastoral ministry.

That degree has so far accomplished very little for me.  Most churches I would want to work at require something north of five years experience and a master's degree.  How you get either without being independently wealthy, being a well-known pastor's son, or having a lot of "stage presence", I have no idea.

It would be easy for that last part to sound bitter.  I promise it's not.

To be honest, God had to show me how impossible it was to just make a job out of ministry.  You see, the churches that are worth working for are too hard to get into unless God gives you the raw talent or right last name to impress an organization that's already at the top of its game.

And the churches not worth working for are a dead end.  Trust me, I got fired from one . . . twice.

I always dreamed of planting a church, but I listened to the established churches that said I needed those elusive five years experience and that expensive master's degree.

God shook me free from that conventional wisdom through heartache, job loss, and tragedy.

Now I'm a man on a mission.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

age is just a number

photo: flickr

I want to be very clear that being a "dinosaur" has nothing to do with age.

In churches, dinosaurs can be old, young, rich, poor, skinny, fat, etc.  They can often be us.

This blog will perpetually run the danger of overextending the metaphor, but with that risk in mind . . .

The dinosaur is that part of us that values tradition over truth.  It likes being comfortable more than it likes being genuine.  It makes us cause conflict when having peace would mean that we have to change.

"Never try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur.  It wastes your time and annoys the dinosaur." is a play on a similar proverb: "Never try to teach a pig to sing.  It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

I like Hugh's update of the proverb.  The dinosaur has something to lose.  The pig doesn't.

I'm sure that the dinosaur exists in all organizations, but I think it dwells more prevalently in the church.

In businesses, dinosaurs stand to lose jobs or positions of status because of technological innovations or cultural shifts, but the losses are confined almost entirely to the material or social realm.

In churches, dinosaurs feel their very identity threatened; not just in a "no one will know who I am" kind of way but also in a "I won't even know who I am" way.  

In some ways I sympathize with the dinosaurs, but I also know that they must change.

Whenever the gospel gets in the way of my preferences, I need to let go of anything outside of Jesus that I've made part of my identity.  It very often feels like dying, or at least what I imagine dying to feel like.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

being light vs. being annoying.

Christians often mistake being annoying for being a witness to non-Christians.

Around Christmas, this manifests itself in the "Christmas wars", the annual debate over whether retail workers should say, "Merry Christmas," "Happy holidays," or "Seasons greetings."  Many Christians passive-aggressively or even hostilely assault these unsuspecting clerks with their frustrated Christmas greeting, showing neither merriment nor joy in doing so.

If the story of Christianity is true, as I believe it is, then the God of the universe humbled Himself and became like one of His creatures, descending into a dark, chaotic, and violent world bent on a self-sacrificing path toward the redemption of all mankind.

Assuming that actually happened, I highly doubt God much cares whether or not a retail worker who may or may not even believe in Him greets Christians with "Merry Christmas" as they buy presents for other people.

Last Sunday, I had the chance to preach at our church, and I asked the question, "What does it really look like to show Jesus to the world?"

You can find it online on the Reliance Church website.

(The download link is in blue hyperlink text next to the audio player.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

never try to sell a meteor


A few years ago, I saw the above cartoon on Hugh McLeod's

I don't know why, but it meant something to me at the time.  Perhaps it was the combination of this cartoon and another that said: "If you talked to people the way that advertisers talk to people, they'd punch you in the face."

I was finishing Bible college at the time and preparing to work in a church full-time, but I had this lingering sense that churches talked to people like advertisers, and I wanted to stop that.

The only problem was that this strategy, the mass-marketing, polished ad campaign, easy-access Sunday service kind of church was incredibly effective at attracting people.  Bill Hybels, the inventor of this consumer-oriented church strategy, now admits that it has been largely ineffective at deeply affecting very many lives, but even that admission hasn't stopped the madness.

See, big crowds equal big dollars if you're doing it right.  The right songs, plus the right message, plus the right lighting and ambiance can open virtually any miser's pocketbook for at least a few bucks.  Pastors can then build big buildings, support mission trips, speak to thousands each week, and be backed by an adult-contemporary quality band.  It's the dream: ministry without the barrier of resources.

So selling the opposite isn't very popular.  It feels a little bit like trying to sell a meteor to a dinosaur.  Nobody wants to buy in to something that they feel could very well kill them, unless they're crazy, reckless, or able to see some bigger purpose behind it.

On that note, welcome to Annoys the Dinosaur.

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