Archive for the ‘Church’ Tag

A Place to Belong   1 comment

Everyone seems to have an internal craving to have a place where she/he belongs.  This was made evident to me in the popularity of a television show that was extremely popular a few years back.  Maybe this intro will bring back those thoughts:

What would happen if the church became a place where anyone felt they belong?  We give a lot of lip service to the concept but I do not see that it is how we live in the church.  We have so many barriers.  We have so many rules and limitations.  These are items that humans have applied.  These are not given to us by the Lord.

I dream of a time when the church truly was a place to belong.

What Do You Offer?   1 comment

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Individuals who are contemplating starting a new business have to consider what their business is going to offer.  So they may do some market research in their area and compare that to what they feel they are capable of providing before making a concrete business plan.  Companies that have been in existence over a period of time often arrive at a time when they must evaluate if what they are offering to the general public is something that remains of value or if they need to adjust and offer something new.

Now I am not one that believes that the church should operate identical to a business.  In fact, I see a whole variety of flaws in this type of thinking and approach.  The church is not a business and using all business practices in a church setting leaves out space for the Holy Spirit.  However, there are some aspects of business behavior that can shine some light on the decisions and activities of the church.

One place that I find might be helpful for the church to adopt some business-like approach is in regards to what we have to offer the general population.  The easy answer to that is that we have God, as known through Jesus Christ, as the item that we have to offer.  However, I am not always convince that many churches actually do offer that to people.  I also think that the ones that attempt to offer God to the people need to re-evaluate their methods for doing such offering.  Sometimes I feel that the church offers their human concepts and approaches much more than they ever do God’s.  At other times, I find the offering of God to be according to the church’s interpretation of God and how they feel God should behave.

I am finding it more and more important to realize that God does not have to be offered by the church.  I strongly believe that God does a perfectly fine job of marketing and presenting God’s self to the world.  Instead, I feel the church should be offering opportunities for people to explore and discover God.  Exploration means that we do not define or judge a person’s discoveries but instead, we provide support for them along the path.  We cut down the branches and move the boulders so that they can safely journey toward God.  Along the way, we demonstrate that love of God which provides the nourishment and encouragement necessary on what can easily become a difficult journey.

So I would have to say that I do not believe the answer to the question that headlines this post is GOD, but instead it should be a partner on the journey to discover God.

What Is Grace   Leave a comment


forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

Grace is giving without cause or merit.  Most often we associate grace with forgiveness.  While they are closely linked they are not necessarily the same.  Forgiveness is to grant pardon and no longer feel resentment towards someone who we have determined has wronged us.  We often assume that to offer forgiveness has a requirement of the other person admitting wrong and seeking to be forgiven. Grace says that the requirement is null and void.

I think that I am pretty good at the forgiveness component most of the time.  Where I run into a struggle is in the grace department.  Yet I expect to receive grace.  I also believe that the concept of grace is key to my belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ.  For Christ demonstrated grace and if I profess to be a follower of Christ I am to strive to emulate his characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors.  Therefore, I believe that the learning ground for grace is the church, the community of believers.

Unfortunately, I feel that the church often fails to be this learning ground.  Too often the community of believers fail to demonstrate grace.  We become all about following prescribed rules and seeking to punish the rule breakers.  Yes, there must be accountability.  Yes, there must be an agreed upon set of understandings.  However, this accountability and set of understandings must be in the context of relationships.  We must be about building relationships and in the midst of that determining how we are going to live together in those relationships.  This is where grace plays a key role.  Grace must be prominent in relationships among believers and between believers and those who are outside the community of faith.  This is a key element of what makes relationships of believers different from relationships as defined by society – grace.  As people of Christian faith, we need to learn how to practice this grace so we should be provided opportunity to practice it within the church walls so that we can live it outside the church walls.

What an amazing reality could exist if grace abounded more than punishment in the community of believers.  What an amazing reality could exist if believers demonstrated this new way of living in relationship to the rest of the world.

A Tweeting Pope   Leave a comment

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Well friends, I hope that you have not missed the big news…. Pope Benedict XVI is now on Twitter and will be sending tweets beginning on Monday, December 12.  If you choose to follow him, you will find him at @Pontifex.  As I have contemplated this news this week, I was reminded of something a Roman Catholic priest who was a friend of mine once said to me… “Remember, the Roman Catholic Church is like a dinosaur, it is very big and moves very slowly.”  I would have to say that this is one example that contradicts that statement.  I am sure that there are many denominational leaders, clergy, and church leaders who still do not even have a Twitter account and have no clue what Twitter is all about.

All of this has caused me to ponder the relatively slow movement of churches to adapt to the events of the world around them.  Most who defend against this critique of the church say that this is due to the understanding that the church should not conform to the world but be transforming to the world.  While I agree that the culture should not define the church since it is the Lord alone who defines the world, I do believe the argument for avoiding such things as social media is more of a cop-out.  I believe it is more a fear of doing something different or not knowing how to go about doing something new.  What seems clear to me is that throughout the life of the early church, the believers took aspects of the world around them and used those aspects to communicate the message of Christ.  Jesus, himself, set this example when he would tell stories using parts of life which the people were familiar with to communicate the truths of God.  So if the people are using social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and such, to communicate with one another, then the church should use those same methods to communicate the message of Christ to the world.  If the church ignores this means of communication, then it is missing the opportunity to be part of the dialogue of millions of individuals.  If the church is not part of the dialogue, then the message of Christ is not communicated which is one of the chief ends of the church.

I also do not believe that this truth is related to the church alone.  If leaders in organizations and companies do not use the methods of communication that the people are using, then they are missing out on opportunities as well.  If a company does not have a website, then hundreds of potential customers will not be aware of its existence.  Social media can provide an excellent avenue to get your message before millions of people and is a lot less expensive than traditional media such as newspaper ads, television spots, or mailers.  It also allows for frequent and timely communication.

So I believe that Pope Benedict, or at least someone in his Vatican office, has come to understand this important reality.  While I may not agree with what the Pope communicates or all of his understandings of the Bible, I do applaud him for entering this very important dialogue that is occurring with 140 or less characters of tweet.  I will also start following him so I at least know what he is saying and make my determination of what I agree with and where I disagree with him.

Mixed Messages   Leave a comment

English: To fish or not to fish... Mixed messa...

English: To fish or not to fish… Mixed messages at the side of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal near Union Bridge (No. 118). To see the sign in a geographic context click here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most challenging aspects of working with people is dealing with the mixed messages which a person may send.  If you have been involved in leadership at all, you know that this is a regular challenge.  Some times the mixed messages come from those who we are trying to lead.  Other times the mixed messages come from the leaders themselves.  No matter which direction the messages are flowing from, they are something requiring our attention.

As a parent, I have read many articles and heard many speeches on the importance of not sending mixed messages to my children.  The goal is try to remain consistent so that the child does not have to constantly play a guessing game and try to figure out which route the parent may go in a given situation.  Mixed messages easily confuse and frustrate the child.  This can also happen when both parents send mixed messages.  One parent will give the child one direction and the other parent may give a totally opposite direction.  The child quickly discovers which parent is most likely going to respond in the manner that the child wants and uses that to his/her benefit.

However, the mixed messages are not limited to child rearing.  It occurs many times in the workplace.  Employees get extremely frustrated when their supervisors are sending mixed messages.  They are never sure which is the acceptable way to handle a situation or complete a project.  They can easily reach the point of just wanting to give up because no matter what direction they go, they are told they are wrong.  Supervisors need to be clear and consistent in their communication.  They need to be very aware what messages they are communicating both verbally and non-verbally to their employees.  When an employee finds consistency in the message that is being received, the employee stands a higher chance of being successful.

Another very dramatic area of mixed messages happens in the church.  Members of a congregation may say that they want to welcome new people and help to grow the church but then they consistently communicate exactly the opposite when someone new arrives.  They want the person to quickly conform to “the acceptable manner of behavior.”  They want the person to either be or quickly become very similar to the way they are.  A new person is supposed to know the customs of the congregation and follow them so that waves are not made.  The new person is to dress the same, follow the behavior rules, and assimilate to the congregation.  So the members of the congregation may say that they want to welcome new people when in reality they want to welcome others who are like them.  This mixed message sending can occur in a verbal sense but more often it is through nonverbal that the message is communicated.  It can be as minor as asking someone to remove their hat when entering the building.  While that may be a preference of a person or the majority of the congregation, what is so abhorrent about wearing a cap indoors?  I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care if you are wearing a hat or not when you are worshiping.  God is just excited that you are here and worshiping with the Lord.

So if the parent wants to help the child grow, the supervisor wants an employee to succeed, or a church member wants to call another into relationship with the Lord, the mixed messages must end.  Determine what you truly want to see happen and then communicate consistently the message that will provide the greatest benefit towards that goal.  Most importantly, be more concerned about the people with whom you are dealing than you are about what makes you feel comfortable.

Posted October 9, 2012 by thoughtfulbeliever in Uncategorized

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Setting the Tone   5 comments

Tone scale b

Tone scale b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a conversation with a friend and community leader this morning.  We were discussing a particular situation in our community and in the midst of the discussion I was reminded how extremely important it is for leaders to set the tone for those to whom they are providing leadership.  It almost seems to obvious but I think that it is often overlooked.  I do not think it matters what specific leadership role a person is placed in because this principle is for all leaders.

Coaches need to set the tone for the members of the team.  I am sure that all of us have witnessed how whatever attitude or set of behaviors a coach demonstrates on the sidelines is often exhibited by a majority of the players on the field or court.  If the approach from the sidelines is to win at all cost without concern about what means to accomplish the win are employed, the players are often ruthless and physically rough during the game.  If the approach from the leader of the team is one that strives to use the skills and the assets of the team to win the competition, the players often demonstrate a desire to give 110% of themselves on the field.

The same can be found in the work place, civic organizations, churches, schools, and other parts of the community where leadership roles are established.  The attitude and behaviors of the leader has a direct impact on the performance and attitudes of the individuals under that leadership.  While there are always a varieties of leadership styles, because there are a variety of individuals, the fact remains that the tone which the leader sets will be the tone that resonates throughout the group.

I feel that Jesus demonstrated this for those who would follow him.  He established an attitude and a set of behaviors that placed service above all else.  He not only spoke of this approach but lived it out in his own life.  His attitude and behaviors set a tone that still resonates within the ministries of the Church.  While just like on a team not everyone on the team exhibits the tone of the leader, a majority will and does.

So my questions for all leaders is this:  What is the  tone that you are setting?  Do you need to make adjustments in that tone?

Ready to Explode   Leave a comment

A jack-in-the-box

A jack-in-the-box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever been at that point in your life that you sense something is going to happen but you have no idea what it is or when it is going to happen?  It remains me of how when I was a young boy I used to play with my jack-in-the-box.  Now I knew that as I turned that crank and the tinny music played there would come a point that the latch on the top of the box would move and the “jack” inside would come bursting out when the lid was no longer held down.  Well, I am feeling like that same situation is happening in my life and the life of the church.

I think that the church is about to explode.  I don’t know when it is going to happen and I have no idea what that truly means but I am sensing that it something is coming.  About ten years ago, I started engaging in discussions about the status of the church and how the way that we were “doing” church seemed to be becoming less and less effective in reaching people.  More and more writers and contemporary Christian leaders began to add the voices to the conversation.  More and more church gatherings were designed around the “transformation” of the church and new approaches of how to live in community.  Today the conversations are daily and the participants in the conversations have reached high number levels.

With the increased discussions comes an increase in uncertainty.  Many people are very aware that major and significant changes are coming in the lives of believers and the churches that they affiliate with but no one seems able to truly state when the arrival is going to happen and what it will look like when it does.  This creates uncertainty because we ask how we are to live in this time of transition and what steps should be taken.  The old methods and certainties associated with “being the church” are falling away and losing their effectiveness.  Yet no one is clear on what should replace them and when the right time to make replacements might be.  Like the jack-in-the-box, we continue to turn the crank and await what until “jack” jumps out.

Another way to view this change might be like watching the eaglets hatch in the nest.  Many people from throughout the country and definitely throughout Iowa watched with anticipation the Eagle Webcam last spring and this spring wanting to see the new eagles hatch from their eggs.  People would spend hours with the website up on their computers even if they had minimized the window and worked on other tasks at the time.  Much excitement and discussion was generated because of the events of the eagles’ birth.  I believe that is what is happening in the church today.  Many people are watching to see when a new birth of the church will take place.  Much excitement and discussion is being generated.  With the eagles, we had a little knowledge of what to expect.  With the church, we have much less knowledge but as we watch the shell of what we have known the church to be being chipped away, we are excited to see what will emerge.

I sense that something is about to explode.  Not sure what it is or when it will happen but the energy is building.