The Problem With Celebrity Pastors

The problem with celebrity pastors is that whether they chased celebrity to begin with or it found them, maintaining celebrity requires feeding a public that no matter what they say, probably aren’t supremely interested in the integrity of the Gospel. If you are a celebrity pastor and your next steps are pushing away from Christ, then you need to ask yourself if you are feeding the needs of the public or the needs of the Kingdom of God. There is nothing wrong with a platform that is relevant but that platform should never come at the cost of your calling to the church and the power of the Gospel. Yes, I am talking to you Carl Lentz, Robert Jeffress, Brian Mclaren, and Ed Young.

Image result for rick warren

I have a lot of admiration for Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life. Finding another best seller to match the success of Purpose Driven Life never seemed to be of great interest to him. Since his best seller was released, he has developed movements for community ministry and international relief. He has published books on healthier living and on life’s tough questions. But I never get the sense that he feels the need to top himself, to feed his celebrity. It still seems like Warren is a pastor at heart and the steps he has taken since he became famous have been to carry on his pastor role and to honor what God wants from his life.

Advertisements

How To Pray When Someone Else Is Praying

You are in a group or at a public event and someone besides yourself is praying. What do you do? Do you just sit there and hope it doesn’t go too long? Do you nod your head and make sounds of agreement? Do you try to hang onto every word and pretend that the words are your own?

My mind has a tendency to wander during these times of prayer. But, lately, I have used a different tactic that has brought life and power back to these times of prayer. While the other person is praying, I will use their words to guide my own conversation with God. I let there be a real interplay between the other person’s words and my own. In normal life, you can’t have two people speaking to another at the same time but God certainly can handle it. If this doesn’t make sense let me give you an example.

Person Praying: Lord, will you provide your power to help Joe with his job situation…

Me (silently): Father, Joe has been through so much, give him better days and show me how I can help him.

You simply let the person praying give you an outline or a prompt and you join in the prayer with your own silent prayers and petitions.

This process sounds hard and difficult, especially if you think you need intense focus for your own prayers. I am not good at multiple things at once but this has been very natural and easy for me. It is something that I look forward to and keeps me engaged and connected to God during public prayer.

Try it the next time you are in church or even at the dinner table.

 

How to Read the Bible

bible-896220_960_720

  1. Read it everyday. I don’t want you to find a reading plan, I just want you to read it everyday. This could mean you read the same chapter five days in a row. This could mean that you meditate, memorize, and mark up one verse for a week. The point is to interact and to be exposed to scripture everyday. We often treat Bible reading like an exercise program, and there is some value to that, but for most of us, we would rather not exercise but do it because it is good for us or we are trying to reach some goal. I may not want to run but I should want to hear from God in scripture. So, we should expose ourselves to it as much as we can and make it a part of us rather than a compartmentalized aspect of our day.
  2. Accept the mystery. If you are struggling to understand scripture then join the club. Don’t let your pastor or your super religious friends on Facebook present an approach to scripture that always ends in certainty. Mystery is built into scripture by God. Why? So when things are revealed to us, that revelation is so sweet and so profound it brings out praise and glory to God. Also, for some reason, God wants us to wrestle with our faith. That means we have to wrestle with the words we find on the page at times. If everything was crystal clear to us then we would have moved on from reading and embracing scripture long ago and have no need for it.
  3. Read it aloud and with others. I have a tendency to romanticize monastic life but one aspect that I know I would enjoy would be the practice of reading scripture during meals. In some monasteries, during a meal, the monks will eat in silence except for one monk reading from scripture. Because of Evangelical’s obsession with our “quiet time,” we think that scripture reading is an individual, solitary activity. For most of church history, the only way you were able to hear scripture is when someone else read it to you. I think there could be great benefit to this.
  4. Act it out. I am serious. Think about those times you have been in a Bible Study, maybe as a youth, and a group had to act out whatever scripture was being covered that day. You remember that story don’t you. The scripture became embodied for you. I have acted out the Psalms in the past and the practice is very powerful. This doesn’t have to be a group thing, it just needs to put you in a different posture concerning scripture so that the words and messages are enlivened for you. Try it with the Psalms and you will know what I am talking about.

Why I Am Married To My Wife

There are many reasons why I am married to my wife, Leah. Here is an example of one.

Leah is one of the most compassionate people I know. She channels that compassion into wonderful acts of service and love. She genuinely seeks ways to make life better for people. She once led the food service at a community ministry that served free lunch to homeless, poor families, and the like. She turned that place into a home kitchen with so much love and care and free hugs that what could have been a very condescending and transactional ministry was turned into a real family atmosphere.

What is so great about my relationship with her is that the things that make her great – compassion, gentleness, service – are exactly the things that I often lack. And the good qualities that I possess – being well read, having wisdom, and being thoughtful – are the areas where she could use some help.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

How this plays out most effectively is when I am too much in my head and making my faith a spiritual exercise, Leah comes along and reminds me that there are people in need and we need to be willing to do something for them and find ways to serve. And when she needs to press pause on life and breakneck times of service, I remind her that God is waiting to just spend some time with her and to speak to her just one on one without all of the activity.

God knew what he was doing when he put us together. With the help of each other we become better people. What a wonderful gift this is.

What Is It Like To Be A Christian In 2017?

For me, being a true follower of Christ in 2017 means…

  • Lots of prayer. The tragedies in our back yard and close at hand call for countless prayers to be offered and questions to be answered.
  • Soul searching. With so much divisiveness and loss and heartbreak that I have faced personally and many people are facing collectively. I have to ask myself what is my role to play? How am I complicit to many of the wrongs around us and how can I make an impact to spread the Kingdom of God?
  • Confronting fear. What are Christians so afraid of? We should be the least fearful people on the planet. The strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God is a perfectly safe place to be. Christ has defeated death and we can start to experience the eternal life now.
  • Being true to the Gospels. Every time I see Christianity wrapped up in politics I long to return to the Gospels and read what Jesus found to be most important and what he asked us to do. I want that to shape me, not an Americanized version that vaguely uses Jesus as a way to push personal agendas.
  • Being counter-cultural. The times in history when Christianity has been the most potent and effective are the times when it was on the margins and not front and center and obligatory. All of the tools that seduce the culture – power, media, institutions and bombast are not the tools that Jesus used. I need to study and embrace prayer, peace, silence, Sabbath, and worship and let these things work through the power of Christ, even if the world sees no value in them.

Photo by Elijah Henderson on Unsplash

Confessions of A Sour Face, Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a certain surface quality that doesn’t immediately endear myself to people. I also mentioned that this bothers me and makes me think of things I need to do to make myself appear more friendly and approachable. But, I realized that this is foolish.

One of the speakers at the Apprentice Gathering Conference that our Community got to participate in led us through an active imagination exercise. She asked us to close our eyes and imagine that there is a figure standing in front of us and when that figure turns around we realize that it is ourselves. This version of ourselves that is in front of us is holding a gift in their hand and begins to hand us the gift.

The problem was, in my imagination, I could never turn around. This version of myself that was supposed to hand me a gift would never turn around. It was very strange. Mind you, I don’t over-spiritualize situations but this was just really odd. It is my imagination, why would it be blocked from showing me myself and what was in my hand?

https://awazo.com/photo/2008/081106sour.jpg

boxman fotologue

Move to the following Sunday in my own church’s service. The sermon is over and the ritual that our church follows is a song is sung and people are given a chance to respond to the message.  During these times, sometimes I pray, sometimes I am silent, and sometimes I sing. This time, I bowed my head and closed my eyes. What did I see? I saw Christ handing me a gift!

I am not trying to be cute or trying to be dramatic or trying to be overly spiritual, this is what I saw.

What does it mean?

Remember that I went into the Gathering in Wichita discussing with some friends how I get frustrated by how people respond to me and often have a negative reaction. As the week went along and I had moments with God to reflect on these things and got to listen to strong teaching on struggle and forgiveness I started to realize something. God has made me how I am for a purpose and he wants to use who and how I am for his glory. I didn’t need to get in touch with myself to understand this, I needed to get in touch with Christ. Whatever gift my imaginary self was wanting to give me was not what I needed to receive. What I needed to receive was the gift of Christ and all that he has to offer. That is where I will find fulfillment, understanding, love, acceptance, and purpose.

I may have a sour face but Christ needs to use me the way that I am and that was a rich lesson to learn. I don’t need other’s approval and admiration. God will provide what I need and when I need it. I can quit trying to fix my face and keep working, with Christ’s transformation, on my heart. Then I will be the Christ that only I can be.

Confessions of A Sour Face, Part One.

“You are hard to read;” “You aren’t the most expressive person;””I thought you were mean the first time I met you;””Does he ever talk?”

These are quotes that have been said about me over the span of my life, some within the last week. On a regular basis, I hear from people about my “look.” Apparently, my face does not provide a very comforting, welcoming, or friendly sense in others. And because first impressions are so hard to move away from, it takes a lot of work on my part to guide people towards a truer sense of who I am.

img_3138

I have asked myself what is wrong with me? I have tried to even change the position of my mouth to a more smiling posture but that can’t be sustained over long periods of time and seems so fake.

I mentioned this aspect of my existence to some of my friends at the Apprentice Experience. One friend said that these reactions to me was a form of persecution. He said that I was being persecuted for righteousness sake. I guess he meant that because I care more about who I truly am in Christ rather than how I look to others, I wasn’t playing an image management game that seems to be so important to most of the world and I was paying the price for it. He may have overstated things a bit but it got me thinking. Should I work to make sure I am projecting an image that appeases the world’s need for me to look and behave a certain way at all times or should I focus on the inside and Christ’s transformation in me and let people’s perception take care of itself?

The ironic thing is that I am more friendly, outgoing, and enthusiastic than I used to be. Honestly, I consider this a minor miracle and a sign of Christ’s transformation in my life. Still, it bothers me when I hear the comments like those above and I wonder what am I supposed to do?

In my next post, I will tell what happened in Kansas and shortly thereafter that gave me my answer to my dilemma.

Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Still Be Too Much

Go to a music festival, a 5k, or a golf scramble and you will see all sorts of fetishizing. It seems half the enjoyment that people have surrounding these things is the chance to obsess over new gear, new toys, some great new equipment that is going to make you successful or cool or admired. In reality, you are probably none of these things, you are just a grown up kid that has the latest and greatest. It is all so frivolous.

Last week, at a national spiritual formation conference I attended, I saw many examples of this kind of fetshizing. There were three different places to buy books and whenever a source or a tool or a website or a piece of art was mentioned, people would practically fall over themselves to get access or to pull it up or to add it on to their stack of resources. I am guilty of this. But, I have to watch myself. I don’t want to become like a golfer who always buys the latest clubs and gimmicks but barely works on his game. I don’t want to become like the runner who has the latest shoes, shorts, visor, and compression socks but hasn’t mentally prepared for the rigors of a race.

One person tweeted about the conference, “The Apprentice Gathering, where all the spiritual formation nerds hang out.” I don’t want to be a spiritual formation nerd, I want to be changed and transformed by the power of Jesus Christ in my life. Will I need the help of books, seminars, resources, and apps? – probably but what I really need to do is ask daily, “What kind of person do you want me to be, Lord?”; “What can I do right now that would allow me to grow into that person?”; “What do I need to put aside so that I can become closer to that person?”

Gluttony can happen within areas beyond food. We can be gluttons with spiritual things and spiritual resources. These resources just end up cluttering our minds and our spaces and make true transformation harder to access.

Do you find yourself wanting to sign up for every Bible study you hear about? Have you purchased books that you have never read? Do you lust over the latest and greatest just because it is the latest and greatest even if you don’t really need it and your life season requires something different?

Commitment to Jesus is just that and not commitment to consuming things about Jesus. I only want what will get me closer to Growing Up and nothing else. May that be our prayer today.

It’s About Time

Eleven weeks have passed since my Dad died.

After the funeral, I took a day off and then went back to work. I have not had significant time off since then. That is one of the reasons I am looking so forward to this week.

On Tuesday, I will be traveling back to Wichita, Kansas for Gathering 3 of the Apprentice Experience. For the next four days I hope to be renewed in my thinking, to be refreshed in my spirit, and to reflect on what has been an incredibly difficult 2017. I want to rest and to enjoy being around some of the best people I know.

Our Logos · KC Logos

At the end of the week, our group will converge with a national conference called the Apprentice Gathering. It should be an incredible time. I am sure I will have the chance to report on some of what I have learned in future posts.

I want to thank all of you who read the blog and have reached out to me and prayed for me. Your support has been so encouraging and life giving. If there is any way I can return the favor, please let me know. Thank you.

What if The Gospel is Greater Than We Imagined?

One of our readings in preparation for the third gathering of the Apprentice Experience is The Magnificent Story: Uncovering A Gospel of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth by James Bryan Smith. I am so privileged to actually know Jim and to have shared meals with him and chatted with him about his work and about some of my meager efforts at discipleship and spiritual formation ministry. This is a guy who had Rich Mullins as a tenant in his house and was designated by Dallas Willard to write a Curriculum of Christlikeness.

But after reading The Magnificent Story, I am especially blessed to be associated with his ministry as a participant in the Apprentice Experience. This book, though not shy on theology and some scholarly heavy lifting, does for the Gospel what Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy did for the Kingdom of God. If you thought you knew all their was to know about the Gospel, Smith would say that you have just been exposed to a reduction and not the magnificent story full of goodness, beauty, and truth. He looks at reduced gospels such as the social gospel or the penal substitution gospel as important theological points but because they are reductions have become distortions that are doing more harm than good. As an alternative, Smith emphasis the Trinity as something we lose when our gospel gets distorted. He also mentions things like the miracle of creation, incarnation, and the great end of the story when we will see the new heaven and the new earth.

I have been exposed to Smith’s writing enough to know that he is not interested in hype. His book, though a departure, in many ways, from tried and true narratives coming out of evangelical circles, is meant to expose people to the vast expanse and wonder of God and his work on earth. He is not trying to present some counter view just to sell books or create a social media buzz. He has felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to write this book and the two books that will follow this one – The Magnificent Journey and The Magnificient Mission.

Our culture is so full of outrage, so full of narrow-mindedness, so full of criticism that I wonder if we are allowed to enjoy anything anymore. Smith reminds us that God and his work is worth enjoying and is intended to be enjoyed and now is the time to start enjoying God’s magnificent story.