Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Priesthood Of Believers

Believers are called "kings and priests" and a "royal priesthood" as a reflection of their privileged status as heirs to the kingdom of the Almighty God and of the Lamb. Because of this privileged closeness with God, no other earthly mediator is necessary.~Unknown

“No other earthly mediator is necessary.” Now those are radical words, we’re talking full blown revolutionary. When Peter proclaimed “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" he was blowing a gigantic hole in the rational of the elites. The crucifixion of the Lamb tore the veil separating us from a direct relationship with God.

So what did we do? We went out and built us a new veil, a brand new class of mediators equipped with Doctor of Divinity degrees, pulpits, and other trappings of elitism. A universe of denominations run by modern day Pharisees decreeing what believers should believe, what role they can play in the church, a whole new hierarchy that the flock should obey. In today’s church, If you haven’t been to a seminary you get to help out on Church Cleanup Day.

It’s no wonder that the ranks of the spiritually unaffiliated are exploding.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How's That Working Out?

To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the demographics, stupid”. The current power structure of churches in America today is overwhelmingly white and aging, and they are trying to remain relevant to a population increasingly brown, young, and female. And don’t even get me started on the culture gap between the existing power elites of the faith and the groups they are trying to attract. It’s like asking the problem to solve the problem, good luck with that.

Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Not about Jesus, but perhaps we need to change our borders. Traditionally, the border between the sanctuary and the community it belonged to was firmly fixed at the edge of the church property, our whole focus was in getting outsiders to enter the sanctuary. But what if we took the church into the community and ministered to them where they are? What if we went into the community and stayed, rather than conducted community outreach like some sort of cross border raid designed solely to take hostages and drag them back to the sanctuary? 

 It seems to me we view the “Nones” as obstacles rather than opportunities. When asked, most of them view Jesus in a positive light, they might not think He’s God but a lot of them view our Savior as a pretty cool dude. Well, so do I, turns out we’ve got a lot in common. So why not meet them at that common area of agreement and see what happens when we show real interest in their lives, not their tithes.

Look, they’re not coming to the sanctuary, maybe they’ll never come. But salvation has nothing to do with location and everything to do with relationship. So maybe we need to start coffee shops/book stores, theatre groups or after school programs similar to Boy’s Clubs, places where community can occur and “Nones’ reached where they are.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Judas Asparagus

I got this from my friend Shelly Mills:

A child was asked to write a book report on the entire Bible. Here is what was written: The Children's Bible in a Nutshell

In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, 'The Lord thy God is one,' but I think He must be a lot older than that.

Anyway, God said, 'Give me a light!' and someone did.

Then God made the world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden...

Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn't have cars.

Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel.

Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.

After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh's people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don't lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff.

Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

One of Moses' best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town.

After Joshua came David.. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn't sound very wise to me.

After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore.

There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don't have to worry about them.

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New Testament.. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, 'Close the door! Were you born in a barn?' It would be nice to say, 'As a matter of fact, I was.')

During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans.

Jesus also had twelve opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him..

Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn't stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.

Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I’m conflicted.  There are so many things wrong with the way today's churches relate themselves to the communities they serve, yet too many of the alternatives being put forth as a solution to the increasing lack of relevance in the church seem as irrelevant as the practices they seek to replace.

Lets be clear about this. The church in America is in decline, fully 20% of Americans self-identify as “Nones” and that trend seems to be accelerating. And the solutions to this stunning decline being advanced by various groups reflect to a remarkable degree the soul searching in the Republican party post 2012 election.The same demographic trends that caused a majority of voters to reject Republican policy in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections has sent the church into a downward spiral during that same time period.

Remaining the same church that is in decline seems as unappealing a solution as some of the ideas put forth by radical/anarchist Christians, and therein lies the conflict. Empowering women, people of color, changing our focus from social causes like gay marriage and abortion to social justice issues such as poverty, global warming and hunger might be a debate better worked out between believers of good will rather than a solution to the decline of the church. Because if a definitive resolution of those disagreements is the key to the survival of the church, we may well be doomed. Too many Christians treat their individual stand on these issues as deal breakers.

So what can we do? First of all, don’t rely on me for the answers, seek solutions and answers on your own, talk with other believers, pray, read what others have to say paying particular attention to those you disagree with because chances are the ultimate solutions will be gray, not black and white. But, since you asked, here’s what I think. Let’s preach less Paul and more Jesus.

It seems that the only times of the year we spend in intensive examination of Jesus is at Easter and Christmas, the rest of the year it’s all Paul. Which is really silly when you think of it, Jesus as infant and then crucified leaves out so much of the story that transfixed and then transformed the world that all by itself it could be classified as spiritual malfeasance. Don’t get me wrong, Paul was a giant of the faith but he was not the faith. Many of his writings were deeply moving and lyrical, but more so than the words of Jesus? Nah.  Can you find a better answer to the curious than our Lord’s respnse to John the Baptist, who asked “Are you the one who was to come?”   “So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22 That’s the message that will restore the church.

We have the most attractive personality in history to share with others and instead we preach Paul, we impose conditions on others that Jesus never did, we have crafted an impossibly complicated theology that is nowhere found in Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, and we wonder why our youth are fleeing the church in droves and the message of Paul falls on deaf ears outside the sanctuary.

So maybe we can start there, get back to Jesus. See if that is a more attractive message than the one we’ve been delivering.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I like hanging around with the scruffy ones, I just do. When I was drinking I was always drawn to folks living life at the edge of the envelope, and the ones with, at best, a tenuous grip on the edge of the envelope were my favorites.

So there, I have a fondness for scruffy.

 A few of us scruffy types were sitting around last night talking about Mathew 5, particularly the last part where Jesus tells us to love our enemies ‘cause there’s no style points for loving those that love us. Turns out even sinners and pagans can do that. We were pretty much on board with the love your enemy thing although none of us thought it possible to do in our own lives short of divine intervention, which after all is what Jesus is all about.

But then we got to verse 48 and things got really difficult. Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

Seriously? Do you really think that highly of us? That we could ever, even with divine intervention, come close to hitting that mark? defines perfect as “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” Really? Us? Our collective response reminded me of a comical bit on ESPN in which they show sports bloopers called “C’mon Man”. 

C’mon Jesus, perfect seems like a really high bar to set. If you send a crowd like us on an impossible quest for perfection, why bother trying? It’s not that we lacked the desire to be obedient, we just couldn’t see how this command, “Be perfect”, was possible to achieve. 

Here’s what we decided to do. Rather than not try and fail completely, we decided to give it a shot and see if we couldn’t get closer than if we didn’t try at all. We’re not sure that’s what Jesus was looking for, but it’s the best we could come up with. So for now it’ll have to do.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Welcome To The Church Of The Ballot

I have written repeatedly over the past year that political idolatry, the shameless subcontracting of the faith to the Republican Party is harming the work of the church. So here we are post election with Christians excommunicating other Christians for their political beliefs, a power they do not possess, nor even deserve. 

 Here’s a thought. What if Christian values as embodied in scripture were never intended for unbelievers, but were instead guidelines to living for anyone calling themselves Christ followers.  After all, Paul’s letters were always addressed to errant churches, not unbelievers. Our responsibility to unbelievers was not to enforce our values on them but to carry the message of salvation to them, and once they had embraced Christ they would then embrace Christian values.

The church today has gotten that process completely backwards. We’ve abandoned witness for legislation. Failing to change an unbelievers heart,  we no longer “shake the dust off our feet” and move on to the next prospect. No, we stay and beat them over the head with legislation, a process Jesus did not endorse. And the results of this patently unscriptural behavior have been disastrous. The church is in decline, and as our political efforts have met stiff resistance we’ve assumed the role of victims, and victims never recover. 

As long as we’re victims we can blame others for our troubles, we never have to look at ourselves and take responsibility for our situation. We can cry persecution while living in the freest country in history for religious expression, we can blame electoral losses on other Christians who do not agree with our politics, we can blame Hollywood, democrats, dark skinned freeloaders, any number of boogeymen just so long as we don’t have to look at ourselves. 

So we become sowers of confusion and discord. We reflect hate to the very people Jesus commanded us to love, and the church declines into irrelevance.  Welcome to the Church Of The Ballot.