http://www.ethicsdaily.com/what-gloomy-predictions-about-church-overlook-cms-20846

I very much appreciate and concur with Bill Wilson, the author of this article.

I believe history bears out one thing; there will always be people who see a current situation and make it into an inevitable crisis in the future.  I must admit I laughed at the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.  But isn’t that how this whole process works?

Typically, innovation occurs because someone has seen an issue, a current or potential problem, and strove to combat it and change its impact or course.  There is a reason why it is said that “necessity is the mother of all invention.” It is the same, whether in the “secular” realm or the church realm.

Yes, it is true that most denominations are currently in decline based upon membership and baptism numbers, but that does not necessarily mean that it is due to a lower interest in things of a spiritual nature.  Actually, research I have seen over the last number of years has actually shown that interest in things of a spiritual nature is higher than ever before.

So, what’s the problem then?  Simply put, quite often that innovation which is needed to avert a “crisis” in the “secular” realm is absent in the “church” realm.  It’s far too often that the “tried and true” of the 20th century and even a decade ago are gripped so tightly that innovation is not allowed to happen.

The answer to what is a “doom and gloom” prediction for the church is, in my opinion, entrepreneurial (creative and innovative) kingdom living.  The history of the church in America is replete with this.  One example would be the creation of Sunday schools, which started in Great Britain and spread to America, to combat the high illiteracy rate of children in poor families who couldn’t go to school because they were working all week in factories.  Religious education was mixed in with this education.  A very creative and innovative solution to a crucial problem.  Kingdom living which is entrepreneurial in nature seeks creative ways to bring the qualities of God’s kingdom into a specific context.

As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I should be the most loving, humble, gracious, grace-giving, merciful, hope-filled, joyful, peaceful, patient, faithful, trustworthy, kind, considerate, helpful of all people.  The crux of the matter is how to impact and share these qualities with those in my community, with those in my immediate context.

This is where the entrepreneurial spirit enters.  I must know those around me and my community.  I must understand and then seek to impact them and it with these qualities.  It is done through relationships and drawing people to the real hope found in Jesus Christ.

What that looks like will be different in Fort Dodge, IA then in Battle Creek, MI or San Antonio, TX or Greenfield Township, PA, or Muskegon, MI or Chicago or New York City.  You get the idea.

Innovation will not just happen.  The people of God must be willing to let go of “what worked in yesteryear” and embrace innovation and that entrepreneurial spirit in order to move into the future God has for us.

As God said through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

What might God be calling you today to start for His kingdom?

Arrogance

Over the weekend, I came across an article whose subject was comments from Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments in which Mohler stated that it is his position that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) is not truly a church due to the Southwest California Synod’s decision to elect, for the first time, an openly gay man, as bishop.

According to the article, in the podcast of his comments, he made the following statements: “It is by this act and by many prior acts distancing itself by light years from the actual faith and conviction of Martin Luther,” that the ELCA has “demonstrated itself to be neither Evangelical nor Lutheran and, as G.K. Chesterton might say, not a church either. That just leaves them in America.”

I can honestly find no other word to describe these remarks than arrogance.  What I hear in these comments is that, in order for a church to truly be a church by Mohler’s definition of such, a church must adhere to Mohler’s own doctrinal beliefs and the Southern Baptist Convention in order to be considered truly a part of the church of Jesus Christ.

When I was growing up, one thing that I perceived being taught was that all other churches in my hometown were heretical and those attending these churches were going straight to hell.  To my recollection, the only interaction we had with any other congregations was restricted to church league athletics such as softball and floor hockey.  I don’t ever recall any other collaboration with other churches.

I remember receiving an arrogant attitude that what was taught by the leadership of that church was correct and proper.  Anything that disagreed in the slightest went against God and His written word.  Even the American Baptist Church in town was lumped into that group.  And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?  I have been an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, USA for almost 7 years now.  =0D

One thing I have discovered in my spiritual journey, much of which has occurred as a pastor: not everything taught theologically as dogmatic isn’t as dogmatic as some make it out to be.  There is much room for debate and discussion.  And because of this, there is an extreme need for humility, which is exactly what I don’t see in Mohler’s comments.

In my opinion, in Christian fundamentalism and even into Christian evangelicalism, there is an attitude that states the following: what our interpretation of the Bible is is the norm and the standard by which you will be judged Christian or heretical.

In my years of indepth study of Scripture, I have found that there is often sloppy work done in interpretation and application of Scripture.  That is why I continuously commit myself to be a biblical theologian, always seeking deeper understanding because I realize just how much I don’t know.  

And that realization causes humility.  Arrogance has no place in the family of God.

I must address it yet again

http://www.ethicsdaily.com/the-one-mission-field-overlooked-by-many-churches-cms-20816

Some of the content of this article does not adequately describe this pastor.  I have held a “regular workplace job.”  For 14 years, I worked at UPS, much of it in operations management.  I have that experience of relating the impact of faith upon one’s actions in the workplace.  Not saying I was perfect at doing it or that there weren’t many times where I royally screwed it up, but I am able to act as a bridge because I have lived in both the “regular workplace” and the “church workplace.”

I remember my faith being mentioned in casual and informal conversations with my fellow supervisors.  I remember being the “go-to” guy when one of them wanted prayer for something.  I remember the respect that I earned from them.  I remember one time when an employee (who I was in the process of disciplining for a breaking of the rules) went to my manager and other supervisors and accused me of sexual harassment.  They responded something like, “Really?  Jim?  Yeah, right.  Not!”

I do agree with Harris when he speaks of the mission field that has been largely ignored by much of the church.  I believe this is true, in part, because of this “compartmentalization” mentality that has silently crept its way into the fabric, approach and perspective of the church.  

Even Harris’s own words demonstrate this in one way.  He writes, “Clergy leaders are much more concerned about what happens within the walls of the church than in the workplaces outside the church.”  Once again, the building in which the church meets defines the borders and parameters of the identity of the church.  When this definition remains in force, whether consciously or subconsciously, the church doesn’t go because it can’t; it’s fixed and static.  People must come to it.

I admit that I find it sad that there are so many who have this perspective, whether consciously or subconsciously.

The church is to permeate its community in every way conceivable or imaginable.  Those who constitute her are the church no matter where they may find themselves, whether the workplace, the home, the schoolyard, or (one of my favorites) the golf course.  Wherever we find ourselves is where God has called us to impact those around us in appropriate ways.

This mentality must once again become the focus and thrust of the leadership of the church.  Stop putting such a strong emphasis on the building in which the church gathers for worship or other meetings.  It is a resource, nothing more.  While a good resource, it has nothing more in making a church a church than a house does in making a family a family.

In leading my current congregation, it is my desire to continually move those who call me their pastor deeper and deeper into this perspective of the true identity of First Baptist Church of Fort Dodge.  I want them intertwining in this community, not only in the workplace, but by being involved in the activities, issues and needs of the community and through that involvement, interjecting the grace, love, wisdom and whole character of our loving and grace-filled God so that lives are positively impacted and the currency of hope is had by all.

It is as this continually happens more and more that we truly move deeper into what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ and not just some social group.

Let’s cast aside the “poverty mindset!”

“Because of this, we also, from the day we heard, do not cease praying and requesting on your behalf, that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in every kind of spiritual wisdom and understanding, walking worthily of the Lord, pleasing in every thing, producing fruit in every good work and increasing in the full knowledge of God, being empowered with every kind of power according to the dominion of His glory into every kind of endurance and patience; with joy giving thanks to the Father who qualified you for a share of the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light; who delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son; in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:9-14 (JLTV) (JLTV = Jim Laupp Translation Version)

This is the passage of scripture for this Sunday’s sermon.  As I was translating and reading it, I couldn’t help but get pumped about what Paul wrote!  This is the reality for every believer, every follower of Jesus Christ!  I can only imagine Paul’s attitude of excitement as he wrote these words.  I say it in that way because I know the excitement I have when I read it.

It is far too often that followers of Jesus have what has been termed “a poverty mindset.”  This mindset causes a follower of Jesus to forget about what is his/her reality in life.  A follower has “full knowledge” of God’s will through “every kind of spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  A follower of Jesus produces fruit in doing good works through which s/he increases in his/her “full knowledge” of God, His character and who He is for him/her at that specific time.

This follower forgets that s/he has been “empowered with every kind of power,” the power that is found in the “dominion of God’s glory” which produces in us endurance and patience.  

This follower forgets that s/he has been “qualified” by God for a share in the inheritance He has given to the saints.  And this is an inheritance which is both present and future.  It is present because, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavens in Christ.”), we have already been given these blessings which are part of our inheritance from God.  It is future because we have not yet realized our glorification which God will reveal at the return of our Lord Jesus.

This follower forgets that s/he has been delivered/removed from the authority of the darkness.  The ultimate darkness is death.  We have been removed from that authority.  It no longer has any dominion over us.  What happens way too often, though, is that followers of Jesus behave like grave robbers; we dig our old selves up!!!  That old nature is dead; let it stay dead!  We need to act like who we really are – new creations in Christ!

In verse 15, Paul continues by saying that Christ is “the image of the invisible God.”  In connection with that, Paul says in Romans 8:29 that God’s purpose is to “conform us to the image of His Son.”  That means that ultimately, God is conforming us to His image, just like He created humanity in the beginning, before that image was marred, distorted and scarred by sin and its effects.  That means we are to be earthly reflections of God and Who He is in His character and the way He responds to different situations.

That means that followers of Jesus are to be the most loving, most joyful, most patient, most peaceful, most kind, most considerate, most humble, most meek, most enduring, most faithful, most trustworthy, most gracious, most merciful, most forgiving of all people upon the face of the earth.

When those qualities and characteristics are demonstrated by us more and more, we demonstrate that we are moving into a fuller and full knowledge of God.  

The more we respond, behave and act according to His will, the more we demonstrate a fuller and full knowledge of His will.

Having a “poverty mindset” causes us to forget who we are and Whose we are.  This knowledge doesn’t move us into an attitude of pride, but moves us into conformity to the image of His Son.  

Having a “poverty mindset” holds us back because we focus on the past.  This is called having a “present-past” perspective.  When that is the perspective (which the church has had way too much, unfortunately), the church becomes nothing more than a “sin-management” entity.

God calls, and continues to call, us to move from our present into our future, which He has created for us.  That means our perspective must be “present-future.”  This means that we continually walk forward into the identity by which He already knows us.  This means that this identity continues to become our earthly reality more and more every day, more and more through every situation encountered, whether good or bad.

We have been empowered with every kind of power available in the dominion of His glory.  This is an abundance of resources.  

We must remember that God has an abundance; the enemy has a budget.

I pray that we, as sharers of the inheritance for which God has qualified us, live in this mindset, one of God’s abundance and power and not the one of a “poverty mindset” which views everything as limited and on a budget.