Sunday, February 26, 2006

Service and Power...

Great quote from Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.

"If you seek power before service, you'll neither get power, nor serve. If you seek to serve people more than to gain power, you will not only serve people, you will gain influence. That's very much the way Jesus did it."

That's worth reading again and again.

Thanks to Emergesque for the tip.

Read More (NY Times - free registration required)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Losing the "why" in the quest for "how"

Far too often in my discussions with other church and ministry "junkies" the topic of conversation focuses on the "how" of church instead of the "why". Brad Abare from Church Marketing Sucks writes a great blog about what really matters.

"Yet the questions remain: How much should I do? What should I avoid? What is cool? What works? Here's a simple approach I've learned...
If the electricity went out, and your walls fell down, and your biggest givers died, what would you have left? Would you have a community of people still seeking after the heart of God? Would you still worship even without a band? Would you still be able to learn about God even though you can't show a video or a PowerPoint slide? In other words, what you have when everything else goes away is what your church is really all about. I recall the words of Brennan Manning in his book The Importance of Being Foolish:

Consider how our churches have explored and exploited our need to replace the numbness in our lives with a passion for something, anything. We've created worship in which music is meant to stir the emotions but the soul is left unmoved, in which the words spoken are little more than manipulations of the heart. We have created cathartic experiences filled with weeping and dancing in the Spirit that leaves us with the sense that we have touched God but that fail to give us the sense that God has touched us. We run to churches where the message feels good and where we feel energized and uplifted--but never challenged or convicted. 'It is not surprising that spiritual experiences are mushrooming all over the place and have become highly sought-after commercial items,' writes Henri Nouwen. 'Many people flock to places and persons who promise intensive experiences of togetherness, cathartic emotions of exhilaration and sweetness, and liberating sensations of rapture and ecstasy. In our desperate need for fulfillment and our restless search for the experience of divine intimacy, we are all too prone to construct our own spiritual events."

We can hide behind great church brands and marketing campaigns. We can plow new grounds in getting the world to take notice of our creativity. We can even make a name for ourself in our communities. But what remains when the lights are out and the sound is unplugged? When the hurricane wipes it all way. When the earthquake swallows your best intentions. When God speaks, I'd rather be in a position to listen than scrambling for the microphone to make sure he's heard. Instead of getting so jazzed up about showing a Bruce Almighty film clip, I want to make sure I'm seeing God's real miracles every day."

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Looking for a paid ministry position?

I hear the Sr. Pastor is not easy to work with, but the location is awesome...


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Numbering our days...

I love it when Mark Buchanan writes. This months CT magazine has an excerpt from his new book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath (Word, 2005). As always, Mark is saying things that have some umph - things that need to be said. Here's a few excerpts.

"Teach us to number our days aright," Moses asked God, "that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:12)...

...Pay attention to how God is afoot in the mystery of each moment, in its mad rush or maddening plod. He is present in both. But too often, we are so time-obsessed that we take no time to really notice. I have a pastor friend in Toronto who one day after a Sunday service received a note: "Pastor Peter, I would appreciate it if you prayed shorter prayers. Your pastoral prayer this past Sunday was 12 minutes, 43 seconds in length. Please strive for greater brevity."

The note was unsigned. The only thing we know about this man, woman, or child is that the writer is so bound by time—counting the minutes—that he has never learned to number his days. This person can tell time, but not discern seasons. Miss that, and you miss wisdom. For only those who number their days aright gain a wise heart. Only they become God's sages: those calm, unhurried people who live in each moment fully, savoring simple things, celebrating small epiphanies, unafraid of life's inevitable surprises and reverses, adaptive to change yet not chasing after it...

...Purposefulness requires that we pay attention, and paying attention means, almost by definition, that we make room for surprise. We become hospitable to interruption. To sustain it, we need theological touchstones for it—a conviction in our bones that God is Lord of our days and years, and that his purposes and his presence often come disguised as detours, messes, defeats.

I came to you naked, Jesus says. I came to you thirsty.

"When, Lord?" we ask, startled.

When he wore the disguise of an interruption.

Think a moment of all the events and encounters that have shaped you most deeply and lastingly. How many did you see coming? How many did you engineer, manufacture, chase down? And how many were interruptions? Children? You might have planned as meticulously as a NASA rocket launch, but did you have any idea, really, what it would be like, who this child in your arms really was, who you would become because of him or her?

The span between life as we intend it and life as we receive it is vast. Our true purpose is worked out in that gap. It is fashioned in the crucible of interruptions.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Some exciting news...

"Amazingly, more new churches are being established in the UK than Starbucks shops. While 481 UK Starbucks branches have started since 1998, more than 500 churches have been established during the same time, based on only 18 of the more than 400 denominations in the UK, which indicates that there may actually be more churches that have opened. "

Now that's encouraging...Hat tip to Jordon for the link.

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I love passion...

...and I see it in Bono's speech to the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday.
Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives. Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places” It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

It's a speech worth reading. You can find the whole text here, or at Random Musing, or for you video junkies, the CNN video is here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada

From my 9 year old daughter, Madison.

Dear Mr. Prime Minster

Hi my name is Madison Kuhn and I am 9 years old. I am writing this letter to you because my Dad is a diabetic and I don't think it's fair that he can't have choclate bars. So my request is that with your help we can make sugar free snickers. I would love to do something like this for my Dad. So if you have time my e-mail is Please help me.

Thank you
Madison Kuhn

As a Dad you just gotta love that!

A gift...

I've written here and here about struggles and the need to accept everything as a gift from God. I guess I shouldn't have opened my big mouth because often your own words come back to challenge you. A couple of weeks ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Let's just say that it was a bit of a shock. Is this a gift? Not one that I would have wanted.

Well, after some time to think it through I have to admit that it is. It's a gift that forces me to eat healthy foods, get some regular exercise, remember that the flesh is weak, and increases my longing for heaven. The more I think about these ideas the more I am sure that they are foundational to life as a believer in Christ. Everything God brings our way is done in love and for our benefit. It may not always appear that way, but that's why faith has to come in to play. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:28:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (emphasis mine)

One of the keys to life is facing it with the realization that everything that comes to me today is a gift from God. Now, if living it was just as easy as writing it.