Monday, January 30, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think I'm sore. Got back on the wagon last week and hit the gym. Seven days into it, and I just do nothing but hurt. I can't straighten out my right arm without excruciating pain. Is that bad? A pox on myself for letting myself go so badly. I deserve this torture.

2) People ask if the stories that I tell in my sermons are true, and I always respond, "Yes. That's how I remember it." I mean, I probably get a little creative in my memory, but the version is close enough to what really happened that I don't think I'll ever find myself getting scolded by Oprah anytime soon. Last week's story, though, was pretty dead-spot-on true, and a lot of people have asked how the person in the story is doing with their sobriety. Well, as far as I know, its still a daily struggle, but more days are being won than lost. Just keep my friend, and all those struggling with powerful addiction issues, in your prayers.

3) This Sunday is "Haiti Sunday" here at Shawnee, and the building team members who just returned will be talking about their recent experience building homes and churches in that part of the world. Joseph's teaser for the congregation this week was that he was going to talk about the purest, most selfless act of good that this church has ever committed in it's history.... a good teaser if there ever was one. I won't give it away here, but I think you'll like the story, so if you miss worship this week, you'll get the scoop here next Monday.

4) Am coaching Max's basketball team (all 1st & 2nd graders), and this week, I tried to introduce the concept of "setting a pick". You'd think the idea of getting in the way of another defender to break a teammate free wouldn't be so hard, but it was. Nobody wants to play defense or set a pick for a teammate.... they just all want to shoot the ball (kinda like the NBA). We'll see what we can do after a couple more practices.

5) For the second time in two weeks, a woman has asked me how to pronounce a couple of Greek words as a part of her presentation for our Wednesday morning Bible Study. My knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is "limited" (translation: nil). I've always felt bad about this, until a couple of weeks ago when I interviewed for the Beeson Preaching and Leadership Doctoral Program at Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Elsworth Kalas, the Director of Beeson, and a distinguished scholar in his own right (and an author of the much praised "Disciple Bible Study" series) was one of the interviewers, and upon being asked (by me) if I could still be admitted into the program without the requisite language classes, replied,

"No. That's not necessary. You know, I took Greek back in seminary, but I can't say that I've used it all that much. You'll be fine."

If Dr. Kalas says I'll be fine, then I'll be fine. Besides, there are a lot of great resources for Bible study on the web. I'll refer you to one: . I use it mostly as a concordance, but since it contains Strong's version of the New American Standard, you can use it to click on English words to find out the Greek or Aramaic word it was translated from, and then kind of go from there. Go there if you wondering where (fill in the blank) is in the Bible.

6) Am reading an interesting book right now. "Emerging Churches" by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger is a five-year study of what is going on in non-traditional (hence the phrase, "emergent") congregations that are truly reaching unchurch young adults and teens in the US, UK, New Zealand, and Austrailia. One of the themes that run throughout the book is how new, young church leaders are rebelling against the current hierarchy and "chains of command". This non-linear approach to leadership is very different to what we have experienced, and is creating the space for young Christians to create their own forms of worship and church structure.

The Anglican Church, in particular, because they realize this trend, is taking a "hands off" approach to the variety of churches that being created (house churches, club churches, discussion-oriented churches, etc...) and simply allowing them to develop as the leaders see fit. But as they are doing this, leaders starting new worship services, house churches, or "young adult ministries" under the auspice of an existing "traditional church" are leaving in droves to do indepedent ministry. And even those who start from scratch are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with doing ministry under the guise of any bueracratic structure. Generational distrust, as much as any cultural factor, is fueling this decided departure of young pastoral leaders to the "greener pastures" of non-denominational (or post-denominational, as many emergent leaders are calling it) ministry.

The generational distrust which is the fuel for so many Gen Xer's to do their own thing is real. Time and time again, Boomer church pastors are complaining about the leadership abilities of the Buster pastors coming behind them (here's a good article by George Barna on the subject:, and in turn, Busters are rejecting the leadership style of their elders and leaving to start their own churches, or worship movements. Young pastoral leaders like Rob Bell Jr. at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan ( are leading the charge toward more experimental, and independent, forms of ministry, and while they aren't antagonistic toward denominationally connected churches, they aren't all that fond of them either.

How we co-exist together as power is transferred over the next 5-15 years will be a real challenge. And while the new post-modern forms of church may yet be 10 or 20 years from reaching our little corner of the Midwest institutionally, it will be interesting to see if established churches will be able to adapt to reach those that appreciate the current structure, and those longing for something new.

If the nine characteristics of emerging churhes interest you, give "Emerging Churches" by Gibbs and Bolger a try. You can buy it here:

7) "Big Momma II" was tops at the box office this weekend. How is that possible?

8) WalMart is getting into the health insurance business. Now a small business can buy health insurance in the form of an HMO or PPO through your local Sam's Club outlet. The retailer is bent on remaking health insurnace (and banking also in the coming years) much in the same way it's re-made every aspect of the retail business. It will interesting to see if health insurance companies start getting "WalMarted" the same way mom-and-pop retail stores in rural communities got popped over the last twenty years. Speaking as someone whose health insurance premium is $17,000+ this year, here's hoping that WalMart will fix something the government seems relunctant to take on.

9) How an impartial jury is going to be found for the Enron case beginning this week is beyond me. Even the Bucher family wasn't untouched by the scandal, as a number of close friends, thinking they were investing in a utility, lost substancial amounts of money when the stock crashed. How Judge Lake thinks he'll be able to find twelve people in Houston without a pre-conceived notion of Lay and Skilling's guilt is beyond me. I don't think you could do that in Lima.

10) The news from Ford last week was chilling. Apparently, in the company's recent history, they lost money on EVERY CAR it sold (about $200 per vehicle). THAT WAS THEIR BUSINESS MODEL. As you think about this, know that at the same time Toyota was making $1300 per car, while eating into the Ford's truck/SUV marketshare. Now the company is marrying itself to hybrid vehicles, and the belief that in coming years the country will make the switch to diesel and hydrogen fuel. Here's hoping that they are right, and that WalMart can come up with a health insurance solution that can make Ford's workforce more competitive in the marketplace.

Until next time...

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