Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Never had any more time to post any other highlights from "The Summit Leadership Conference" at Willow Creek Community Church (suburban Chicago). The post below this one highlighted day one. Here are the highlights from Days 2 and 3
  • Ashish Nanda (Professor of Business - Harvard Business School): Basically said that you are more likely to be successful training new leaders within your organization than hiring from the outside. Led to Nanda asserting that organizations need to create systems where they're peak performers feel cared for, and committed to a cause (and not just a check). Most helpful session all weekend.
  • Jim Collins (consultant who wrote "Good to Great"): Said that great organizations are ones that are disciplined and focused because it enables employees and users to know what is expecting, and the quality of service that will be received. Once again talked about how an environment must be created in an organization that sets up peak performers to succeed well, and commit to a cause. A truly fascinating man.
  • Bono: Was I disappointed that this interview wasn't live? Yes. Was it still worth my time? Absolutely! Talked about how he's always liked Jesus, but never cared much for Christians cause they don't seem to be concerned with the same things that concerned Jesus. Felt like churches were too interested in excluding people for based on "surface factors" as opposed to what is in their heart. Has been impressed with how the church, though, has woken up to the AIDS crisis in Africa. Could talk about this guy a long time. Let's just say, not many people have studied the scriptures as extensively as this guy has.
  • Wayne Cordero (Senior Pastor - Some Big Church in Hawaii): Told us to take good care of ourselves as pastors because the demands of ministry in a growing church can do you in.

Also saw my wife's aunt and uncle (Frank and Sharon Dugan), and their son & fiance (CJ and Jill) who are getting married the end of September. Thank you Frank for the great pasta and salmon, as well as the mini-tour you gave my friends down on the lakeshore. A great experience all around.

2) All I can say about Maurice Clarett is that if he cleaned up his life, went back to OSU, earned a degree, and dedicated himself to serving people in the city of Columbus, all would be forgiven, and he could still have a good life. Here's hoping that bad influences and a possible alcohol problem haven't done him in forever. Here's a link to a great article on by writer, Tom Friend, who talked to Maurice as he was driving around the night he was arrested. It is just chilling.

3) Am enjoying this Beeson Pastor experience, and largely so because of the other Beeson Pastors who are engaged in this adventure with me. They are a great bunch of people... not very discerning in who they root for in college football (Alicia Coltzer told me that the OSU Marching Band couldn't hold a candle to Texas A&M's band, and Nolan Donald agreed.... lost souls in a lost world), but a top-notch group of pastors.

4) This year, as I have ever since I was in grade school, I will receive a subscription to "Sports Illustrated" from my grandmother. Mom told me that "The Great One" (my boy's great-grandmother, hence the name she will henceforth be known by in this blog, thus saith the grandson), upon only receiving one of the two free gifts she chose for me when she re-newed the subscription, took the people at SI to task. They assured her that the other gift would be there in 4 to 6 weeks, but instead, it arrived in three days by priority mail. Now you know why I've voted for her in every single presidential election since Bush Sr. was president. She'd whip congress into shape in a week, and give the Supreme Court justices the same steely stare we'd receive when she caught us throwing a ball in the house. I'm telling you, the woman has a gift.

5) Am reading a very interesting book. "The Shaping of Things To Come" by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch (an Australian and a South African, respectively) who assert that the church as we know it, is destined to pass away. The modern western church was created out of a period of history where the Christian church in the west, dominated culture, politics, and educated for more than 1700 years, which they call the era of "Christendom". In "Christendom", the church was so dominant, that everyone just assumed everyone else was a Christian because they were born into Christian families. However, Frost and Hirsch now believe that as the 21 century continues to march on, that the end product of this influence proved to be so ineffectual (culminating in continued genocide even today in such places as Eastern Europe, for example), the days where the church dominates the religious landscape, are over.

This has largely become a reality in Europe, and is very much becoming true across Canada and on both coasts of the USA. As a result the authors start looking in small faith communities within the places where post-Christendom seems to be most at play (San Francisco, for example), where people are doing a new kind of evangelism, and thus, worship and discipleship. Like all the other post-modern/emergent books I've read, this one too beats up pastors and faith communities who do things the "traditional" way (Sunday morning worship and Sunday School in big buildings that dominate our focus, energy, and cash). The fresh morsel it offers, however, is trying to reclaim Christian thought and practice from the dualistic world of the Greeks, to the monotheistic world of the Jews.

For example, the Greeks understood all physical matter to be evil, while they envisioned that which was spiritual to be holy. The result has been a construct of sin where natural urges and passions (anger, sex, enjoyment of food and drink, etc..) have been largely been demonized in the western church. A Jewish understanding of all these passions, good or bad, is that they can be redeemed by God to do his will. Thus, sex, which can't even be talked about in most congregational settings lest the minds of the young be corrupted, is a gift from God and should be more closely examined by Christians, as such. Thus, in a church that arose out of Christendom, a couple living together before they get married (which are great in numbers) would be condemned for doing so, while a new "incarnational" church would affirm the discovery of the couple that sex is a pretty good thing, and then as relationships grew, discussions would take place regarding how sex can be used for destructive and constructive purposes.

Yeah, sounds wishy-washy, but that doesn't mean that at some point the issue of sex being reserved for those who are married never comes up... it just becomes a subject of conversation after trust has been developed, and even then, sex itself is not made a critical issue in terms of what is required of a disciple.

A very interesting book, if it is correct.

6) As for me, my focus this year will be to search out what it means to be a pastor that preaches the Gospel, but do it in a way that leads people to a life of grace of love for Jesus, others, and themselves. In other words, help people get their life ordered, and then find the joy that can only come from losing themselves in being a key player in creating God's original dream for this earth... where love, peace, grace and mercy reign supreme for all.

I'd like people in the church I serve to believe in Jesus, the Bible, and in the God that created them, but I'd like them to be flexible enough that they don't get all bent out of shape. Fortunately, that attitude already exists at Shawnee. I just want to build on that attitude of grace.

7) Gave my first sermon last week for our preaching class, and, well, I know our prof, Dr. Kalas thought my work was a jumbled mess. The focus was on Moses serving God and the children of Israel for more than 30 years after he's been told by God that he will never step foot in the promised land. I compared this realization to that of a person going through a mid-life crisis. Most of us, when we wake up one day and realize that the idealism of our youth has morphed into just wanting to get the bills paid, the kids safe, fall apart when we think of what we've accomplished (or not accomplished) with our lives. But we've still got lot more living to do (hopefully), so how do we keep pushing forward when it's most likely that heaven, not heaven on earth, is our ultimate destination?

Well, Moses, knowing that he'll never live out his dream, devotes himself fully to helping his people live out God's dream of their return to the Promised Land. There is a hint of melancholy about Moses during these days, which culminates in Deuteronomy 3 in his begging God to please let him go with the others into that which has dominated his thinking and actions for years (I tried to capture that in the sermon). But in rebuking Moses, God tells him, "Listen, you know that your job has been getting the next generation ready for this, because your generation has just become too jaded and cynical to believe in my promises with the faith that they'll flourish... their leader, Joshua, feels the same self-doubt you possessed when I appeared to you in that bush. Go tell him what you know: that I'm already in the Promised Land waiting for him."

The point of the sermon, then, was that in our own brokenness, that we too as Christians need to use the rest of our days to make way for the generation that will be the first to realize earth operating as it is in heaven. A little wiser, smarter, battling moments of depression because that reality is most likely not ours, but furiously working away because in the journey we have become bound to God in love. We do it, cause we love God, love his children, and as we serve, get to see a glimpse (just like Moses did on Mt. Pisgah) of what it looks like. And we've always the hope of the resurrection, when we'll get to rise up, and walk through the open gates of the holy city of the New Jerusalem on earth.

Anyhow, the day before, Dr. Kalas spent so much time talking about being poetic that I took it too extremes painting endless word pictures that dazzled the mind, but made little coherent sense. That's what I get for writing a sermon out. Next time, I'll stick with what got me here, and keep it simple.

8) If you ever in Chicago, don't be duped by the folks who tell you get Chicago-style pizza at pizzeria (fill in the blank) cause it's the best in town. You go to Giordano's Pizza down on Randolph (in the theater district - here's the link: Absolutely unbelievable.

9) Have a truckload of stuff to do, but spent the day with family. Max starts school on Tuesday, so before you know it, the 2nd grade will be over, and there will be another year I can never live again (time is merciless). We went to church with Grandma and Grandpa (Southland Christian, the big megachurch that is slowly becoming our home away from home), got some Arby's (Roger Rhodes, the Arby's in the Lexington area desperately need you... but you gotta still stay in Lima), and then went swimming at the public pool in Nicholasville. Xavier is on the cusp of swimming, and when Max jumps on my back I now feel it. I was walking with Eli outside of worship this morning (he likes the music, but doesn't care all that much for preaching) and must have had a dozen people say, "I had one that small once.... better enjoy it cause it goes too fast."

Yes it does.

10) The winner of a copy of the "Secret Meaning of Jesus" is Cathleen Baker, a member of the Shawnee UMC. But, I won't send her the copy until she promises to give it to Glenn Derryberry when she's done reading (otherwise, the book is his). No worries Cathleen - that way we can spread the joy (I know she'll go for this plan). Thanks to all who entered to win!

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