Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Passion and a couple of other thoughts...

Tell me what you think about the quote below:
"Just because someone is not doing something, it doesn't mean that their not passionate about it."
Doesn't it?

Tap the Breaks
I am a big Cardinal fan. I have a few friends that are unabashedly homers. These are guys who enjoy Mike Shannon. (I cringe every time I hear John Rooney introduce the "Moon Man" as "The Voice of the Cardinals). We are all tempted to be proud of the fact that the Cards won more games this April than any other April. That is great compared to what the "experts" were expecting out of this team (fourth or fifth place in the Central). But the "record" has to be looked at with some perspective. This year the Cardinals played more games in April than ever (29). They used to only play about 21 games every April (season didn't start until the 6th with several off days).
Still great, .621 winning percentage. That translates into a 100 win season. I'd take that!

Underrated band again
I used to love the Smithereens. Mid to late 80s band. Albums like Especially for You, Green Thoughts and 11. "Blood and Roses" has a great opening bass line. Green Thoughts was their most complete release with "Only a Memory", "House We Used to Live", "The World We Know". Smithereens 11 had "Girl Like You" (probably their biggest hit), "Cut Flowers", and "Blue Period" (with Belinda Carlyle on background vocals). Great pop songs with a hard rock edge.
Check out "Drown in My Own Tears".

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some More Commercial Gold!

Another favorite recent commercial.

Love Is Tough Sometimes...

It is very fashionable to look to Jesus as a limitless agent of love and tolerance. In a recent Christianity Today interview with “progressive” evangelical Jim Wallis (where I found a surprising amount of agreement with him on several views), he discusses the attitudes of evangelicals (mostly himself) toward homosexuality:

“I don't have all the answers on homosexuality. Fifty years from now, when we understand more what's going on, we'll look back and we'll ask: How did we treat gay and lesbian people? Did they feel like we treated them the way Jesus might have? And how do we treat each other in this conversation? When this becomes the defining issue of our time, I get nervous” (italics added).

The inference is that Jesus accepted everybody, all the time in spite of their sinfulness and their rebellion. That is not the case. When I look at Matthew 18.15-20, I see Jesus walking his disciples through conflict resolution. And not only conflict resolution, the implication is that one member of the body of Christ has wronged another, has been confronted face to face, confronted with two or three others who act perhaps as arbitrators, and confronted by the church. When these steps are taken, and yet the wrong party continues in his/her sin and rebellion against the authority of the church (where the Spirit is present in the witness of two or three), then the offender is sent out from the community and treated as a second class citizen. The purpose of this action, if we examine the whole counsel of Scripture, is redemptive. When we look to Paul to shed light on the subject (no doubt leaning on the tradition of disciples concerning this matter), he states that the purpose of expelling someone from the community (deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh), so that eventually he may be saved (1 Corinthians 5.1-13). I believe that this expulsion from the community is done to show the offender what life is like apart from the community and hopefully cause the offender to repent so that he/she may come back into the fold.

My point is that sometimes the church, at the instruction of Jesus, must deal ever severely with unrepentant rebellion and sin. Tolerance has a limit. Love continues to abound, for there is the hope that discipline will lead to repentance, but we do see a picture of loving Jesus excluding a member of the community because of willful, continual failure to conform to his image.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Confession from a Former "Attractional" Leader

I just got back from attending the Exponential Conference for church planters. During one of the break outs, Alan Hirsch, co-author of the book The Shaping of Things to Come, had reminded me of a lesson I learned while serving at a church in suburban Dallas, TX. Hirsch was discussing the Recovery of the Centrality of Jesus in his Own Movement. He began to discuss how our Christology determines our missiology, which determines our ecclesiology.
A few thoughts: as for Christology, Jesus as the founder of the movement sets the primary template; Missiology is our purpose and function; ecclesiology – church comes out of our missionary engagement.

I know this all too well. When I was on staff at a church in suburban Dallas, I was told to take over our Sunday night service. I was determined to plant a “church within a church.” That is, I had seen the struggle of evangelical churches to connect with people 18-29, so I tailored our service to reach and impact that group. It was a great service, but it rarely reached higher than 50, and only occasionally did we have people come from the outside to attend and stick around. I had a very attractional mindset. I thought that if I put on a service that was creative, meaningful and relevant to 18-29 year olds, the members of my core group would invite their seeker friends, they would come and we would grow and reach people. Not so much. I should have arranged for our core group to get involved less in serving the church (that is the programs of our church) and more in serving the community and cultivating relationships with the purpose of evangelism. Now, in my defense, I did this without sacrificing any of my other duties, like overseeing small groups, “discipleship programs”, administrative duties, hospital visits, my involvement in helping “craft our regular worship services, etc…

Unfortunately, that was the mindset of our leadership (myself included): attractional outreach. We had abandoned small groups as the outreach arm of the church (which used to be the M.O. of “my denomination” for decades.) Small groups really served to educate our attenders. We transitioned to let our worship service be the outreach arm of our church. When you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and you are using your worship service as your outreach, it better be a pretty good show. People could drive to see Ed Young (who planted a campus less than 15 minutes from our campus). Young people were driving 45 minutes to go hear Matt Chandler at The Village Church. Prestonworld was only 10-15 minutes away. Lake Pointe was about 15 minutes away. Those (and many others) could put on a better show (heck, we couldn’t even use the drums in our “blended” worship services, so we had to create a “contemporary” service. This was in suburban Dallas!)

I learned a great lesson. I realized I had made that mistake when I went to an Acts 29 boot camp in 2005 and heard Ed Stetzer discuss this. It was a great lesson. I am not bashing the attractional style of outreach. Ed Young (Jr.) always inspires me to think creatively, Rick Warren has baptized over 20,000 people and planted 100s of churches, and Andy Stanley is reaching people for Christ in Metro Atlanta and has planted 17 other churches mainly in the Southeast. What I am saying is if you are going to draw people by putting on a show, it had better be the best show in town.

What I would do differently? I would eliminate a lot of the programs that draw people to the church and stop recruiting people to use their gifts to serve the “church” (by that I mean the programs that make up a local church). I would seek to get our people more involved in their neighborhoods, in their schools and elsewhere serving the community all for the purpose of impacting the Kingdom both socially and individually.

My old church may be faced with this dilemma soon. Lake Pointe recently opened a campus less than 5 minutes from their campus in North Garland. How do you compete with that show? You do what maybe they can’t do as well: you impact the neighborhoods and schools that are within on mile of the church on a personal and impactful way. Show them that you are truly relevant and care for them by serving them and telling them what compels you to serve: the love of Jesus Christ to whom you’ve committed your life and inviting them on the journey.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I have a fascination with why talented musicians and bands labor in obscurity while less talented “stars” become household names and sell millions of cds. One of these obscure bands is British pop band XTC. These guys produced well crafted pop and rock music for almost 30 years and I’ll bet most of you who are reading this couldn’t name 3 of their songs. They have been very well regarded by critics and music fans. They have been consistent over their 30 years as well. From their early post-punk songs like “Science Friction”, “Statue of Liberty,” and one of my favorites “This Is Pop”. This leads to greatness like “Making Plans for Nigel.” If you want a fun song to listen to in the summer with the top down, download “Life Begins at the Hop.” Even their alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear produced some Beatlesque songs like “You My Drug” and another personal favorite like “Vanishing Girl.” The cd Skylarking produced “Really Super, Super Girl”, “Earn Enough for Us” among a few other great songs (including a very uncomfortable, atheistic song, “Dear God.”) One of the last cds I bought from them was Oranges and Lemons, which includes “The Mayor of Simpleton” and “King for a Day.” If you have access to a music site, check out a few of these songs and ask yourself, “How weren’t these guys more popular?
Below is a video of "Life Begins at the Hop" from around 1980. Not the greatest video (pre-MTV) but a great song.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Look at the look on that guy's face. He is in the back of a police car. He has been arrested for shooting a postman twice (he has survived). Just kind of creepy.
Read the STL's Post Dispatch story.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I had been following the courtship of Kansas Men’s Basketball coach, Bill Self by his alma mater, Oklahoma State. I think the man really needs a reality check. The man makes over a million dollars a year and has a contract that lasts another three years. Why was he tempted to leave a storied basketball program to go to another one? Loyalty to his former school? The chance to coach at a prestigious program? The chance to build a program from the ground up? None of these. The answer in his own words: "Why would I say I'm positively (staying) when I don't know if they are even going to extend me?" he said. "What I'd like to have, like everybody else likes to have, is have some security. ... When I say security, I mean years." Security. He means years. He will make over 6 million dollars if no one changes his contract one bit over the next three seasons. That is more money than 98% of the people of the world will see in their lifetimes. And he wants security? I guess he needs to feed his family and put shoes on his kids and all of that nonsense. The people in the big time world of athletics have no idea what life is like for the fans that support their teams.

I wonder how I honor God with all of the time I waste following people who think like this. The aptly named Bill Self is hardly the only figure in the sports world that thinks like this and has this skewed sense of reality.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

To the Pantheon

You can add this commercial to my pantheon of Greatest TV Commercials of the past 5 years.

Vilified for No Good Reason

What do these three men have in common?
  • Don Denkinger
  • Bill Buckner
  • Steve Bartmann
All three men have been vilified for mistakes that were made in important series that cost one team the game. During the ninth inning of the '85 World Series between the Cardinals and the Royals (Cardinals were up 3 games to 2), Denkinger made the wrong call of a play at first and called Jorge Orta safe when the replays clearly showed he was out. The Royals rallied from behind and won the game which would have clinched the Series for the Cardinals had they kept their lead. The Royals went on to win the Series the next night.
With his Boston Red Sox up 3 games to 2, Buckner allowed a ground ball go between his legs in '86 which allowed the Mets to score the winning run in the 10th inning of game six of the World Series. The Mets went on to win the Series the next night.
Steve Bartmann reached for a foul ball in the eighth inning of game 6 of the NLCS that Moises Alou appeared to have been ready to catch. The Cubs had been leading the game at the time but went on to give up 8 runs in that inning and lost the game and eventually losing the series the next night (after having a 3-2 lead in the series).
What do all three have in common? These men have been blamed for costing teams there championships (or in the Cubs instance their chance at going to the World Series). They are infamous figures in St. Louis, Boston and Chicago. Their blunders took place in Game 6. Get that? Their blunders took place in Game 6! Each team had an opportunity to win their series the next night! It has driven me crazy that all of the fan bases of these teams have blamed these men when their teams could have overcome these issues and won their series merely by taking care of business. It seems as if Buckner (the most notorious of the three) had a homecoming yesterday and threw out the first pitch and got a standing ovation. So, they may be over it. I guess it is up to St. Louis and Chicago. I'm a big Cardinal fan and I am more disappointed in the showing of game 7 in KC than I am in Denkinger's call.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It Is Not...

I've have been hearing it for years, and even Cardinal TV broadcaster Al Hrabosky said it tonight: "A walk is as good as a hit." It isn't. The situation (4/3 against the Cards vs. Rockies) was a man at third, one out and Cesar Izturis drew a walk. Dan McLaughlin pointed out what a good at bat it was (10 pitch walk). And then Al followed up with the stand by line. In this case, if Izturis had gotten a hit, Rico Washington would have scored from third. So a hit is not always as good as a walk. If it were, do you think you would see opposing managers opting to walk Albert Pujols when he comes up and there's less than two outs with men on second and third? If a walk was as good as a hit, then the intentional pass to Pujols with two men on would result in at least one run, most likely two runs scored. So, gang, the lesson here is, a walk isn't always as good as a hit (unless there's nobody on).

Some Initial Positive Thoughts on Irresistible Revolution

Shane is a great storyteller. He states that for folks of his generation political ideologies and religious doctrines just aren’t very compelling, even if they’re true. And stories disarm us. I think many of us would agree and Shane weaves creative and compelling stories into his wake up call to a very self-centered American church. Along with his teaching of a “simple way” he shares stories of a summer spent in India working with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A jarring juxtaposition to that experience was his internship at Willow Creek outside of Chicago the next fall. He is somewhat critical of the mega church but not overly harsh and he does see some good things that are being accomplished there for the less fortunate. He also shares about his trip to Baghdad during the war on a Christian mission advocating peace. He tells of a story on the plane over speaking with two pro-war people (who at first did not know where he was going or his agenda). When those people learned of Shane’s mission, it put a human face on the war and those two told him how they would be following his mission and hoping for his safety.

I have listed a few assorted thoughts from his book that spoke to me:

Telling about his experiences at youth revivals during his youth: I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren’t giving me anything to pick up. I was just another believer. I believed all the right stuff – that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a “believer,” but I had no idea what it means to be a follower (p. 38).

Reflecting on his time with Mother Teresa and the lessons she taught him – I knew that my Calcutta was the United States, for I knew that we could not end poverty until we took a careful look at wealth.

Shane conducted a survey of people who claimed to be “strong followers of Jesus”. He asked whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question. I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did (p. 112).

It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle (p. 128).

More to come...