Apparently Elephants are Awesome Because they Are Big…

Apparently elephants are awesome because they are big.  And God likes big.  Exclusively. This is a lesson that I have been learning lately.  I learned it from the Christian Rock star event “Elephant Room 2” (though can we all admit that like every sequel this one sorta sucked because they had to go with B level stars…)  This is not the only place I learned it of course as “The Room” is actually only a microcosm of a bigger phenomenon in the wonderful world of Christendom.  But none the less the markers are there.  And this is what we can say without question about God if we observe closely:

1. As if we have moved into a new dispensation, the Heavenly father has chosen in our time to speak to us primarily (exclusively?) through mega church pastors.

2.  If you are not a mega church pastor God wants you to employ the 3 “P”‘s:

  • Praise: That God has  blessed us with James McDonald for instance,
  • Pose: God has not chosen you for use in his kingdom (by making you a mega-church pastor) at all cost when people don’t know you just act like you are indeed a mega-church pastor.
  • Parrot: If something works for the Mega-church pastor it is because God loves them more of course, but also because they are better than you and smarter.  So whatever they do will always work for you….unless you suck.

3.  God cares most about things that matter most to Mega-Church pastors:  white people, rich people, money, wells for poor people in other countries (God is American too), Fame (not for himself but for the mega church pastors), coffee, hipsters and artists.  This is what you should care about as well.  What’s that you say? You live in a farming community in Mid-Michigan?  So what! If God was intersted in that he would have made Joe-Bob  the farmer a Mega-Church pastor.  You need to immediately stop trying to relate to him and  how the Gospel can penetrate his culture and do the right thing:  Open a coffee bar/art gallery.   In central Detroit? God does not care at all: too black.  Too poor. Leave now.

4.  Rather than studying the word, and loving our congregation God wants us to watch people our congregation have never heard of argue about issues that don’t really impact them.  This is how we steward our time.

5.  Ministries that are big are clearly more effective at everything.  This can be contextualized to your area, so if for instance you live, like I do in Grand Rapids, Michigan and want to support an Urban Ministry, find a giant mega church that has no track record with such things and sink an exorbitant amount of money into their bureaucracy ummm I mean ministry.

These are my top five…I am sure there are more…but I am lazy and need to get to work on recruiting 10,000 people so that something I say can be worthwhile.

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I Got 99 Problems (or so) and TD Jakes Ain’t One

So as usual, the Blogosphere, or whatever stupid name we are calling the solitary practice of vomiting our opinions onto the internet is called these days, is all aflame, or atwitter (see what I did there…) with scathing critiques.  Some people hate Mark Driscoll, some people hate T.D. Jakes and some people hate Mark Driscoll for not hating T.D. Jakes, its all very confusing really…ok its not, but I have always wanted to say that.

Here, however is what I need to say:  Our vomiting of opinions onto the internet, is not now, nor has it ever been ministry.  In fact I am typing this at 12:30 am because to do it during the day would be to steal from the actual ministry God has called me to.  I will at this point be perfectly honest and tell you that this came as something of a revelation to me, though deep down I may have known all along…. it is time to face facts unless your job is to minister to other full time ministers via twitter, there is probably something less than pure about your motives and even more assuredly  your means.  The only people who have remotely enough time to read Kevin De Young’s Critique of Scot McKnight’s critique of Trevin Wax’s review of N.T. Wright’s latest book are A. unemployed theology geeks or B. full time ministers with dubious work habits (lest you feel critiqued by that  know I am employed and I loved the way Kevin told us the key to the Christian life was to be careful or we might accidentally do something…)

That said the idea that we are warning the masses of some impending heresy (or method if you are the kind of liberal who doesn’t care about doctrine and hates Driscoll) demands that we ask the question: who exactly are the masses?  Frankly when it comes to twitter especially, I see only 3 dominant types of people in follower lists: Porn bots we can’t get rid off, marketers we feel guilty about blocking and other Minister/pastors/theology geeks.   If those are the masses we are trying to reach then by all means we should continue to twitter flame away, even though we all know 140 characters are great for starting fights and terrible at changing minds (or hearts).

As for me, though I love my twitter buddies, and count many as true friends, the fact is they are not the masses God has called me to.  The masses God has called me to are not in fact much of a mass at all by twitter (or celebuChristian) standards.  The people I am called to are the people of our congregations in Godwin Heights and Godfrey-Lee.  Good people, great in fact.  They are also predominantly employed in something other than ministry.  These are the sheep God has called me to shepherd, that is my job, my vocation and my calling.  Of those sheep I would venture that less than half of them have ever heard of any of the Elephants in our Evangelical Room.  This is not to say that they don’t love Jesus, don’t care about doctrine or are not discipled.  It is simply to say that they have a pastor, they know his name  and he is with them physically every week and for them this is enough.  Given this reality who exactly is it that I am tweeting to when I fire off a 140 character masterpiece that rivials Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in power if not in length?  And just as importantly why am I firing that tweet off?

The answer is simple….I am firing it off to you.  People connected and interested enough in theology  and the celebrity Christian world to visit twitter, click a link and read  a way too long a post about ideas that they already have a background in so that the post makes sense to them.  Guess how many of those are in my congregation?  How many are in yours?

I am not arguing that we should not fight heresy, or protect our congregation or correct wrong ideas, I am simply suggesting that for most of us God has given us a perfect place to do that and it is a pulpit, not a computer.   The reason that you and I prefer a computer is simple:  We want to be just as famous as the people we critique.  Following on the heals of ubiquitous consumerism we now have in the church a burgeoning celebrity culture… Famous pastors, famous churches…fame, fame, fame.  And by and large all that fame is lost on our congregations, but not the hearts of us pastors, who at once make others famous and long for their fame.  We all want to be the Next __________ or the second coming of ___________.  It is this impure longing more than anything I am convinced that is motivating our tweets, our posts, our diatribes as we all struggle to out post, out think, out wit others in hopes that they will think we are really cool…Its all so JR. high and all so true.

If our longing it truly to see our congregation changed, transformed, protected, discipled and educated we would all be wise to spend less time launching bombs on twitter and more time loving them, correcting them, leading them and sharing life.  They need to know how to spot heresy, they need to know how to think “Christianly” they need learn theological issues and vocabulary.  They need so many things.  One thing they don’t need is a celebrity pastor, nor can I see them being greatly benefitted by having a more expansive knowledge of celeb pastors. What they need is a pastor who is fully dedicated to them and their issues, till their lives become our concern and their problems our problems.  I am a pastor to people who are growing in Christ and struggling in life.  People who have just recently come to Christ and people who have known him a while.  What they all seem to have in common though is they’ve  got all kind of problems and that makes them my problem…and so I got 99 problems but T.D. Jakes ain’t one.

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Relationships, Religion and other Pendulum Swings.

The uproar recently over a certain video posted online has me thinking.  Not so much about the video but about us.  The point of the video is essentially that “Jesus hates Religion,” this, unparsed, has led to all kinds of critique.  Droves of internet theologians (and sociologists I suppose) have rushed to point out that 1. Christianity is indeed a religion and 2.  Jesus was religious and yada yada yada….They are of course right…  But I think they are also wrong.  For several reasons.  1. Their outrage is simply a result of living in a time one generation past the very popular church planting dictum “Relationships not religion…” Where as that “movement” was reacting to the way many American churches were just going through the motions,  a new movement has arisen (or been created) in its wake for whom the  often rootless nature of the modern church feels like a giant problem. (I agree with this actually).  So as often happens in church culture the pendulum has swung from “Relationships not Religion” to “Christianity is a religion.”  At least for purposes of this debate.  And then the attacks began.  And a kids who was just trying to make a video got attacked.  The problem of course is that it all depends on words, and what those words mean and if words have multiple meanings.  All of the critique seems to ignore this, define religion only one way and then attacks.  But that is unrealistic, because words have more than one meaning,  and I think those on the attack know this,  they are just choosing to ignore it.  I believe that the people who are critiquing know exactly what the video is trying to say,  but are so focused on what it could be saying that they go after it anyway.  Is the video perhaps not careful in what in how it says what is says? Yes, but that is going to happen with a video made by a 22 year old who has known Christ for only 3 years.  Is the spirit of the video wrong? No. Do those who criticize know this? Yes.  Why then are they going after  the video?  Not because of what it means offends them…but because the way it says it offends their position on the pendulum.

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First there was Pac and Biggie….

And then the whole East Coast/West Coast beef…Now there is this guy…and umm some other guy.

 

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January 13, 2012 · 6:12 pm

The Startling Realization that I am Getting Old…and How Dumb it Makes Me Feel.

I’m 36.  My wife is older.  It used to be that was enough.  Historically, my wife breaking in every age for me and the fact that I am the youngest child of five have made it humanly impossible for me to feel old.  But lately life has been conspiring against me to tip my world upside down and the impossible has become possible, I just feel old.  Really old.  And I feel like I am dumber than I used to be.  I was reading through old blog posts on a blog that shall remain nameless and I was shocked at how witty and daring I used to be.  When I stopped blogging there it was at least in part because I had out grown it, I had become more mature.  Now I am worried that mature might mean old.  Not only that, it seems like as I became mature, I became less witty, less funny and not near as bright. I look at some of those posts now and the idea of coming up with the ideas and typing them just makes me tired.

And it’s not just blog posts, its the videos I used to make, the fun I used to have, its the way I look at these young whippersnappers…I don’t really use that word, but I figured since I am getting old i might as well try it out…its the way these young wippersnappers can’t just watch TV like normal people, when it is on TV , but instead have to watch it online with Hulu and Boxxee and WebSter.com (the number one place online to watch reruns of TVs Webster from the 80’s by the way)…  Its the way that with every year older the more fearful I become, of everything.  And people are noticing.

I guess I can live with getting old, I just liked it better when I felt young and cool and smart.  Perhaps it is just a part of being a church planter, spending time with all the aforementioned wippersnappers, but darn I just don’t like it.  Alas though, getting old is a fact of life and one day even the wippersnappers will be whining about whatever the new thing-a-magigger is.  So I will push on.  And I will force myself to blog and try and remember that lost witty voice, because i can live with being old, but Lord save me from dumb, safe and civilized.

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Fo Sho? Fo Abraham Kuyper, Fo My Dad…And other people who are not Christian Vocationally

I like a lot of things. I also don’t like a lot of things. This can be a problem. Tonight I was accused of being judgmental due to my over enthusiastic pushing of Easter decorations. Seems a stretch. But perhaps. I hold a lot of opinions. Almost all of them violently. Don’t get me started on things like Arminians, Hyper-Dispensationalists, Rob Bell or Applebees…We might get in a fight. That said I want here to point out some things I like.

  • I like the fact the Abraham Kuyper once said:  in the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’
  • I like my dad, who for my whole life provided for us by getting up and going to work at 3:15 AM every morning in a factory
  • I like the new music by Sho Baraka and the High Society Collective.

Now admittedly this is a strange little list, but in my ever so odd head they are very related.

I will admit that when Sho announced he was leaving Reach Records I was worried.  That  is another thing about me.  I have an amazing ability to worry about things that don’t really concern me.  But I like Reach, as an Urban pastor their music has been very helpful in what we do, and I like Sho, and when I heard that they were separating it was like hearing that Mommy and Daddy did not love each other anymore.  So it was stressful (I know I have issues…).  The thing that stressed me the most was what would Sho do next?  Where would he go? Did he still love Jesus?

Doesn’t that all seem very spiritual of me?  To worry that maybe if Sho Baraka didn’t want to be on a Christian label, making “Christian” music then maybe he was walking away from Jesus, because if a rapper is a Christian, doesn’t it make sense that the rapper should be on a Christian label?  (As a brief aside when I was little I used count the number of times a given album said Jesus to determine if the artist loved said Jesus or not…so yeah issues.)

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking: 1. It suggests that somehow that what God is really interested in what the business entity we work for is called,  which makes as much sense as when my mom tries to convince me that God cares what kind of pants we wear to Church.  2.  It suggests, contra the Abraham Kuyper quote above that there is some area of the universe over which Jesus does not cry “mine”…and that area apparently is record labels without the Christian prefix.  But as a good Kuyperian I know for certain that this is not true.  Every corner of the universe is ruled over by Jesus.  To suggest anything different gives us much bigger problems than whether a MC wants to be known as a Christian Rapper. To suggest that there is an square inch of this universe that Jesus does not claim as his own, is to suggest that their could be an area of your life that Jesus does not claim as his own.  To suggest so is to cease to be fully Christian.

Then there is the more personal issue: If a MC who raps for a Christian audience if more honorable that an MC who raps for the masses, then the man who is Vocationally “Christian” (i.e. pastors like me) is more honorable than the man who works in the factory.  Which I suppose some people would agree with, not because they are convinced of the honorable nature of ministry, but simply because they look down their noses on men who work with machines, in grease and without degrees.  But honestly those people are jerks.  And they are wrong.  I know of no more honorable man that my dad.  Everyday, 10 hrs, in the heat and the grease and amongst some of the vilest men you could imagine being around, off he went.  It’s a far cry from the life I live…with my 8 am starts and my macintosh computers,  I wouldn’t even know what to do with grease.  My dad made parts for office desks,  I sit at offices desks.  I am a vocational preacher.  My dad was a Christian non-vocationally.  I talk all the time, my dad is quiet, but it would be a mistake to suggest that my dad never preached the gospel.  When you are a Jesus follower who lives for the king in a place as dark as some factories can be, every move you make is light.  If Kuyper is right,  if everything I know is right,  I am no more pleasing to God (because of my occupation) than my dad.  My “call” given by Jesus is no more a “call” than the one my dad recieved to work 30 years in the same factory.

If I can please God in the pulpit while my dad pleases God in the factory then there is no reason to suggest that Lecrae’s show at Passion is more pleasing than High Societies next show at the club.  This realization comes hard for me, but it brings peace as I live my little life being stressed about things that don’t really concern me.

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An American Comfort Theology Parable

(a reply to that is at least as logical as this: http://pastormark.tv/2011/09/21/a-poverty-theology-parable)

Once there was a boy who had many brothers and sisters, and a very, very loving father. One day it came to pass that the boy’s sister became very sick. She was brought to the doctor and the doctor discovered that her kidneys were failing; her only hope was a kidney transplant.

All the brothers and sisters were tested to see if they were a match, but only the boy was a match. Only the boy could give a kidney. The loving father said “Boy will you give a kidney to your sister?” The boy replied, ”Oh father you are so loving and kind, can’t you just buy her one?” “No son, that will not work “said the father, “we have searched near and far and you are the only match.” “But father,” said the boy, “You are so kind and loving that you have given me the gift of two working kidneys, what would I be saying to you if I just gave one away?” “Wouldn’t that be an insult to you? “ “Son, “said the father, “please your sister has fallen very ill.”

This went on and on for days with the father pleading with the son, and the son rebuffing every argument. Sadly the daughter passed away while the argument continued on. The father was grieved but it was ok with the son because he had two kidneys, some crackers and a nice bike.

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