Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pastoring Each Other and Good Days

I'm going to mix together a couple thoughts I wanted to share.

First of all, these are very good days for our church! We're beginning to implement some of the goals I shared here and there is a general sense of excitement and optimism about the direction and future of our church.

On Sunday, I shared some thoughts about how the church community helps us develop the brain chemicals necessary for overcoming temptation (I hope to share some of that later). Afterwards, we had an extended time of community and the energy level was impressive, I just stood in the corner for awhile and watched people interact. It was hard to disrupt what was happening by giving the final prayer and starting the tear-down process. That time on Sunday morning is an accurate microcosm of the overall peace and community being experienced by our church right now. People are sharing life together, connecting on a deeper level, enjoying each other's company and we're welcoming new people into the community as well. Churches go through seasons and this current season is one of high warmth and low conflict -and I'm LOVING it!

We've also just began our Life Transformation Groups. You can see what a LTG looks like by checking out the format at these two links: simple format and more intense format. I can't quite express how good it is to see people 'pastoring' each other and, more importantly, being Christ to each other. Not only is it satisfying to see that, it's quite liberating as well. And based upon that studying I've been doing, it seems much more biblical, too.

These are some very good days at TFC.

The God Journey

I've been reading books by Wayne Jacobsen for quite awhile now, The Shack and So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore are linked on the right side of this blog. But I've just now started listening to Jacobsen's podcast and reading his blog. He has some really powerful and refreshing things to say to the institution we call "the church." I'd encourage you to check out his stuff.

The God Journey

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life is Precious

A little over a month ago, I was listening to Jim Hurd sing a song about adoption from Annie that make me ache with love for my own son. This weekend, Jim will be burying one of his sons. I have no idea the pain the Hurd family must be feeling. After hearing the news last night, I went into Dawson's room and listened to him sleep and fought off tears. Thankfully, the Hurds are a part of a great church in Gardner that can be the presence of Christ as they mourn their loss.

Jim just posted this message on his Facebook account: "What a privilege and honor to get to be with, parent and befriend our Andrew. I couldn't be more proud and I can't love someone more. I miss him so much.
Andrew Celebration and Visitation Services
Friday night 6-9p at Fellowship Bible Church - Open church time to visit with family
Saturday Morning 10a (Place TBD) - Celebration of Andrew's Life."

I just can't imagine, though our God knows the same pain in giving his son over to the cross.

ABC's video

NBC's Video

Please pray for the Hurd's and the Crainshaws.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This Sunday, on behalf of the Advisory Council, Brian Hupe announced the results of last week's Pastor / Church review. After announcing the results, we were given some gifts and an celebratory applause. I didn't expect any of this, so it was quite nice. Erin and I were given some gift cards and Dawson was given a Cat in the Hat hoodie.

Probably the nicest gift of all was the note inside the card. The note read, "Thank you for having a heart like Jesus - willing, obedient, faithful. You are appreciated. Words cannot describe how awesome you two are! We appreciate everything you do for us." - Trinity Family Church

"Awesome" might be a bit of a stretch.... But I truly appreciate the sentiment, it was one of the nicer things the congregation has done for us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Consumer Christianity kills Pastors

I just finished reading, for the 2nd time a very powerful book entitled So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore? I'm sure it's strange to see a pastor reading that book. While I don't necessarily agree with all of conclusions of the author, Wayne Jacobson, I can't help but be both convicted and saddened by all the ways the instution of church actually robs the health, life, vitality and passion for God from its adherants.

In talking with Jeren Rowell, my boss before my first-ever review on Monday evening, Jeren once again shared with me his frustrations with what consumerism Christianity does to both pastors and lay people. With every good intentioned and well-meaning pursuits, the consumeristic, program-driven, overscheduled, performance-based North American church is stealing Kingdom life from it's participants. Laypersons are getting burned out as are clergy.

To illustrate this reality, Jeren posted this article on our KC District Pastors Facebook page.
I'll also post the article below. As you read this, keep in mind that this is a New York Times author. If unchurched people can see the problem, why can't we? And to again quote Reggie McNeal in Missional Renaissance, "[The church must be] willing to get over the delusion that the 'success' of the church impresses the world. It does not. It only impresses church people, while making others even more skeptical of the church's true motives."

Congregations Gone Wild
Published: August 7, 2010

THE American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

The trend toward consumer-driven religion has been gaining momentum for half a century. Consider that in 1955 only 15 percent of Americans said they no longer adhered to the faith of their childhood, according to a Gallup poll. By 2008, 44 percent had switched their religious affiliation at least once, or dropped it altogether, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found. Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason.

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly. A few years ago, thousands of parishioners quit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., when their respective preachers refused to bless the congregations’ preferred political agendas and consumerist lifestyles.

I have faced similar pressures myself. In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.

Congregations that make such demands seem not to realize that most clergy don’t sign up to be soothsayers or entertainers. Pastors believe they’re called to shape lives for the better, and that involves helping people learn to do what’s right in life, even when what’s right is also difficult. When they’re being true to their calling, pastors urge Christians to do the hard work of reconciliation with one another before receiving communion. They lead people to share in the suffering of others, including people they would rather ignore, by experiencing tough circumstances — say, in a shelter, a prison or a nursing home — and seeking relief together with those in need. At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.

Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression.

Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.

When such an ethic takes root, as it has in generations past, then pastors will cease to feel like the spiritual equivalents of concierges. They’ll again know joy in ministering among people who share their sense of purpose. They might even be on fire again for their calling, rather than on a path to premature burnout.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Family Photo Shoot

Here are some great pictures from a family photo shoot we did on June 26th, my 32nd birthday. A rather painful and almost scary at the time - but now funny - faux pas happened during the shoot, which I'll explain at the end.

In one of the above pictures, Dawson is seated on a hammock, reading a book. Just after that picture, a certain woman to whom I'm married suggested we all 3 lay across the hammock for a picture. We kept putting Dawson down first but he kept fussing, though we weren't sure why. Eventually, Erin layed herself across the hammock. When I, joining them, lay down across the hammock, the post holding one end of the hammock broke in half, sending us crashing to the ground and the metal eyelet to which the hammock rope was tied directly into my back. The post was heavy and that metal eyelet really, really hurt. I had a bruise for about a week. After getting my breath back several minutes later, I realized how fortunate I was that I was hit in the muscly part of my back, not on the spine, half an inch to the left. I was quite fortunate the post didn't land on my head. But more fortuitous than any of those near-misses, is the fact that Dawson lying right next to me, wasn't hit by the post. I'm very certain that crash would've landed us in the emergency room.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pastor / Board / Church Review

Per the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, it was time for my first ever review with my DS and the TFC Church Board. Though I really had no reason to be so, I was kind of nervous about the review. I was mostly nervous because I noticed some questions on the survey that the board filled out regarding COTN administrative stuff that I wasn't doing. Of course, that was no big deal. As usual, my DS Jeren Rowell is much more concerned about how our local church is trying to live faithfully to the gospel than whether or not we're fulfilling certain COTN-specific details. In fact, he helped rewrite the manual's pastoral description, making the admin stuff way less important than the biblically instructed stuff for pastors.

Anyway, it was a great time last night. We shared our excitement over where the church is headed, shared some ideas for helping us focus better on our missional changes, went through an honest health assessment for our church (based upon Acts 2) and spent time praying together. There was a time in which Erin and I were sent from the room so they could vote on whether or not to keep me on as pastor. When we came back in, Jeren told us the vote was completely affirmative, that the board loves us and wants us to stay on as their pastors and those sentiments were confirmed by some tears I saw in some eyes. We sat in that room feeling very encouraged, grateful to be pastoring this church, excited to be on this journey with them and very, very loved.

There are some health indicators that need to be addressed, such as making prayer a more integral part of our community life. Our small-ish size, according to Jeren, puts us in the "enviable position" of being able to build strong consensus to make the missional changes we're making.

These are really, really good days for TFC. From Sunday's amazing time of worship together to the discipleship and missional changes we're making - these are some enjoyable, peaceful and productive days at TFC. Man, it's so good to be able to write those words!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Bomb

65 years ago, plus one day, the US dropped the only atomic bomb ever used in war (which is kind of ironic, considering how much we rail against countries that have massive bombs).

Dwight D. Eisenhower believed the bomb was unnecessary and we dropped it only to scare the Russians into listening to us after the war.

"In 1945 ... , Secretary of War Stimson visited my headquarters in Germany, [and] informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act.... During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and second because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face.'

Here's an interesting site that debates the decision.

I also found an interesting question from someone posting a thought. That person asked how we'd feel if Nazi Germany dropped a bomb on New York, killing hundreds of thousands of people. We'd be a tad upset and call them all kinds of terrible things.

Why, why, why would we drop two bombs on cities?

Yes, that was a long time ago. It is easier on an emotional level, to discuss something from the past than the emotionally-charged debates about current military engagement. At the time, anyone who decried the dropping of the bomb would've been mocked, called "un-American" or all kinds of other "shape up or ship out" type of threats/ insults. But decades later, we realize the dropping of the bomb was 1) unnecessary for ending the war and 2) influenced by decisions beyond the war with Japan.

If the US did something that at the time was supported, but later in history revealed to be horrifically evil and completely unnecessary, doesn't that mean there's the possibility that the same type of situation exists now?

Most main-line type of citizens supported the Vietnam war at the time, but very few people would defend it's necessity now.

Can we learn from the lessons of history or do we have to keep repeating the cycle of taking innocent civilian lives in wars that are almost pointless, at best, and completely unjust, at worst.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Love of Jesus

Here's a powerful quote from Tim Keller's book The Prodigal God.

“[In every example in the New Testament] when Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders 'the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you.' (Matthew 21:31)

“Jesus’ teachings consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. This can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on the people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we'd like to think."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

John Deere Green and other pictures

We took some great pictures of Dawson during the month of July and I love sharing them in my own little piece of Al Gore's invention.

These pictures are from a trip to a produce farm a few miles south of Gardner.

The rest of these pictures are from Erin and Dawson's time spent last week on my parent's farm. Unfortunately, due to my new job at FedEx, I wasn't able to join them. But these are some great pictures.

Dawson and his cousin, Dani.

This is a great picture.

My dad is as crazy about John Deere tractors as I am about Hawkeye football. Dad and I are a lot alike in personality, but we differ in how we live out our personalities.

I've watched many sunsets from this spot in my parent's lawn.

A little water park called Fun City that was built just a few years ago.

For ten years, I was sat on this piano bench and not allowed to get up until I'd finished my half hour of practicing the piano.

I also played in the water coming from that faucet many times as a kid.

Another great picture.

Dad is going to need to buy Dawson a helmet when he gets a bit older, so he can tear through the fields like I used to do.

Dawson doing his 'lining-up' hobby.

The dangerously steep stairs leading to the upstairs in my parent's farmhouse. I fell down those stairs a few too many times and even (allegedly) peed from the top of them while being potty-trained - which is about to happen to my son (the training, hopefully not the peeing on the stairs).

That was my truck as a kid. Yes, I love seeing Dawson do the same things his daddy used to do.

Really, does it get much cuter than this?

Everything is green on the Miller farm.

This is the type of picture that makes my dad say, "that's my boy."

Getting cleaned up after a long day playing outside.