Fear of Neither Future nor Past

Someone shared this with me in an email titled: Church Services of the Future. (It can also be found at places other than FreeRepublic.com.  Slide1I believe the idea behind the email (I was among a  good number of recipients) was to engender discussion of the ways technology is, or seems to be, or threatens to be, infringing on worship.

My first thought was that this was posted by a traditionalist, strongly opposed to any technology in worship.

Of, by that I mean (or the traditionalist means) opposition to any recent technology in worship.  I assume, anyway, that there is not widespread opposition to the use of electricity – whether it be in the lights or sound system.

(I don’t know if distribution of cassette tapes of sermons is more acceptable than downloading digital copies.  Find a traditionalist and ask.)

FYI, I am not, at least in the technological sense, a traditionalist.

Neither am I one who insists that proper, relevant worship of God must be on the cutting edge of technology.

So here is my response to the email discussion of this alleged “Church Service of the Future”: I do not believe worship (at least Christian worship) should be about technology.  By this I mean Christian worship is about Christ and not, specifically and clear NOT about either

  • the use of the latest technology


  • the avoidance of technology.

God has no more (and no less) issue with your being distracted from worship by your smart phone than by worrying what that other person is looking at on her smartphone.

When I was a youth, we sometimes passed notes to one another during the sermon. Offering envelopes served well for this.  When caught, we were admonished that we should be paying attention.

I don’t remember whether or not the notes were ever related to what the preacher was saying or not.

I know people who taking notes on their phones or tablet computers during sermons.

Is writing notes on by hand more worshipful than writing them electronically?  Not a chance.

Worship is about worship – worship of God. It is not about technology – whether that means for technology, or against it.

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

What does your sign say?

Several leaders of my church and I attended a Stewardship Seminar this weekend led by Dr. Clif Christopher of Horizons Stewardship.  It was a very helpful, informative event; and a trip well worth taking for the group I went with.

One of Dr. Christopher’s points that I particularly enjoyed was that a cross, a sign by which most every church represents itself, advertises changed lives.  In this context, he told a story of stopping for food on a long drive.  Hungry for chicken, he found a KFC sign and pulled in. He ordered Extra Crispy and was told they were out.  He asked, then, for original recipe, and was told they were out.3089365994_e562bf09c0_o

This KFC (stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken) had no chicken.

The implication was clear: churches that have a cross anywhere in their signage that do not offer changed lives are as nonsensical as a KFC with no chicken.

I love his point!  Churches are about following Jesus, and Jesus is about changed lives.  What could be simpler?

Oh, yeah, then there’s this: unchristian and the Rise of the Nones (Pew Research Center Study) rather conclusively show that the cross does not mean changed lives to everyone who sees it.

Just like words out of our mouths, the intended message is not always the one that is received.  Is it entirely the responsibility of the speaker, or the one (church) with the sign to  perfectly articulate in ways that cannot be misunderstood?  Hardly.

On the other hand, the first step towards returning the message of the cross to the understanding we Christians intend it to have is to be in the process of having our own lives changed.

Let’s try this for a while and see how it works!


What does your sign say?

There go we all?

He: I was stupid.4444216550_6f4c1399aa_b

She: we’ve all been there.

The discussion was this simple, this straightforward, this honest. He was looking for someplace to get some community service hours for a pending legal issue.  She represented one of those potential “someplaces;” in this case, a church.

I have been serving in churches for nearly a quarter century now.  I have lost several colleagues to sexual impropriety.  Some of these colleagues have also been good friends.

(About none of them do I know the whole story.  In general, it is none of my business. In reality, a “community” that covers up and sanitizes its challenges is no community at all.)

I do not like losing good friends, ministry colleagues! I do not feel at all good about people going from being in ministry one day to persona non grata the next. As often as not, such persons are perceived to be doing effective ministry, right up to the fall.

Here’s where I take us back to the little dialogue that opened this post.

We have all been there.

Ok; maybe you have not been across the line that divides legal from illegal, moral from immoral.  At least not to the extent that you are required to do community service, or prison time, or even, overnight becoming unwelcome in a place you once lead.

But you have been close enough to see that line, haven’t you?

I know I have.  Sometimes that I have gotten close to that line I was “scared straight.’  The times that most concern me, though, are the times that I felt so good, cocky, and full of myself that I just knew I could toe the line, perhaps even cross it, and it would make no difference.

I have been there, and you have too.  If you tell me, or yourself that you haven’t, that you couldn’t, you might just be closer to that line right now than you ought to be.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray,one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

-Luke 18:9-14 (Common English Bible)

There go we all?

Which side am I on?

wisdomI found myself in an awkward place a few weeks ago in a discussion with some of our youth.

There are many words that are used broadly within concern for shared meaning, and I think wisdom is one of them. So I decided to ask what “wisdom” was.

I don’t remember the definitions given, but everyone was on the same page, or at least adjacent pages. Until, that is, I asked how one acquires or attains (I think I actually used the word “gets”) wisdom.

Everyone in the conversation except me expressed some version of this: wisdom comes with age.

Full disclosure: I fully believe that I am wiser now than I was when I was younger.  But I am observant enough also to claim that not everyone my age (or older) is necessarily wise.  Let’s face it, adults: we are not wise just because we have lived to the age we now are.  We still react out of selfishness, pride, greed, insecurity, etc. from time to time.

The real point I hoped to make with those young people, though, was NOT that older people are not wise by virtue of being older.  No; the real point I wanted them to grasp (at least a little) was that they, as young people, had access to wisdom as much as anyone.

Christian Youth love to cite 1 Timothy 4:12 which says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example….”

In that conversation, it was the Christian youth who were looking down on themselves.

Young people:  we need the wisdom that you have to offer.

We are, I believe, all in this together.

Which side am I on?

The reach of consequences

I was scheduled to have had knee surgery this week. It was postponed because I was still taking the daily low-dose aspirin suggested by my physician a couple of years ago.consequences-300x204

I received notice from the orthopedic surgeon’s office last Friday that I was to stop taking aspirin two weeks before the procedure.0

Yes, I received that notice four days before the procedure.

Mistakes happen and messages are not always sent in a timely fashion; I have been on both sides of this. As it turns out, the surgicenter where the rescheduled surgery will take place will cost me a fraction of what the hospital was charging, so waiting a week is a good thing.

The postponement has also allowed me to work much more this week than I had expected.  Since I was away from the office all week last week for PSYM, It has been a good week.

As I think about the consequences of the miscommunication of the orthopedic office, I cannot help but think about the potential issues and consequences that may happen when I miscommunicate.

This brings some clarity for me to the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

As the sarge always said on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there!”


The reach of consequences

Gap this!

I am making final preparations for teaching at next week’s Perkins School of Youth Ministry.  One of the classes I will be teaching is titled “Deconstructing the Generation Gap.”  I will allege, and hopefully convince my class, that the generation gap is a social construct and one that is (ought to be) unwelcome in the church.

It struck me today that the term “generation gap” really came into being as the Baby Boomers began to rise into late adolescence and early adulthood.  Now, however, they are on the other end of the gap.

How are you doing, Baby Boomers, from this side of the “gap,” as compared to how the older generation did when you were on the young end?

Gap this!