Ted Haggard Starts A New Church

I just commented on a post from @POTSC about Ted Haggard starting a new church. Check it: http://ow.ly/1TNhG

Crazy Love

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

I first saw Francis Chan speak a couple years back at a conference in Northern California.  I was completely taken by his ability to be honest, transparent and vulnerable while presenting a message with depth and substance.  Since then I’ve seen a few video blogs, heard a podcast and read a few articles of his online and really enjoyed his consistent authenticity.

This book definitely had it’s engaging and sleepy moments for me, but I really feel the overall message is brought home with a challenge to leave the safe and expected for the risky and crazy journey of faith and love we should be on as followers of Jesus.  His writing style feels consistent with the conversational and relational way he speaks and conveys his message in a live setting.  One fun thing he did with this book was to have video chapter introductions on the book website.  Definitely a cool way to connect with who the author is and get a more personal sense of his heart.

One thing I appreciate here was Chan’s willingness to embrace a bit of controversy in some bold statements throughout the book.  There may be people who will fully dismiss his message because of one or two sentences in this book, but I believe that would shortchange the reader from some great challenges and insights throughout this read.

Crazy Love ultimately prods the reader to evaluate if we’ve chosen the safe and comfortable American dream in place of the radical call to actually love people the way Jesus did.  Are we willing to sell what we have, give away our stuff, love the poor, serve with our time, let go of our money and hang out with our enemies?  To live and love like Jesus…it will radically change us and wreck the security we’ve been told is what’s important.  It’s not a condemning message…convicting, yes…but kind of a reality check to look inside and see where our personal treasure is.

Well done Francis.

::: Have You Read This Book?  Post Your Thoughts? :::

Publisher’s Info:

God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response?

We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not…we all know somethings wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions?

God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts—it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

It’s A New Day…It’s A New Doubt…

I read through something the other day that has gone and got itself stuck in my head.  The essence of what I read was this: when you have absolute certainty, you don’t need faith because you have knowledge.  Faith is only necessary when the outcome is in question…when doubt is present.  Doubt seems to be an essential element of faith and the two kind of work hand-in-hand.

I am just kind of chewing on this right now.  It seems like through my Christian life I’ve been taught that we need to have every answer to every question and can’t ever NOT know the answer.   As I mature and live I’m learning that God is mysterious and we CAN’T know everything about Him or even pretend to understand most things about who He is.   I think it’s powerful to be honest enough to say “I don’t know.”   There’s an appealing authenticity in saying “I don’t know” and maybe even “I’m not sure I believe,” or “I’m not sure why I believe that.”

Clarity is still outside of my complete grasp on this issue, but I’m really enjoying the process of thinking it through.

Your Thoughts???

The “Is that contestant on American Idol a Christian? Scorecard”

The “Is that contestant on American Idol a Christian? Scorecard”

#44. At any point during their “look at where they grew up bio,” the phrase “speaking in tongues” is mentioned =  + 10 points

To add up your score with over a 130 other ideas on this scorecard, visit stuffchristianslike.net

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years : What I Learned While Editing My Life

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years : What I Learned While Editing My Life

I quickly became a Donald Miller fan after reading Blue Like Jazz.  I enjoy his conversational writing style, mixed with profound observations on faith and our human condition.  Since then I’ve read all his books.  When this book came out, I bought it and began reading it simply because it was Miller’s next offering.

A few years ago I began using a little phrase that I’d put together through several different life experiences.  “What makes the better story???  Do that!!!” This became a running joke and expression that I would use with close friends and family when faced with insignificant choices and other weighty decisions.  At times it would result in ridiculous experiences and in other moments challenge me to choose an uncomfortable, yet rewarding path.

It was a lot of fun reading this book because Don takes a look at our life through the lens of story.  He explores and uncovers what makes a good story in a book and on film, and how that contrasts with real life.  I found the book prompting me to ask the question what kind of story am I telling with my life?  Reminding me that I can choose to write a great story, to be a great character, to pursue life in all it’s fullness!  Or I can choose a less interesting and safe existence.  Every choice I make plays a role in determining my story.  It was a good reminder that always choosing what is safe, or comfortable, or popular can actually dull my story.

Pam and I have purposefully made decisions in our life to create memories with our kids…telling a better story.  We’ve realized that our kids will remember the things we did that were outside of the norm…beyond the expected.  One example was the year we decided to have Fruit Loops for Thansgiving Dinner.  Rather than focusing so much time and energy on the meal, we spent all our time playing and hanging out together.  Our kids still talk about that year, and we’re threatening to do it again someday.  Next time we’ll probably have Lucky Charms though.

Would I recommend this book…absolutely!  Miller’s honest and creative writing has a way that I’m sure can connect with most anyone.  I appreciate the way he openly wrestles with his faith and how it works in his life, but without jumping on the sometimes all-too-popular “let’s bash the church” train.  It’s a pretty easy read, and might even challenge some of us to get off the couch and live a better story.

Pagan Christianity

Pagan Christianity Book CoverI was pre-warned.  This book is controversial, thought-provoking, frustrating, interesting, and challenging.

I grew up in the contemporary American church, immersed in cultural Christianity.  I won’t lie, I’ve had times that I was pretty much done with church…not my faith…but done with the whole church thing.  My experience with and in church has run the gamut.  I’ve been indoctrinated, patronized, accepted, deeply wounded and loved in church…and my experience is anything but unique.  What does any of that have to do with God and being a follower of Jesus?  Not much.  So, I live wanting to make sure my life is about more than religious politics, pragmatism, propaganda and preaching.  I read scriptures and books like this to challenge and correct my thinking, and ultimately to move me and make sure I don’t drown in a sea of spiritual complacency.

The authors brought some intriguing things about the current practices of Christianity to light.  I was impressed with the depth of the research they did, of course I came into the book expecting thoroughness with Barna’s name listed as a co-author.  There were quite a few things that I learned in this read as they looked at the origins of many traditions we see in the modern church.

The problems I had with the book may not be what the author’s expected though.  They admit that this book will probably be controversial.  I’m fine with that.  What I found maddening was the overt soapbox the writers lectured from at about every turn and opportunity.  Any author enters writing with a bias of some sort when presenting on a particular subject, but these guys weren’t able to even subtly mask their agenda and obvious opinions.  I found this very distracting.  While I was interested in the facts they were submitting, I felt continually assaulted by their conclusions…even when I found myself agreeing with them.  Then I felt insulted by the Q&A at the end of most chapters where they would attempt to quietly step back and say “but we encourage the reader to make up their own mind on this.”  It’s difficult to really let someone come to their own conclusions gently when strongly presenting one viewpoint as wrong and your perspective as the solution.  OK, so there’s my rant about the way these guys wrote the book.

The writers basic conclusion is that the current institutional church is not biblical, and that everyone should join a house-church.  They have made their case for the most part, but I feel there are a few flaws in their approach and some of their opinions.  I won’t go into great detail here, but while there is merit to some of their concerns, there is also merit (I believe) in not throwing the baby out with the bath-water.  The fact is that, agree with how we got here or not, we do have an institutional church currently in place.  I also believe that God is asking us to look at how and why we “do” church, and that we can “be” the church in ways that reach our current culture and allow Jesus to be the Head of all that we do.  Perhaps He’s calling some to leave the institutional church, but I’m sure He’s calling others (including me) to work toward change in church as we now experience it.

I think that this would be a good read for Christians and ministry leaders to evaluate the “why” in what we do.  I’m confident that there will be things that incite you, and make you look a little closer at your faith expressions.  I would also pre-warn you.  Be ready to take a new look at some things that we’ve come to accept as the norm in the modern church, but also to be exposed to the blatant doctrines and theology of the authors.  I’m sure God is wanting to connect deeper with His church, and maybe this book will be a catalyst towards some of that in your life as it has been in mine.

Publisher’s Info:

Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

Jim & Casper Go To Church

Jim & Casper Go To Church“Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” A question that I believe all church leaders should consistently ask themselves.  Buzzwords like ‘relevant’ and ‘authentic’ sound-off frequently in many church planning and staff meetings, but are we?  Beyond that, is our form and function connecting with people in their real life world?

These are things I wrestle with personally as a vocational ministry guy.  In ‘doing’ church the all-American way, am I part of the problem?  Does what I do matter?  Where I know my life matters is in the relationships I have.  The friendships and encounters I get to be a part of in my work as a worship guy matter…and sometimes make a difference.

So I land here…that I’ll work diligently right where God has placed me…and love the people I get to be around.  Then I’ll try to use whatever influence I might have to move towards real relationships and honest ministry, reaching real people in the real world…because that’s what Jesus told us to do.

I love the author’s challenge to church leaders and attenders, to visit other churches as an outsider, often.  In my years of touring, I’ve had the opportunity to be in hundreds of different churches, and I feel that it remains important to keep a fresh perspective on if what we do in church is actually doing what Jesus wants us to do.

I would recommend that church leaders read this book to challenge us and dislodge us from comfort zones and perceived realities.  I think that this book is also a good read for Christians who have been attending their church for years.  Let the words of an outsider change the way we think about and approach community and church so that we can actually meet people where they are and maybe even love on them a bit.  As for me?  I’m going to keep asking:

“Is this what Jesus told me to do?”

Publisher’s Info:

Jim Henderson pays people to go to church. In fact, he made national news when he “rented” a soul for $504 on E-Bay after its owner offered an “open mind” to the highest bidder. In Jim & Casper Go to Church, Hendrson hires another atheist–Matt Casper–to visit ten leading churches with him and give the “first impression” perspective of a non-believer. What follows is a startling dialogue between an atheist and a believer seeing church anew through the eyes of a skeptic, and the development of an amazing relationship between two men with diametrically opposing views of the world who agree to respect each others’ space. Foreword by George Barna.