June 2007

            Treading carefully because I have no desire to get caught up in (1) convention [SBC] politics, (2) new wave of evangelical practice politics, (3) politics that get in the way of Kingdom work and Kingdom growth, I still feel the need to do a little research. (Thanks goes out especially to my blushing bride who helps me find lots of things that are helpful.)

            To get to the point, I’d been hearing and reading the following terms for a short while: missional, emerging church, emergent. Using the powers of deduction that I learned over years of schooling, and my knowledge of the English language, I tried to develop definitions for these terms. I also have looked through the cyber universe to help with this research, mainly finding references to books and/or articles, but no satisfactory definitions.

            This search/dilemma came to a head not long ago when I was in attendance at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. At that meeting I was informed by virtue of a motion brought to the floor that the emerging/emergent church was a thing to be avoided at all costs, that it was in essence a spawn of the devil and that anyone connected to it (up to and including reading about it) was possessed of the devil. Perhaps my assessment of the motion is naïve and I myself am mistaken, but it still served to peak more interest in discovering what such a terrible movement is and why it is such a corruptible force as to direct workers in our (SBC) entities to have no contact with nor reference to said movement. In effect sticking our heads in the sand and refusing to allow thinking men and women the opportunity to read anything (books, journals, magazines or internet sites) that might so much as mention “emerging/emergent” and discover for themselves what it’s all about.

            So I found this article from Christianity Today. If you are interested in all the hoopla about emerging church and the movement (which seems to me an effort by some believers to be about the work of the Kingdom) you will find this concise article to be a great starting place. I know it gave me a good place from which to jump off.

            To summarize what I am finding out (the research goes on): the movement itself is not satanic, but instead is an effort on the part of many believers to truly be Christ followers who actually take Christ at His word about living life like Him. There are expressions of the movement (as in any movement) (btw, adherents prefer the term “conversation” to “movement”) which go beyond the bounds of even Scriptural demands and example. As to the motion brought to the SBC, I believe that there are some entrenched in the 1950s-style church life agenda who are threatened by anything that does not resemble said style. My response to this objection: What worked really well in the 1950s (or ‘60s or 70s for that matter) is failing to build the Kingdom. Instead it is suffocating the bride and body of Christ to a point near extinction. If something is causing people to embrace Christ, even if it doesn’t look like what I remember it to be, I should give it an opportunity to flourish.

            My advice to believers (especially ministers), don’t toss out the conversation as demonic before you give it a chance. Don’t buy in wholesale without assessing the direction of the movement in the form that is in front of you—if the foundation and goal are Christ, applaud (join if you dare), if either the foundation or the goal steers you anywhere aside from Christ, dismiss it as another flash in the pan (for that is what it is). Be Christ-like in your response whatever it may be.


Last weekend the hospital auxiliary at our small regional hospital had their annual fundraiser—a book fair. Being as books are books, and I’m rather bookish I made it a point to attend (I went 2 or 3 times). I went early (even though they charged a fee to get in the door the first night). I did this because I know how used book dealers circle around such events to snatch up anything and everything—EARLY. I figured that I’d get my money back in the savings on the books priced 65 cents to 2 dollars apiece.

What I found was like gold. I found books for fun, books for growth, music, Christmas, and children’s books. The best find (so far) was one my blushing bride picked up—Erwin R. McManus’ Uprising.

I’ve only started reading and can tell that I’ll be challenged, excited, angered, and ultimately grown as I continue reading. Thought 1 I’ve already found from just a few pages in: to live life, live life. I hate to interpret an author’s work after just a few pages, but I thought I’d share some thoughts with you that develop as I progress through this volume. As with a good sermon, the book opens with an engaging illustration lifted right from the author’s life—a whitewater rafting trip that taught him that he wanted to live.

McManus asserts that part of our make up as human beings is to want to live. He carries the picture further by reminding us that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to bring life. The assumption at the outset of the book suggests that we as believers ought to do those things that help us to live.

Becoming comfortable is not one of those things. The moment we begin to sit back without taking chances, is the moment we begin to die. The believer who does not exercise his faith might as well be dead (for all the good he does). So, as Stephen Curtis Chapman suggested to the Kingdom community some years ago: “Saddle up your horses . . . Let’s get ready to ride.”

I posted this on Loom & Wheel (click the link to see the original post with artwork, or just keep reading to see my list) a couple of days ago, then Paul Littleton tagged me to post “Five Things I Dig about Jesus.” So I thought I’d re-post here. (For those I tagged, no need to re-do, you just get another link!)

Here are the rules:

  1. Those tagged will share 5 Things They Dig About Jesus.
  2. Those tagged will tag 5 people.
  3. Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of this post so everyone can keep track of what’s being posted.

Here are my “digs” (got to love the lingo):

  1. Jesus reaches me where I am—no muss, no fuss.
  2. Jesus makes me better than I am.
  3. Jesus teaches me in the little things (and the big ones, too).
  4. Jesus knows me, and loves me anyway.
  5. Jesus invites me daily to participate in Kingdom work.

Here are the tags:

  1. Hannah
  2. Charley
  3. Marianne
  4. Tim
  5. Josh

Y’all have fun!

            Ernest J. Gaines makes a statement in his cultural novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. When one of the characters comes home from getting some education—the one who represents the leadership of his people—with the intention of his leading the people as a minister of the gospel, he floors them with the knowledge that he no longer believes in the church. His statement, “Leave the lies to the preachers.”

            As a preacher, I’m not sure that I care for the designation of “liar.” I am also a bit squeamish about being qualified as a hypocrite. But I’m fairly sure that both of these categories have a great deal to do with who I am. Certainly I don’t encourage hypocrisy, nor do I go out of my way to lie in any and all situations. However, I do find myself donning my mask and putting on a suit of diplomacy (the tailor-made version of lying).

            Kevin Leman gives me a great excuse for this in his research-based The Birth Order Book. Since I am the third of four children and the second son, I qualify as a middle child (in spades). Here is the list of typical characteristics of a middle child: “mediator, compromising, diplomatic, avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, many friends, a maverick, secretive, unspoiled.” This is a pretty good description of me. In short, I want two things (mainly): people to like me and peaceful co-existence. I want everyone to be happy. Consequently, this leads to a default of being “on” all the time.

            I relate a great deal with Craig Groeschel who confesses in his introduction to Confessions of a Pastor that he plays his part with relative ease. It is so easy to say and hear what people want to fulfill a desire for acceptance that it becomes a game that some of us play. If you’re really good at it you can never turn it off. We play the part for our church—especially those of us who see our livelihood resting in the hands of the people. Tell them what they want to hear without telling them anything really. It’s a politician’s dream to be able to master this skill. We play the part for our families. How many of us really let our guard down even for our spouse?

            I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world. She’s smart, witty, beautiful, and giving. Still sometimes I wonder, “If she really knew all of me, if I came clean about who I am at my core being, would she still want me?” I asked her once why she felt I was good enough to choose. She just smiled and said, “I love you.” I don’t try to hide from her, but at the same time, I don’t know that I’ve ever fully disclosed myself to her. I have a feeling as I open up more to her all the time, she would just love me more.

            In a way, this acceptance she shows toward me is a sampling of what Jesus does. The big difference is that, even though I try to put my game face on for Jesus, He knows. Sometimes my blushing bride knows, too. She doesn’t say anything, she just knows, and she loves me anyway. See? Jesus knows, and He loves me anyway. This is why perhaps Groeschel’s book is so important. It reminds us—Christ followers—that Christ knows us so we don’t have to be ever “on”. Instead, we ought to be genuine because Christ knows. I am working on this hypocrisy thing (from the ancient Greek stage—the hypocrite was the mask worn by the actor to depict the role he was playing). Take off the mask. . . Your friends and family don’t want it, you won’t miss it, and Jesus sees right through it.

            Lately I’ve been working very hard to turn off my moral thermometer. You know, that thing within you that raises itself to ungodly levels, makes you see red, and shoots steam out of your ears. It’s that thing that trips in our brains whenever we hear of someone who has lapsed morally. Suddenly we become holier-than-thou, judgmental, and close the door to any opportunity for ministry.

            This is the thing that most Christians who have any years behind them has that reminds them that they are better than the individual who has fallen. It allows us to say witty things like, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s that spot within us that convinces us, “You’re better than they are,” and teaches us to look down our noses in derision.

            Somehow it’s related to our understanding of right and wrong, but then we latch on and determine that anyone who falls on the wrong side of what I see as wrong must be all wrong. When they start looking to me for help, for mercy, for acceptance, I turn them away—closing the door to any further opportunity for ministry in the future. It is the reason that believers have developed the reputation of being unsympathetic, narrow-minded, bigots.

            Since this thermometer helps me determine right from wrong, why would I want to turn it off? Why, indeed. It is because the moral thermometer is not my moral thermostat. In my layman’s understanding of these two devices, one determines what the temperature is to be, the other simply reads the level of the temperature in a given place. Our problem is that we turn on our thermostats and then allow our thermometers to control us (and try to control those around us with our thermometers).

            One of the things that I see happening very often is that the Christian community begins to judge society at large by our own standards. We begin to expect those who know not Christ to be like Him—a feat that Jesus himself never attempted, nor did He expect it. He expected the world to act like the world, He expected His disciples to act like Him. Do we see the difference? Follower of Jesus, act like Jesus; non-follower of Jesus, act like the world. Why is it, then, that we as the church refuse to minister to someone who is acting like the world?

Luke 19

 1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”  8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”  9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” 

            How are we supposed to be about the work of Kingdom building, when we turn away those who want our help because they have broken our mold of decorum? How indeed can we become the instrument of grace that God wants to use (we share the mercy we found in Christ with those who need His love) when we have chosen to mete out judgment that isn’t even ours to give?

            Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv and author, confesses in Confessions of a Pastor that he doesn’t like many Christians for the kinds of things they fight over: “You’re reading the wrong version of the Bible. Your church has the wrong worship style. You don’t teach enough from the Old Testament. . .  Your church isn’t evangelistic enough. You’re too evangelistic. . .” He follows this up with a list of things that happen when Christians go outside the church: “All R-rated movies are off-limits. If you listen to secular music, you’re of the devil. Don’t get a tattoo. Don’t watch Teletubbies. Don’t go to Disney World.” His conclusion: Stop judging the world while you have sin in your life. Instead, work on changing into who God wants you to be, and love the world.

            This does not mean that we are to embrace or even condone the behavior in the world with which we disagree. But it does mean that we sometimes have to look past the sin and see the sinner. God hates sin, so do I. Most of all I hate my own sin.

            When the homosexual comes to me, scarred by his sin and scared of what might become of him because of that sinful lifestyle, I must love him without accepting his sin. In order to love him I should point out his sin as sin, but do so without venom in my manner.

            When the pregnant teen comes, broken because of bad choices, I must minister to her in the best way I can. I don’t need to judge her for her past actions. She’s probably doing enough of that already. I must instead give good counsel, based on the Scripture, and continue to love her regardless of what good or bad decisions she has made or will make.

            So I am working hard to turn off that thing in me which screams to point fingers, burns red in my eyes and shows Benjie and not Jesus to a world that needs Jesus and not Benjie. I want to open doors for ministry and Kingdom building, not close them.

How about you?

I’ve been enjoying some of my summer selections. I’m hoping to post several reviews on Book ’em Benj-O soon. I’m about halfway finished with Craig Groeschel’s Confessions of a Pastor. This book is challenging and condemning at the same time. Groeschel is a smooth and entertaining writer that opens the thought processes easily, making you examine your life in light of scriptural principles. Aside from the upcoming review, I hope to examine some of the challenges in the book on this site.

 I’ve also finally found a copy of I’m Okay, You’re Not! by John Shore. I’ve seen positives and negatives on this one, so stay tuned to see some thoughts from the Wondering Ponderer.

I hope that doesn’t look like I’m bound by or bound to the SBC, but that (as intended) we are en route to the SBC. My goals are to spend time with my blushing bride, touch base with some old friends, assess some of the intricacies of the convention (be a part), but not get caught up in the politicking that has been corrupting our convention over the years.

One of the reasons for attending this particular year is that we can leave our older children with my folks and trek to San Antonio (we haven’t really visited there in 6 years). We also will get to visit with some of our colleagues from the former Soviet Union since that is the focus for the year at the IMB.

 I’ll try to keep some posts up, but am not worrying over that too much.