Emerge and Restore

Exploring faith, God, and church in the 21st century...

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Location: Kansas, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Par·a·dox – 1. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true: i.e. ‘This statement is false.’ 2. An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises. 3. A statement contrary to received opinion.

Chris·tian par·a·dox – 1. A belief, value, or way of life that contradicts the normative belief system and lifestyle of a given society or culture, yet which will result in a life that is more pleasing to and blessed by the Creator than would be possible otherwise.

One reason it’s so hard for us to allow ourselves to be changed by our faith is that we naturally accept the values of the world around us; we carelessly accept the messages that surround us on a daily basis and begin to think of them as normal. Then when we see the reality that confronts us in the pages of the Bible, we tend to think of those godly values as difficult, or old-fashioned, or bizarre.
Many of the values that God calls his followers to possess stand at odds with the values of our culture. Many times, those cultural values seem to make sense, they feel normal. It’s easy to begin to doubt God’s way because sometimes his ways seem weak, or ineffectual, or foolish. But maybe that’s the point. Paul writes in I Corinthian 1:25-27: “This "foolish" plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”
It’s God’s intention that we rely on his strength, his power, and his values to get us through life. It’s tempting to think that we are surviving on our own strength and talent and intelligence, when God wants to remind that in his world, weakness and brokenness and frailty reign supreme. It’s one of the greatest distinctions that mark us as Christians. If we have any power, we know it comes from God, not from an illusion of possessing it ourselves. If we see clearly, it’s because our sight comes from God.
So here's a list of values I think the church should adopt (also my current sermon series); teachings of the New Testament that are counter-intuitive, that may not make sense on the surface, but will bring us closer to God, boost our spiritual maturity, and give us some surprising insights into the spiritual reality of the world God created for us. These are some ways God calls us to be different.

1. We must SURRENDER in order to WIN (Matt. 19:16-22)

2. We must be HOMELESS before we can find our HOME (2 Cor. 5:1-10)

3. We need to become SIGHTLESS to really SEE (2 Cor. 5:7; John 9:17-33)

4. We must MOURN to be HAPPY (Matt. 5:4; Luke 23:50-24:9)

5. We’ve got to WORK before we can REST (Genesis 2:1-15; Matt. 11:28-30)

6. We must become POOR to become RICH (Matt. 5:3; James 2:1-13)

7. We must become LEAST to be the GREATEST (Matt. 20:25-28; Phil 2:3-11)

8. We must work at being FOLLOWERS in order to be LEADERS (Matt. 4:19; John 10:27)

9. We must be WEAK to be STRONG (2 Cor. 4:1-11)

10. We must DIE so that we can LIVE (Romans 6:3-4; Gal. 2:20)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On Fire

Keeping in line with the last post...I wonder what would happen if we treated all communication like we treat the Bible? Would we not be considered less intelligent if we did? For instance, try treating the following statement as if it were from scripture:


Of course, we'd approach it word by word. We'd parse it and disect it until we thought we knew everything about it. We'd haggle and argue about exactly which building was being pointed to with the use of the word "the." We'd find out all the possible uses of the word "building" and trace it's usage in popular contemporary literature. We'd whip out our lexicons to determine the proper parts of speech and tenses of "is" and "on". Then we'd study "fire" to figure out the exact type and size of fire I meant, whether the small flame of a match, or the raging inferno consuming a building. We could do that. Maybe we'd learn. Possibly it might clarify something. But...if we treated that message in our "biblical" way...would anybody be saved?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Car Parts

I'm trying to re-teach my congregation how to read the Bible in order to pull out the core truths instead of finding individual verses to debate endlessly. There's a Brian McLaren illustration that I like to paraphrase:

We've been taught that the only way to think is to analyze, therefore the only way to read the Bible is analytically. Analysis is fine, but it's also limited. Analysis can only break down things into smaller and smaller parts. To study matter, we had to break it down to it's most basic part. For a while, we thought the smallest particle was the atom. Then we discovered those are made of protons, electrons and neutrons. But those are made up of quarks. And now we have strings? Our scientific analysis has yielded tons of knowledge, but it suddenly too complicated to almost anyone to know what to do with. I think we make the same mistake when we relegate our study of the Bible to an analysis-only paradigm.

Think of it like a car. To understand a car through analyzation, you take it apart and look at it piece by piece...reducing it to a pile of hoses, belts, rings and other junk. Yes, you will learn a huge amount of information about that car...but you won't know how to use that car for its actual purpose...by analyzing, you'll never learn how to drive. We live in a world where, spiritually speaking, people are dying to learn how to drive. But sometimes all we're willing to model for them is how to change the oil. I yearn for a church that gives driving lessons instead of playing mechanic.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Yeah...started a blog, then abandoned it. I'm lucky it didn't die. But seriously, after the birth of a beautiful daughter and a transition into a new position (I'm now the Preaching Minister, not the college minister) I'm ready to do it for real.

I was just introduced to the website www.churchmarketingsucks.com. First of all: HA! Second of all, it's actually a great site! If you know me, you know I bristle at the thought of evangelism done through sales tactics, treating the gospel as if it were a set of steak knives ("As seen on TV: Jesus") that people will own if they just say yes. But on the other hand, marketing is happening whether we know it or not. Our attitudes about coming to worship show people what we think of our church. Our worship shows what we think of God (uh oh...). Marketing is a constant, whether we recognize what we are saying or not. My church's website markets us as out-of-touch and satisfied with the most minimal effort (sorry...). We are always marketing our churches.

But we have to be sure our churches are worth marketing. For so many years we've lived with the notion that having a church building to sit in and a few people meeting in it on Sundays made us a "church." But I'm not so sure. You may have an institution...but is it part of the Lord's Church (having "Church of Christ" or "church of Christ" on your sign doesn't fix it either...)? Are you doing the Lord's work? Or talking about it? Is it a place where everyone is welcome to come meet the Savior? Or are you busy figuring out who you can "biblically" exclude? Let's make our churches worth marketing...then market them well.

"The greatest challenge the church faces today is to be authentic disciples of Jesus ... That's one reason why the statistics on Christians generally don't differ from the statistics on non-Christians. We're not living a different life." -Dallas Willard