pssst – Christian shirts don't work

At the Revelation Generation music festival, I stopped by one of those Christian t-shirts tables.  Yeah, not sure I’m going to be able to stop once I start.  

First, I believe in righteous anger but I cannot tolerate the argument that this is a form of it.  Please comment/email me/contact me if you are the guy/girl who came to know Christ from reading someone’s Christian t-shirt.  I’m still looking for that story, “I was walking through the mall and this shirt read, “You think it’s hot here?  God.” and I asked the guy, “Dude, what must I do to be saved?”.  

Second, they only rally Christian  (Todd Hiestand has an interesting post regarding preaching) and offend the skeptical, the hurting, the marginalized and the normal.  

Third, though they’ve been out for years and years, the”attitude” shirts are too much of an imitation.  In a world without consequences, I would open up my own Holyster store so I could create these type Christian shirts.  They’d pretty much be the same type of shirts as we have now, but I’d market them like Abercrombie.  I’d employ Amy Grant’s strategy of “being sexy for Jesus” (Rolling Stone, June, 6, 1985) and have good-looking models with six pack abs holding their shirts that read, “Virginity is HOT”.  Maybe I’d even produce a teen coming to age movie, entitled, “He’s All That”.  I’d have the ‘t’s look like crosses.  Unsuspecting audiences would come expecting American Pie and we’d hit em up with uhhh … well … I’d have to pray about it but it would be a solid bait and switch which some consider to be great evangelism.  

Fourth, they’re usually lame.  

I present to you exhibit A:

You might ask, “What does this even mean?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked.  Please read the back of my shirt that has some Scripture and an explanation how porn “poses” as love but it isn’t really.  You see?  Now go and sin no more”.  Is that how you would actually speak to someone?  If so, you might want to rethink some of your social skills.

Here’s one that I thought was pretty good ….

until I read the back:

Should have just left the back blank.  The front actually has the potential to start meaningful conversation.  

Then there’s the pro-life shirts.  First, please know that I have very strong views against abortion.   However, if you have ever spoken to someone you love and respect (even if they are a stranger), some rhetoric, regardless of how clever it may be, is not helpful.

For example:

Could you imagine a pro-choicer having a shirt that says, “It’s a fetus – get over it!”???  I’d go nuts.  

What if someone walked around with an anti-capital punishment t-shirt that had a picture of a woman strapped to the electric chair with the fifth commandment over top of it, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”.  I may not go nuts but I think that shirt would be distasteful.

I want to be careful and not say, “We shouldn’t wear these shirts” because those type of statements, among many things, sound legalistic to me.  Perhaps we can put some different thought into what we wear (and don’t wear).

 

Loved the Mars Hill podcast with Kent and Ed Dobson, "Jesus and Prayer"

Gone are the days where I needed to listen to something upbeat while working out.  Now I listen to podcasts and Bob Dylan.  Anyway, I found myself almost crying with this one.  Don’t know if I will edit this post but you can download it from this link

Worship at Sojourn Community Church

During our mission trip to New Orleans, we worshipped at the Sojourn Community Church.  Found out about it since the Church Basement Road Show Tour stopped there.  On the top floor in a cool part of town on Magazine Street, Sojourn shares space with the Convergence Center for the Arts. 

We entered the loft area and saw two sets of 3 rows of chairs facing each other.  Each row may have had 12 chairs or so.  Nothing was exactly in the middle space and the communion table sat to the left (in the middle.  Picture 3 o’clock if you were sitting next to me).  No projection screen, no coffee bar, no band set-up  Hmmm, I was starting to wonder if we could have church with only a communion table, a stool, and some chairs!  Not only that, but the pastor was late. Which wasn’t a big deal, I just thought it was funny because I assumed he must have been a youth pastor at some point (that and he was knowledgeable, relevant and spoke well, obviously a former youth pastor).

The pastor welcomed us and explained that the church laptop was stolen and therefore they were unable to print out the morning handout.  He bantered a bit, gave a few announcements and explained the vision of Sojourn.  

Seriously, I think we all found peace in its simplicity.  I’m told in the good old days of church ministry, the pastor’s wife played the worship music.  This was true for Sojourn.  There were a couple differences.  She looked cool, played guitar, and most of us would have listened to her voice wherever she was playing.  

We sang, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” and an original of hers.  The chorus had “You Oh Lord are my resting place”.  We segued into a time of time of silence and prayer.

The pastor began by referencing NT Wright’s Surprised by Joy and Dawkin’s God Delusion.  He gave Einstean’s theory of absurdity as repetition expecting different results.   We needed to acknowledge our brokenness.  He mentioned our common good and how has to extend to other truly otherwise it only benefits you and leads to self-righteousness.

He told the story of the two men that were healed by Jesus.  One was uncomfortable and the other acknowledged his brokeness.  The pastor asked, “Can you acknowledge your brokenness?  the world’s? Acknowledging leads to humility.

The conclusion was that we needed to shed some of our layers that hide the Gospel story of redemption. We cannot find our identity in our sin.  Instead, we need to find it in Christ as his beloved bride.   

I was blessed by the message. I had to pause and think about one of the more challenging things he said, “sometimes postmodernism doesn’t want to acknowledge something is wrong”.  I’ll post about that soon.

DA Carson, Emergent, Conservative, Liberal, NASCAR?

Today in my old age, I find myself thinking about the differences in my thinking as the years have gone by. While I was at the Desperation Conference, I was flipping through my lecture journal and saw that 2 years ago that day, I was listening to DA Carson teach out of John 3 up at Camp of the Woods, Speculator, NY. I was eager to hear him at the time, although I was a little bothered on how critical he was towards the emerging church discussion. Back in those days, his book, Becoming Conversant had been released but I was hoping that things were going to turn out differently. He is obviously extremely intelligent, very articulate, admired by many and desire to be in the center of God’s will. But today, I feel differently about him.

My frustration with my fellow evangelicals (and I consider myself to be fairly conservative) is that every time we deem an idea/person to be “liberal” or “unbiblical” or “dangerous” or “slippery” we dismiss, condemn and break fellowship.

I’m not sure what the right word here is. ‘Hurt’ is too dramatic of a word, and ‘bothered’ and ‘disappointed’ sound too snobby and condescending towards Dr. Carson. How about – It sucks that Dr. Carson is a critic of the emergent conversation instead of a big brother. Why not be a Dallas Willard or a Scot McKnight instead of being another Jay Stowell?

Some have labeled the emergent conversation as the new liberalism (or “liberalism repackaged” which is so off base if one understands the idea of postmodernism). But here’s the thing, if all the conservatives leave the table, then those remaining default to being the lone voices and eventually, they’ll sound the same. I’m looking around my life wondering who am I a DA Carson to? I am not Pentecostal or Reformed or Baptist and although I have significant differences with them, may I always treat them like a loving brother in Christ should. My closest friend loves the Boston Red Sox. If I can accept him and love him, why do I care that you are a Calvinist? Like my Red Sox friend, you simply are susceptible to bad ideas. You probably like NASCAR too. Anyway, and I write this with seriousness, may I be held accountable to that aspiration so that I may be another humble servant working arm in arm for the cause of the Kingdom.

Don't tell Hauerwas, but I preached a Father's Day Sermon

So yesterday was my first Father’s Day.  It felt great though I am still trying to wrap my head around it.  Truth be told, I’ve been so happy and blessed every since we got Nathan that Father’s Day was great and all, but today feels just as good as Saturday did.

I did get to preach yesterday too and that felt good.  Not good in the performing sense but good in the I feel like the Lord is using me to some extent sense.  Also the congregation seems to have really warmed up to me this past year and I feel that there’s a better connection.  

My friend, Evan, reminded of Stanley Hauweras’ shock value line of American flags, mother’s day sermons, and whatever else as being non-Christian things and not being acceptable in churches.  If you don’t know Hauerwas, he’s the intelligent man’s version of Tony Campolo, only less spiritual (yes, I’m kidding.  I don’t know even know what ‘being spiritual’ means).  

So I gave a Father’s Day sermon that I said was directed to everyone but to the men first.  I remember hearing that these types of sermons leave some feeling isolated but I think that’s kinda short-sighted.  If we come to worship and not just to hear a sermon as being the focal point, then I think the sermon can be topical and specific from time to time because whoever enters the sanctuary should have the intent of worshipping God first, and having Him “speak to you” as secondary.  

I think of all the times I heard sermons and illustrations relating to marriage before I was married as a good thing.  I like hearing about the Proverbs 31 woman (from time to time) because I think she’s great.  Though I don’t plan on dying of old age soon, some of the messages that are geared towards older people are sometimes memorable to me because chances are if I live long enough, I’ll get old too.  (yes, I am aware of what I just wrote, but I am trying to be funny.  I’ll try harder).  I personally think that you can be blessed from pretty much almost any sermon, even if the guy sucks at his delivery.  If he (or even she!) is being faithful to their calling, then I must be faithful not only as a listener, but as a worshipper.

Reflecting on Listening to a Sermon I Disagreed With

Granted, this may sound arrogant, but grant me the benefit of the doubt for the sake of discussion.  Recently, I listened to a sermon that I started disagreeing sharply with from the beginning.  After the first point, I found myself disagreeing with the second and it kept spiraling.  I am squirming in my seat, and contemplating, “In a world without consequences, I would stand up and say something”.

It was one of those, “We need to get back to the good old days!” charges with examples I could not appreciate it and with a tone that I could not identify with.   (Since it was Sunday, I thought it would be ok to pray twice that morning), I prayed that God would remind me of my prayer from the beginning of the service when I asked to speak through this man so that I may drawer nearer to my God.  Though there were a few points that I appreciated, after all, it’s hard to disagree with someone completely for 45 minutes), this was a hard sermon to take to heart and though I had just prayed that I would continue worshipping throughout, I was worried that our congregants would love it because I really thinking that this type of mentality causes damage to today’s church.  It was very frustrating. 

Believe me, I am not the guy who hears one or two things that are disagreeable and rule the preacher out, even if it’s a style difference.  I even find disagreement with the people that I enjoy the most but this was on a different level. 

I left feeling like I had just wrestled with someone but not in the Jacob sense, or in the conviction sense, but more in the “sharp disagreement” sense.  This really bothered me, because generally speaking, I am one to try to pursue the unity.  I prayed, I talked to people I trust, and while I’m tempted to say it was a bad sermon, it wasn’t.  Many people like it.  I just had significant problems with its thesis. 

There will be a next time, especially because of the positions that I appreciate.  The good was in the conversations that resulted with a trusted few and personal reflection.  So may God bless this man, our congregation, my heart, but I hope I don’t see him at our pulpit anytime soon.  

Did Paul Have a Home Church?


Found this article on Relevant’s site.
Happy Reading.

by Ray Hollenbach
“Here’s a cultural truth: We bring to our reading of scripture whatever values we currently hold. Our eyes and hearts are sensitized to recognize the things we already agree with and to ignore those things which run counter to our convictions (and yes, I will readily acknowledge that I do it, too).

So here’s the deal: I’ll agree that we don’t need to be connected to a local church only if: (1) we have been members at a local church for at least a decade; (2) we are called to missions by the Holy Spirit speaking to the church leadership; (3) that call is affirmed by those guys in church leadership; and (whew, 4) we return to that church after our missionary journeys to report on our ministries.”

The Whole World by Jill Carattini

When I was a small child singing of the God who had the whole world in his hands, it filled me with awe. The whole world, after all, was a big place. It included grandma’s house in Cincinnati and grandpa’s cottage in Pentwater–the two farthest points on a map I knew. As I grew older, the world as I understood it grew as well. I discovered Florida on a family vacation and learned about Chile as we sponsored a little girl named Juana. We saved our money as we learned about poverty in South America. We prayed for peace as we learned of trouble across the world. With each day or newscast, the world grew in scope and depth.

Unfortunately, my awe for the one who held it all in his hands did not always grow along with it. In fact, it often faded. As the world grew increasingly bigger, so my anxiousness for the world increased. In the shadows cast by a looming globe, God’s hands seemed somehow smaller. I did not see the expanding world as an opportunity for expanded faith.

At times, this is still the case for me. While the need for God’s hands is heightened with news of each developing war or suffering community, this is usually not the first analysis that comes to mind. In times of uncertainty, the world begins to seem much more than a handful–for me and perhaps even for God. An editorialist for the The Atlantic Journal expresses similar sentiments:

“The world is too big for us. Too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace… and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you are out of breath trying to keep pace… Everything is high pressure. Human nature cannot endure much more.”

His words express the difficulty of living in a world marked by modern momentum, where advances in media and the influence of globalization keep us hyper-informed but exhausted by the sheer number of newsworthy events. “The whole world” is a different place today than it was when I was a child in awe of God’s embrace. Or maybe it’s not that different at all. Ironically, this editorial was first published on June 16th, 1833.

It is perhaps much easier to sing of a world that in his hands when the world is calm and at rest. But that is not the world into which Christ came, nor the world that God carefully holds in his hands. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told his disciples. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).