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This is fresh off twitpics. I couldn’t resist sharing it. My friend Pastor Dino Rizzo of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge is rolling out his new health care plan!! What do you think??? I love the Healing Place church logo and colors!
I love Dino’s heart to serve – it’s fully contagious – he’s such a blessing to the poor all over the Baton Rouge and new Orleans area. God used him mightily to bless tens of thousands during and after Katrina. It’s such an inspiration for me to be around him. I can see some Church at the Gate medical trucks rolling around to the needy in our state in the future. You know don’t you that God never told the government to take care of the poor. He put that mandate on those who are called by his name! God has a heart for the poor and hurting. I remember Keith Green telling it like it is twenty years ago… “if the church did it’s job we wouldn’t need a welfare system!”
On a related note, if you haven’t already seen it, check out what my friend Pastor Chris Hodges just opened up in Birmingham. Here’s the link – be sure to read the story and watch the video. These guys are knocking it out of the park!
Today I was hanging out with my good friend Pastor Gabriel Medicine Eagle – planning a major November outreach on the rez, etc – and talking with him about the fact that he is running for tribal council in the August 27 election there.
We chatted about Indian Health Care and how that version of government-run health care is working (not). And, as you’ll see, I am still having fun with my new Flip Video Camera and I got him to tell an important story that happened to a family member of his two weeks ago.
I know we need health care reform, but folks the details are important (such as not funding elective abortions (retroactive birth control) all the while letting the old and disabled die.) Watch this video clip and think about it… if the govt. can’t provide good health care for 4.5 million natives, how are they going to be able to cover 300 million more people?
Pastor Gabe laughs at the thought of more government promises to take care of us – 150 years of his family tree is a testimony to the fact that that ain’t gonna happen. I titled the video – a Sponge Bob band aid for a rattlesnake bite. Unreal.
At least once a month I consider giving up blogging all together. Every time I hit “publish” I realize I’m drawing a great big target on my back. The reason I keep doing it is because I try to focus on the 300-500 people a day who read this and the many who write me or comment to me saying what I’m writing is helpful to them in terms of thinking through what they believe. I’ve discovered it’s really a form of discipleship that didn’t exist ten years ago. For that reason I think pastors need to be blogging, and especially on controversial and relevant current event topics.
Twenty-years ago I read a book by professor and sociologist Tony Campolo called “Twenty Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to Touch!” It had chapters on whether or not a Christian should own a BMW, or whether it’s okay for a Christian to put their aging mother in the county home, etc, etc. But whether or not I agreed with his conclusions (a few I don’t) what I most remember from this book is that he had the guts to write it and I resolved at that point to be a pastor who isn’t swayed by the fear of man. So pastors… blog boldly!!
In my view, blogging time for pastors is no different than Bible study leading time or visitation time. Ten years ago I’d think I only touched a couple hundred people a week. However with this venue, that number increases at least tenfold. A man in our church told me that even though I was gone this summer, he stayed “well-fed” just by digesting what I put here. Another Christian in town here recently commented how thankful they were for this blog because their church didn’t feed them on Sunday. I wish I could say to their pastor…. Pastor, your sheep are starving and you are only bringing more straw for them to lay on. Lead them into a greener pasture and deeper waters. Shepherd’s, take up the rod and staff and give the wolf a good whack!
For a couple days now I’ve been sitting on a post on the topic of “Christians and social drinking” (I’ve decided I’ll publish that shortly). I’ve been hesitant because I don’t need any more headaches. If I say I’m okay with social drinking for example, those who aren’t let me know why (and some express their disagreement by disfellowshipping! No pastor wants that!). If I say it’s wrong, another whole group is frustrated because there is freedom in the Scriptures on this matter. So most pastors say nothing. I think what conclusions pastors draw on a particular topic aren’t nearly as important as modeling the process of Biblical thinking.
I’m speaking this fall on James and I’m already thinking about how I’ll tackle the taming the tongue texts in chapter 3. I do know I’ll share my own journey these past two years in taming my keyboard - I’ve tackled the most controverisal subjects in America on my blogs and have come a long way in discerning the difference between taking cheap shots and writing with prophetic boldness.
Yesterday on my pro-life blog I made the comment, “Am I the only one who actually contemplated reporting oneself to firstname.lastname@example.org? I’m happy to be on their enemies list and go on record as a lead opposer of such systemic evil.” Pastors, God calls you to be a watchman and sound the alarm if one bearing a sword comes in to slaughter. Pastors should be key to alerting the elderly in their congregations of the impending danger. Pastors ought to be the loudest opposers of such evil (opposing medical murder – letting the elderly and the disabled die, and killing the unborn). This health care bill is really cash for clunkers in that the old and infirmed (useless eaters) are taken off the streets! And the church is quiet?? Pastors, God is looking for your name on the white house enemies list. I couldn’t agree more with my friend Randy Bohlender on this topic today – Randy, thanks for blogging boldly and taking Jim Wallis & Co. to task!
A number of times as I’ve traveled our state talking with pastors one will make a comment that they don’t talk about subjects like abortion because there are folks in the church who’ve had them and they don’t want to make them uncomfortable. I’ve started to reply to that comment by asking what other parts of the Bible they avoid because people might get uncomfortable. I talk about this stuff boldly and have women I’ve never met come up to me months later to thank me “for saving them from their own private hell.” When I ask what they are talking about they say most pastors only talk about love and God and “I didn’t want God to love me or forgive me because I thought what I did was unforgivable.” They go on to say that me addressing this and taking them to the mercy seat of God brought them into a place of healing and peace with God that sitting in the controversy-free church never did. That’s the story I’m telling these days when people want me to just stick to “preaching the gospel.” The gospel has great application to the post-abortive and the unborn! Pastor, who aren’t you reaching because you are afraid to lay the gospel over-a-top the darkest places?
Those of you following this blog this summer know I spent the bulk of the summer in Europe (among other things) visting the Reformation sites and reading a sizable stack of books about the key players in the 16th century struggle to change Christianity in one generation. I read about (and could relate to) the bloody controversies and found myself asking God: why can’t it be easier? What I’m learning is that controversy is one of the ways God gets us 1) to dig deeper into what the Scriptures really say while at the same time giving us an opportunity 2) to walk in love with those who see it differently. In my view, believers in the 16th century were successful with the former and failed miserably at the latter. I’d like to see the 21st century church succeed at both.
Thought I’d experiment and try a vblog today instead of typing this post. Let me know if you like it better than reading. If you do I will do more of them. Already I’ve learned I need to change the lighting (unless you like the glow over my head, kind of saintly I think) and that I should at least wait until my hair is dry (my best thinking is always in the shower so you can be thankful I at least waited until I got dressed before I sat down in front of the camera!). The jury is still out on whether or not this saves me time – hard to tell – loading it to youtube took forever. I’m old school in that I’m a little technology-challenged and I can type as fast as I think so right now I’m thinking the old way may still be easier for me.
Please take 5 minutes to read Winter’s short article – Reconsecration to a wartime lifestyle (pdf alert) and don’t miss this part… “we must live only on what we need and give the rest of our income where it is needed most. We call this a wartime lifestyle.” Here’s a related website also. Here’s a link to some practical suggestions on how to live a wartime lifestyle. Here’s a link to the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena and the William Carey library. This is where I get my mission biographies. (Had to laugh at seeing the book they are featuring today on the homepage – Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions. The dreaded “A” word I was crucified over five years ago is now becoming standard in evangelical mission circles. Ha!)
I’ve not put much up on GatePost yet on what we have in the cooker for a plan to plant lots of life-giving local churches in Europe but you can contact me if you want to know more. We are starting a new mission agency called Europe Advance. We plan to launch EA at the end of September here.
Now, feedback please! Use the comment link here to a) tell me whether you like the vblog better or not and b) to discuss the call to the wartime lifestyle. I know I know I know, I still ended up typing four paragraphs.
Damn it’s early! Really, a little jet lag right now – clock says 5 AM, my body clock says it’s high noon and time for lunch. Went to bed at 9:30 PM (or 4:30 AM). You get the idea. I fell asleep last night reading the latest issue of Christianity Today. The cover story is interesting and hits a matter that I’ve been a big fan of for years – “The Case for Early Marriage: Settling down sooner than later has never made more sense. Here’s why.” You can find that online if you are interested. (Oops. I just typed “if you are interesting” instead of “interested”. Funny.) However, the story most in my head from this latest issue has to do with cussing pastors.
For those who are not aware, for a few months pastors have been talking about the subject of cussing in the pulpit. As I’ll detail below, Pastor Mark Driscoll, a popular Seattle mega-church pastor, has a famously foul mouth. In response to Driscoll and his large following of Church of Potty Mouth wannabees, Pastor Ed Young threw this clip up on youtube…
Recently I asked another pastor if he’d seen Ed’s clip on the Cussing Pastor and he said yes and I figured we’d talk for a few moments about how right on it was – instead, I got a whole deal on how it’s okay to use the words of the culture to communicate the gospel. A bit untypically of me, I just listened and nodded – he probably thinks I was in agreement with him and my nods may have even encouraged him to say more.
I don’t know why I didn’t say more, I guess I was shocked. I just can’t believe we’ve reached the point where we think we have to swear to reach people. Jesus certainly didn’t need to stoop to swearing to reach people. Maybe we ought to emulate him and not the longshoreman out on the dock or the attention-addicted sarcasts on the comedy channel. And what about this verse in James 3:10… Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Case closed, right? Hello??
In the Christianity Today issue I was reading last night is a report on how Pastor Mark Driscoll divided the South Baptist Convention in two at their annual meeting. Mark isn’t a Southern Baptist, but they invited him to speak because, according to the math, the SBC will lose half it’s present members by 2050. Some in leadership see the decline trend and want the SBC pastors to move beyond choirs, robes, Sunday School, Sunday night services, VBS and other things like suit-wearing, tea-totaling and gospel quartets. They notice the world has changed and the SBC hasn’t kept up in a relevant way.
So, at their annual meeting, the Southern Baptists invited Mark Driscoll to address the constituency. (Many of their younger ministers and church planters follow him closely despite the fact that Mark has a history of using risqué language, drinking alcohol and talking about sex.) After he spoke there were five motions made including one that SBC pastors cannot have any contact with Mark Driscoll or his Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Another motion was made to ban any future speaker at an SBC meeting who drinks and swears.
In January the NY Times reported that even GodTube.com can’t carry Driscoll’s sermon video clips… “with titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters.” The NY Times says; “he has the coolest style and foulest mouth of any preacher you’ve ever seen” and that his “Mars Hill Church is the furthest thing from a Puritan meetinghouse.” Driscoll thinks it’s funny and says he even kicks himself when he realizes at the end of a sermon that he didn’t swear and that people come to his church because they want to hear him swear. He remarks that some have left disappointed wondering if he got saved since last Sunday.
In May, my father’s former boss, Dick Bott of the Bott Radio Network (40 million listeners) pulled the plug of a broadcast in mid-air because Pastor Mark Driscoll was using explicit language to talk about the Song of Solomon. Bott followed up with a notice to his stations that Driscoll was not allowed on his stations anymore.
I don’t swear in the pulpit or in public (though, honestly, I do swear in my head on occasion). If this is confession time, I’ll admit I have to fight swearing in private – I’ve learned it’s, for me, the first first symptom that surfaces revealing I’ve been neglecting to be with Jesus. The Bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” My lame excuse is that I grew up around it. My drill sergeant dad spoke fluent profanity. He could call into question your gender identity, your IQ, your mother’s fidelity, your purpose on planet earth, your value as a person and your potential-in-life all in a rapid-fire ten second seamless string of obscenities. Growing up around that, even today, I’m sorry to say I often don’t even notice swearing in a movie. (Parents have asked me if a movie is okay, I say “it was great” and they come back later mad because I didn’t warn them about the profanity. Me saying, “oops, I didn’t notice” doesn’t cut it, though it’s true.
A cussing pastor is not the same as the guy, brand new to the faith, who rattles his small group because he prays out loud… “God, I’ve really -eff’d up- my life…”. Leaders are those who’ve gone out ahead of the rest and who influence others to come to where they are. In my Momentum book I list carnality, worldliness and character flaws in the leader all in the momentum stopper category. Before you point out the obvious that none of this seems to have cost Driscoll anything in the ministry momentum area (his church has 7,500 attending), just know that drawing a crowd doesn’t equal Kingdom Momentum. As I say in the book, “without holiness, no one will see God rise in their midst in any lasting way.” Craig Groeshel at Life Church says he could draw an unprecedented crowd for next weekend just by advertising free beer but that is not the growth God is looking for, nor is it what we are called to give away.
Perhaps one of the reasons pastors stoop to swearing is because most HATE IT when they are around the unchurched and the unchurched guy suddenly cleans up his speech – “oh, sorry pastor.” So they are the first to swear to sort of break the ice hoping the guy will be taken aback and view him as cool and different than most holy men. (In other words, they cease to be holy so as to not be numbered among the holy men. Holy means set apart, or pure, as in not diluted or tainted by mixture with something foreign.) God help us. Often I don’t mention to the person cutting my hair that I’m a pastor because a noticeable wave of guilt or embarrassment washes over those who are sitting in the seats on each side of me because they suddenly realize they just expounded on the raunchy stuff they did last weekend.
I write in my Sermon on the Mount book that being salt and light means your presence ought to change the environment around you. The trick however is to emulate God in such a way that you emanate God and not some air of self-righteous piety. The key verse in the entire Sermon on the Mount is in Matthew 6:8. Jesus says “do not be like them.” That means we ought not even talk like those who don’t know God.
Here’s a few verses related to this— if you struggle with swearing, write these on a card, memorize them and let the Holy Spirit do his work on your tongue. Enlist others to hold you accountable. (My cousin’s husband recently told me he has a deal worked out with his son… every time he curses, his son gets ten more Wii minutes a day. Whatever works!)
Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
For a couple weeks I’ve been doing the background work for a series in James I’m starting next month. I’ve thought to do a mini-series in the middle on chapter 3 – taming the tongue – because I’m convinced life or death is in the power of the tongue. Comments, please!!