Monday, January 26, 2009

The Zion Lutheran Church Best of 2008 Celebration List

2008 was a very good year at Zion. Praise the Lord. Here's a list of wonderful things that I compiled with input from the staff. It provides a look back over the year and I hope it causes you to celebrate and praise the Lord. There are a couple things on the list that look like failures. For instance, why would you consider shutting down Veritas a success? The answer is this: Because even though it was hard, we believe it was the right thing to do and we did it. We didn't keep on just because we liked it or were invested heavily in it or because we were afraid of what people might say. We made a hard choice and followed through. Part of what made 2008 a great year was realizing that we can't do everything well and also that there are seasons for ministries and it's OK to let things end.

The HUGE risk in doing this is that you, gentle reader, might be offended because I omitted something you thought was important. Well, feel free to comment and we'll grow the list. To me, the BIGGER risk was failing to praise God for what he did in us and through us at Zion in 08.

Enjoy the list!

We have a working website!

“New Look” to lobby with paint, monitors, banners and the new info desk!

New worship software for presentations and planning of services.

Brian Kampling, a new key volunteer in video presentation.

Outstanding Christmas events: Jubilate Cantata, ZP Christmas, Pageant, Christmas Eve. Saw more people than previous years; successfully tried the ZP program at 9:30 service.

The addition of BreeAnn Williams to staff and the enthusiasm she brings.

The addition of Tina Rasmussen to our staff and they way that she has totally change the way we do Adult classes and the energy and excitement she has brought.

Carli Fitzgerald’s text message devotions and invitations for youth.

Brent Osborne supervising adults, youth and kids to move us toward an integrated model of discipleship.

Veritas – we brought it to full time and then ended it after 18 months of pure joy. We learned so much and had a wonderful experience and found we can actually end things well.

Lots of photo montages, video, and a current photo board in the hallway.

Wednesday night dinners! What a joy and the new changes seem to be working well.

The cleaning service – very clean and very few complaints.

We ended the Scrip Program well. Thanks to those who brought it to life, tended it and knew when it was time to stop.

Sonshine Day Care: although they fell on hard times, this gives us the opportunity to examine our relationship and make necessary changes.

New fiscal year June – July.

Patch on the parking lot.

Our staff and church presence on Facebook.

“It” and other staff development readings and discussions.

Less “drama,” and less fear being sensed in regards to our leadership transition.

NCD spirituality survey to establish a base line for future study.

Mission Mexico.

AEA rents space from Zion and various Zion ministries (especially the Quilters) agree to relocate to other rooms in order to help out.

New electronic piano for the choir and rehearsal room.

Zion experienced interactivity with regards to technology: the website, facebook, blogs and so on.

Sam Dunya, missionary in Ghana, West Africa, came to visit and received a very generous offering.

Organization of the Mhezi mission trip to Tanzania.

Many storage areas cleaned out and organized.

Beginning of ministries concerned about the homeless.

Excitement on Wednesday nights about new Adult and kid’s classes

Continuing development of worship teams and musical talent

Development and growth of 9:30 service

Vacation Bible School was a big success.

Addition of closing prayer and worship time on Wednesday nights

Conversion from tapes to CDs of 8:00 service for shut ins and sermons available now

Extremely positive feedback from last two sermon series.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sometimes God sends you a reminder about what is important

Yesterday I had coffee with a great college age guy who used to go to our church.  What made him stop going to our church and start going somewhere else?  Well, as is often the case in our denomination, and sadly so, somebody else told him about Jesus in a way that made him want to give his life to Him and he did.  Yes, cue the chorus of "Once I Was A Lutheran But Now I'm Saved."  You have to understand that I'm very happy for this young man.  He has a vibrant faith and is fully devoted to following Christ.  Praise God, the kingdom gains one even if our church looses one and I'm certainly not keeping score.  

So there are two BIG, make that HUGE, questions that any pastor in my position has to ask himself.  1.)  Why didn't this kid come into a relationship with Jesus at our church?  and 2.) What's this church got that we haven't got?  Because it's my blog, I choose to answer number 2 first and maybe number 1 in a subsequent installment.  I know the answer to number 1 but it's complicated to explain.

So what's this other church doing that hooked this young man?  Well, we spent a lot of time talking about it, he and I, and I want to share with you what I heard:  

1.  This other church is intentional about leading people, especially young people, to Christ.  That's why they exist, it's their mission, it's reflected in their values, it's their reason de etre, it's who they are as a church.  They have a strategy for reaching this city and especially the students in this city,  and it's working.  Everyone who attends this church knows why this church exists and they all help to fulfill the mission.  OK, let's summarize like this:  this church has a vision, it's easy to understand, everyone knows it, believes it, and most importantly, does it.
2.  In the nearly two hours we were together, I heard him reference the good teaching of the other church.  Teaching is important.  People are listening.  If you don't take the time to teach people the truth about Jesus they wont get it.  You have to do the work.  Sometimes at pastor's conferences in our denomination I just want to throw up.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons but chiefly because our pastors think there is a difference between preaching and teaching.  Teaching is for weeknights, they say, and preaching is for Sunday mornings.  The problem is that so often their sermons don't teach anything.  They proclaim something but they fail to seal the deal by explaining the who, what, where, when and why.  I can't tell the difference between preaching and teaching.  They are the same to me.  Because if you're preaching without teaching you're wasting your time.  
3.  Back to #2.  In all that time talking about the good teaching he heard on Sundays and during the week, this guy never once referenced a particular pastor.  There wasn't any hint of a cult of personality.  There wasn't one statement about "Pastor Jim's sermons have really changed my life."  This lack of acknowledgement of the preacher really struck me.  I asked him why it was that he didn't talk about a particular teacher/preacher.  He said that was because all the teaching was from the Bible and no matter which pastor was doing it it was all good.  Praise God!  I love his comments because so often in churches we get hung up on who is preaching instead of the what.
4.  This church has multiple campuses (campi?) and plans more.  They have one for the north side, one downtown, and one in the western suburbs.  They even have a worship service on the Drake Campus weekly.  They also may get a another location in West Des Moines.  I know some people think multiple site churches are just building empires.  But the truth is they are helping to expand the kingdom.  The reason they have these campuses isn't to say, "Look at us!," its so that their target audience, namely students, doesn't have difficulty in attending.  Kids can't drive across town all the time.  Why not make it easy for them.
5.  Life changing small groups.  Outreach is done by forming groups at schools.  This allows for discipleship to happen and also keeps everyone on task.  When a new person joins the group they instantly become part of a community that loves them and continues to help them grow up in the Lord.  
6.  Life changing small groups that hold each other accountable.  How is your walk with the Lord going?  With what are you struggling?  What do you need prayer for?  In most churches, there is no system of accountability.  I'd say there is no attempt at accountability.  You just come to church, listen to the teacher and then go to lunch.  But how do you live out what you believe?  How does it work?  Who is going to help keep you on task during the week?  You need a group of believers who love you and will hold you to the standard of Jesus.  
7.  This particular young man is very close to one of the pastors at this church and all I can say is that it sure sounds like they practice what they preach.  
8.  It occurs to me that in order to have this kind of vision, to reach the students of our city with the Gospel, this church must have a heart for this city and for the lost.  They must really love people in order to want them to be saved.  Wow.  

So there are eight things.  There's a lot more, I'm sure, but that's what struck me in the last 24 or so hours and I wanted to share it with you.  It was a very encouraging conversation for me because it reminds me where we need to be going and also encourages me to think that by being in the word of God together and building our church upon that Word, we can get there and experience together biblical community and together see our lives and the lives of others changed and transformed by Christ.  Keep the faith. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Are we swirling the drain?

Do you ever feel as if life is completely out of control and the pace of life is accelerating beyond what is endurable? Do you ever wonder if there will be anything “normal” about life left for your kids to enjoy? Do you ever feel simply overwhelmed just trying to hold everything together?

Here is my very unscientific observation: not since the Industrial Revolution of the 18-19th centuries have we seen such radical change and transformation in the world. You remember the Industrial Revolution from High School history class: millions of people left the farm and moved to the city to find work. Back then, social commentators thought that separating people from the land would prove disastrous. They saw the dissolution of families and extended families as people were forced off the land because of economic necessity and relocated to urban centers to work in mines or factories. In the cities there was horrific crime, alcoholism, debtors prisons, poor houses, slums, pollution, in short, the loss of the human soul. The western world experienced the death of a society predominately based upon rural or village life and the birth of urban culture.

I think one day our great grandchildren will study this very time in history in which we now live and it will have a name like the Technological Revolution or something like that. It will be known as a time of tremendous social, economic, demographic and political change, as the world got hard wired and then went wireless and many people lost their way, overwhelmed by the pace of change. My dad was born in a farm house that didn’t have electricity. He attended a one room school house. Their first phone service was through a “party line.” My children will probably take a web-book “educational appliance” to school every day and experience learning through interaction with a screen. I could spend all day and all night notating the changes over the last 70, 40, 10 years. It’s all astounding. It’s all come so incredibly fast.

And some of the radical change it isn’t even technological. Some of it’s moral as well. When I was a child it seemed like all the adults smoked. Now, it’s illegal in public places and frowned on as a terrible vice, nearly immoral. Even ten years ago no one would think that people would accept as moral that a man could marry a man or woman could marry a woman.

All this change at such a pace is enough to exhaust or overwhelm anyone. These days people seem insanely busy. So busy, in fact, that they will make almost any excuse just to stay home and rest.

How do we do church in times of great upheaval? Especially when the church itself is being affected by the world around it? How do we stay relevant, connected with people and their struggles and at the same time provide a place of refuge and peace in a world that seems to be swirling the drain?

If I knew what to say now, I could write the definitive book on the modern church and retire immediately on the proceeds.

But this much I do know: I’m pretty sure the answer is similar to what Peter said to Jesus in the Gospel of John 6. Jesus had just delivered a very difficult teaching and most of the people went away and left him. But Peter stayed. Jesus said, “what are you still doing here?” And Peter said, “Lord, where can we go? Only you have the words that give eternal life.” Jesus said that if we come to him he will give us what the world cannot give: peace. Not like the world gives (because the world charges a high price for peace and also takes it away eventually) but the peace that only Jesus can give that passes human ability to understand. The church also possesses the Truth: God says there is way more to life than living and the real meaning of life isn’t in striving after things or even worrying about necessities; it’s in seeking him. I guess what I’m saying is that at times like these we don’t need another program. The church really needs to go back to the elementals - the basics. And remind everybody that Jesus promised to be with them through everything and even through the end of everything. No matter how great the changes we experience, Jesus is greater and if we focus on him he will bring us safely through.

The church can’t stop the world from changing. The church has to change sometimes too, for the sake of the world. In fact, the church is all about change. It’s the Lord of the church, Jesus Christ himself who preached the message, “The time is now. Change, turn around (repent) and believe the Good News. The kingdom of heaven is available to you.” The difference is that the change we believe in brings peace and life forever with God. The change the world brings something completely different.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future...

If you fall into a fast moving river you've only got two choices:  1.)  swim against the current, or 2.) swim with the current.  Now about all I can remember from the Red Cross Life Saving classes about falling into a river was that if you fight against the current you could get really tired and drown.  The down side, if I remember correctly, of swimming with the fast current is that while you just might be able to slowly work your way to shore, you might also be carried right into something like a big rock or a log and you might get hit and go under.  

Best advice:  stay out of the water.  But, unfortunately my friends, the fact is we are in the water and the name of this fast moving river is Time.  Time is carrying us along at an alarming pace and it does affect the way we do church and the way we think about sharing the Gospel.

So, we've got two choices:  swim against the times or swim with them.  

Swimming against the times:  best example of this, in my opinion, the Russian Orthodox Church.  Basically hasn't changed it's service, it's attitude or it's location since old St. Basil came out from Byzantium to get them started with an alphabet and a liturgy.  The Church doesn't speak to the culture at all, but it does speak against it frequently.  The Church resists change.   After all, since nothing has changed in the way we do church for a thousand years, it must mean that we're doing it pretty close to the way the original Christians must have done it.  The Church is there to provide an entry point into another world:  the building itself is the very lobby of heaven, complete with icons and incense and gold and ceremony and worship.  The purpose of the church is to worship God and when people in the world are ready for God they will come to the church and  be changed by he church.  No evangelism or advertising necessary.   
Then theres swimming with the times:  The Church in this paradigm goes with the flow and employs the very latest gadgetry and appropriates cultural symbols like music and film and art and redefines them in a God glorifying way.  You probably won't find icons but you will find big screens in these churches.  The preachers in these churches seek to use current terms to describe ancient truths and always seek to make the Gospel relevant to what is going on in the world today.  In this model, the church doesn't wait for you to ask about God and come looking: rather, the Church takes it's message to the streets and pushes people to consider what they believe and why.  The downside is that sometimes this paradigm can lose it's Gospel orientation and be subsumed into the culture.  (A little like hitting a rock mid-stream hard and going under).

So which one is best?  I know I favor swimming with the times.  That's why I'm an evangelical and that's why I struggle (as Willow Creek puts it so well) to "remove every obstacle but the obstacle of the cross" so that people can meet Jesus.  It means we can't ever rest.  It means we always have to be engaged and swimming and let's face it, it is tiring.  It's hard to stay current and it's hard to stay relevant.  But it can also be exciting.  

A couple of things reminded me this week that, once again, I have to get with the times.  In the pre-marriage class I referenced "All in the Family," that famous sitcom featuring Archie Bunker, his wife Edith and family.  Nobody in the class (5 or 6 couples) had ever heard of the show.  

Today I got my hair cut.  The young stylist and I had a good conversation.  What do I want my hair to look like?  "Well, like the Pet Shop Boys,"  I said.  "Who?", she replied.  Exactly.

I'm only 41 and already I can't play Catch My Reference with the 20 somethings....  The River Time is rolling on.  And we have to keep swimming because we have a Message to deliver to the next generation.

I think it was exhaustion with staying relevant and swimming to keep up with the times that made some of our Latvian friends desert the Evangelical Church and become Orthodox.  No more prayers to make up, no more creative sermons to write, no more need to make every message count or to explain every point for the seekers and the new believers.  Nope.  Just do it like they've always done it because it isn't about us, it's about Him.  It's a very comforting thought that He isn't dependent on us.  But on the other hand, he did invite us to share in the mission of getting the word out.  And so everyone, back into the water, it's time to keep on swimming until the whole world knows Jesus is Lord.  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What would Luther say?

OK, can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (only in Lutheran circles, you understand) “What would Luther think about what you’re doing?”  First, let me begin by saying that I think the first question ought to be:  “What does Jesus think about what we’re doing?”  What I know about Luther leads me to believe he’d feel the same.  After we’ve answered that first question, I don’t suppose what Luther would think really matters.  

But just for the sake of argument, (and because it strikes me that blogs need to be somewhat edgy in order to be interesting), “What would Luther think about the state of our Lutheran Church right now?”  

First, I acknowledge that there would be a lot of problems bringing the good Dr. Luther up to date on some 500 years of history.  But these problems are probably solvable; maybe we’d just send him away to watch the History Channel in German for a few days.  I’m sure linguists could bring his German up to date and a few days with Fox News or CNN would bring his 16th century perspective current. 

Maybe we’d start by trying to explain the dozen or so different Lutheran groups or denominations in the U.S.  He always was an emotionally expressive guy, so he’d probably box our ears and yell at us for dividing the body of Christ.  

When he learned that the big issue in the ELCA was whether or not to ordain practicing gay and lesbian pastors and blessing homosexual unions, he’d probably be looking for an ink well to throw at us.  I suppose somebody would want to justify the position and Luther, being a Bible scholar and translator, would probably rip them to shreds.  After all, neither of these concepts are biblically supportable and Luther was very concerned that the Bible should trump human tradition.   He himself had seen first hand what happens when you let human opinion have the upper hand over Scripture.  No doubt he’d have choice words for our bishops for allowing things to come to this.  

He’d probably really have a hard time understanding our Full Communion agreements with the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church and the soon to be announced union with the United Methodist Church.  Why?  Because Luther had a very sacramental theology.  Luther was also much more a fundamentalist than most Lutherans.  (A truly odd thing, especially these days, to be a sacramental fundamentalist).  He believed that when Jesus said, “This is my body” during the Last Supper, he was speaking literally and not figuratively.  He believed in the Real Presence and theologically opposed the other reformers who favored a symbolic interpretation.  I’d like to think that once he understood how hostile the world was to the Gospel he’d allow us some freedom in associating and being allied with other Christians but part of me wonders if he wouldn’t cling to his understanding of the sacrament and Scripture, even it it made him unpopular.  

Luther would look at the state of our families and wonder why we allowed them to stop teaching the faith to their children at home.  He’d probably mention that he wrote a Catechism to help families learn the faith together and yell at us for turning what was meant to be a life long daily practice into something that happens in church basements on Wednesday nights during the school year (if it isn’t too cold or too snowy).  He would probably blame pastors like me for “allowing” families to fall apart because we hadn’t equipped men to be the heads of households nor did we do enough to “keep” the kids we confirmed from running away from church as fast as they could.

He probably wouldn’t be really happy with the way we do worship, either.  He’d miss the mass and it’s structure in these times of contemporary worship.  I’d like to think that after a while he’d warm to the idea of more freedom in worship but honestly, I’m not sure.  He’d probably say there is a reason we did the creed every week, communion every week, confession every week.  The only thing that I think might mitigate his diatribe would be when he looked around at our greater society and realized that we had a vast mission field of unchurched and dechurched people.  I think he’d really struggle with comprehending the end of the Christendom concept that he’d known - that all people in the west were Christians.  I think that the realization that we had such a high percentage of people with no church experience just might cause him to stop and think and consider...  how do we teach them about Jesus?

It’s at that point that I wonder what he would come up with.  In his day he put the language of the church service into the language of the people.  What would that look like today?  He wrote new hymns to new melodies so people would be comfortable to sing praises to God - what would that look like today?  He pioneered the idea of different kinds of services for different kinds of people - the High Mass (in Latin) for the educated, the Low or Folk mass for the common people, and the Home Group or House Church for the true believers (although he could only speculate on this third group and didn’t feel enough existed during his day to make such a form of worship viable).  What would Dr. Luther prescribe for us?  Services for believers and other teaching services for those new to the faith?  Would he make radical changes to what we consider “Lutheran Worship?”  

Can you imagine what he’d do when he discovered the many different types of communication open to us?  If the man filled 50 volumes in his relatively short life and translated the whole of Scripture, can you imagine what he could publish on line?  

Finally, I wonder what Dr. Luther’s reappearance would mean for Lutheran ideas about how we organize the church and how we share the Gospel?  Would he write 50 more volumes on the importance of sharing the Gospel with those around us?  Would he propose new ways of organizing ourselves (that didn’t look so 16th century as they do currently) to accomplish mission and govern ourselves?  I think he would and I think what he would come up with would make even those of us who consider ourselves on the cutting edge of the church growth movement look like we were 500 years out of date.  


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two types of churches

This one is a bit controversial but consider it a challenging thought to the way we think about stewardship in most churches.

You probably cringe when people begin a statement with, “There are only two types of (your topic here) in the world…” Two types of people, two types of politicians, two types of donuts, or, in this case, churches. Sure it’s a generalization, but sometimes these kinds of comparisons are humorous and sometimes they are dead wrong and sometimes they are spot on.

So here we go: There are two types of churches in North America right now: Those who wait for what their members will give them to see what kind of ministry they can do and; Those who have a vision from the Lord about the kind of ministry they are called to do and do whatever it takes to be obedient to His vision.

Harsh? I don’t mean to be. I think it’s just a reality and there certainly isn’t any harm in discussing it. After all, it’s just a theory.

Here’s how it plays out: The first type of church (call it Type One Church) which is dependant on what people will do, donate, or give builds a new building as follows: “Let’s see how much our members will commit to and then once we know that we’ll know how much building we can afford to build.” The second type of church (call it Type Two Church?) says this: “This is the space we need to do the ministry that God is calling us to do. The price tag is $X. Will you pray and challenge yourself to give to see this godly vision become a reality?” The outcome: Type Two Churches accomplish wonderful things in Jesus and thrive. Type One Churches survive.

Here’s another example: In this day and age it is very important to be in contact with your congregation and volunteers and church staff via e-mail, have an appealing and informative website, and be able to reach out to the world and your congregation through other web based applications whether they be software or something like a blog or Facebook. So how do you organize yourself for this mission? Do you take whatever leftover (usually woefully out of date) computers or equipment people give you or do you go to your congregation, board, or donors and say, “This is the network/website/computer that we need to do our work in this day and age and the cost is $X.”

Type One Congregations frequently have to MacGyverize equipment and hold it together with chewing gum and duct tape. That means the equipment is frequently on the fritz and needs a lot of maintenance and isn’t reliable. Type Two Churches realize they are in the communication business and need to stay current in order to keep getting “The Old, Old Story” to a new generation and are willing to invest in current equipment and make their needs known to their congregation.

These are only poor examples of how the two different churches do things.

Here is what is really at the heart of my analysis: If Jesus is really alive and really wants us to make disciples for him in our ministries, doesn’t that mean he (through the church) ought to be entitled to the very best that we can possibly afford, the very latest and most reliable not just what we can piece together? Because isn’t the mission of the church the most important mission in the world? If we really believe in him and think that what he is calling us to is the most important thing in our lives, shouldn’t he be entitled to the first and best of everything and not just whatever is left over?

And what about the people who come to experience Christ in our services? Is the experience the best we can bring or whatever it is we decided to phone in?

In fact, the question can be asked about far more than money, equipment, technology, buildings, etc. The question has to be asked of our preaching and teaching, our programming, our welcoming, our hospitality, everything. Because everything about us and what we do is a witness to what we think about Christ and his kingdom.

So, if we profess that Jesus is alive and active in our world today and that he has sent his church on a mission, as a church, shouldn’t we cast the visions that God gives us for the congregation? And, instead of relying on what people usually give, challenge them with a vision of what God wants to do?

What is interesting to me is to see that in the two different types of churches there are also very different leadership structures, very different views on staffing, and sometimes even views on Scripture which leads me to wonder if one of these types of churches is better suited for mission than the other…. For instance, are Type Two Churches more likely to believe that the Lord would give a vision to their church leadership? Are Type One Churches less likely to challenge their members to look at ministry a different way? The implications to how we decide to do church are enormous.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Q: Where do sermon ideas come from?

Sometimes people ask, "where do the ideas for the sermons and the sermons series come from?"
Short answer:  They come from God through prayer.  

How's it work?  Well, here's the way I understand the process:   I schedule quiet time to vision and work on long range stuff every week.  It starts with a blank yellow pad, an open Bible and a fresh pen.  Then prayer.  Lots of it.  Pastor Chris and I are both very serious about wanting to "do what God is blessing, not ask God to bless what we're doing."  After praying I just start writing down ideas as they come and I keep reading the Scripture over and over again.  That usually winds up leading to other Scriptures which lead to other Scriptures and pretty soon a pattern starts to develop.  Then I pray about the pattern, asking God to clarify things and after that, there is usually a theme and more Scripture verses.  Then over the course of weeks or days, depending on my schedule, that gets distilled down into a manageable number of points and further prayer and quiet time brings the examples or visuals or other enhancements.  

Usually, I don't use commentaries.  If ideas come from other sources I try to always credit them, at least verbally.  What I believe is that it's not my job to be original:  there are no new ideas, all ideas were God's first and in 2,000 years of Christianity chances are somebody has already preached your sermon or developed your idea before you so don't try to be too clever.  Just get the point across.  

I believe, and I think most preachers will back this up, that during the period of time you are preparing a message, almost everything that happens in your life, discussions, accidents, tragedies, irritations, joys, somehow contribute to the sermon.  You live with the sermon from the time you first read the Scripture you'll be preaching on until after you preach it.  It is consuming, it is thought occupying and preoccupying.  Sometimes you even dream of yourself preaching and wake up and write down what was said.  God makes sure what He wants to say gets said, if you're open and give Him a chance.  

Once I was hard pressed to find the words for a sermon.  At that time in my life someone else was in charge of coming up with the sermon topics and so I had a tough one that I didn't know much about.  I prayed, "Lord, tell me what you want me to say."  The reply was instant and clear as a bell (as sometimes but not usually happens when you pray, I think).  He said, "Tell them about me."  Well, that has been the advice I have sought to follow for the last dozen years.  It's a good final check on any sermon:  does it tell people about Jesus or about you or about something else.  If it isn't about Jesus, tear it up and start over.

There are a lot of places you can buy or download sermons or sermon series but so far I haven't felt the need for that.  So far, God has been exceedingly generous in providing the topics, themes, and even the illustrations.  If I do borrow an example I do try to give credit where credit is due.  Now that we have a working website, I think it will be easier to post outside sources and links where people can go for more.  I hope we can develop this in the very near future.  

Finally, I think God speaks to us preachers by asking us the question:  "What does your flock need to work on?"  Then I think He shows us the answers and that provides ideas for future series.  The idea, as I understand it, is that we are to encourage one another through the Word to keep on growing and maturing in Christ.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My first blog

Why blog?

I am of a generation that is either very technological astute or very outside the loop.  I remember the first Mac, representing the first “personal computer” that I ever saw.  The library at Ken Caryl Jr High purchased one and the librarian chose two of my friends to learn how to use it.  They spent hours messing around with it.  For my part, I wasn’t invited to play and grew to really resent that machine that kept my friends away from me.  

The first time I remember e-mail was in 1995.  I came back to the seminary from internship and in one year it seemed like the computers had taken over.  There was a huge lab and we all had assigned e-mail addresses.  Suddenly I was doing my final year’s papers on them instead of the faithful old IBM Selectric typewriter that I learned to type on.  

After seminary, I wound up in a church and received my first lap top.  Wow.  Being able to take my type writer anywhere!  Oh, the freedom!  Oh, the joy!  But I became attached and even though I never used any program except e-mail and whatever word processing program it came with, I was hooked.  The next step was assembling a group of guys and commissioning them to build a network for the church.  Then came a website and well, the rest, as they say, is history.

What about the application of technology beyond e-mail and typing?  Well, I wrote daily devotions and sent them via e-mail but that was about the extent of it.  And so it remained for the last 12 years or so.  Until...

Last year I bought a Mac and one day at the Apple Store changed my life.  Suddenly, I was equipped to make my own website, my own blog, my own anything.  I know how to do things I never knew I wanted to do.  Wow.  It’s a bizarrely integrated world out there with my personal website being linked to my Facebook page linked to my blog and my whole photo gallery on line too.  But the blog still seemed a strange thing to me.  Who would ever want to read my musings?  Well, I suppose it’s a bit of a chance but after a year of thinking about it, I’m ready.  Hopefully, there will be an audience.  But it seems like the right (“write?”) thing to do.  We come from a proud theological tradition of using the latest technology to promote the Gospel, so, here it goes.  Prepare yourself for musings that you won’t hear in sermons, for additional information, for questions and answers, for totally random thoughts, and for explanations of methodologies and policies.  Here it goes.  Lord save us.  My blog story begins and ends with Apple.  God’s story with us begins in Genesis with forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and ends in Revelation with the fruit of the Tree of Life being the healing of the world.  How’s that for coincidence?