Archive for the ‘religion’ category

Excellence vs. Perfection

August 19, 2009

As long as I have worked, I ahve seen plenty of people (bosses) who say that their goal for the organization is excellence. This sounds good until it is put into practice using the commonly available maps to excellence.

There is usually a great beginning push toward excellence, but soon the map calls for a shift in direction and the organization begins heading toward the goal of perfection. Like El Dorado, perfection never comes and most often a great team dissolves into a frustrated group of talented people. Frustration comes because, in most cases, the leader is in the sole position to steer the organization. Everyone, the staff, management team, etc. want to succeed with the plan and please the leader.

When headed to an imaginary place with real people, the leader has two choices. The first choice is to realize the delusion of perfection, correct the course and go on. The second is to get rid of the real people, hold firm to his/her delusion and fill the real people’s vacancies with others who like to play Imaginary Friends.

This seems like an easy call for a leader, but all too often Ego makes admission of flawed leadership something to be avoided at all costs. The result is a once great or forward moving company trying to survive and not go under. Reputation and real innovative drive are all but gone.

These are the companies that are either bought and leadership replaced or the company treads water until the inevitable closer occurs.

In the case of churches, these are places who, if the truly believe what most teach, should close and merge with another church who is focused on the real place of excellence.

Imagining or Real? I’m betting you would choose Reality.

Momentary Silence

March 17, 2009

A lot has been said about centering prayer, a unique Christian form of prayer. Some people just say that it’s meditation, or some way to allow Eastern ideas into the Western way of Christianity. One quick point of information is that Christianity itself is an Eastern religion. Picking up from roots in Judaism, Christianity has at its core many concepts that definitely have a flavor of other religious practices and forms.

The major idea is to look at what the practice seeks to do. Not what it looks like or what someone else has said about it. Centering prayer seeks to connect the individual with an aspect of God’s personality that is similar to the awareness of God’s “everywhereness” and “nowhereness” that Moses felt as he saw the back part of God when God walked by. It is both a seeking and a desire to experience God in a new and old way.

Many who have practiced centering prayer find a complexity of the new and familiar surrounding them as they move toward God in stillness and quiet. For me, it is a Momentary Silence within the ebb and flow of sound that comprise each and every wonderful day created for us to revel in by our Creator.

Systems vs. Sytematic Theology

February 11, 2009

One of the greatest changes that I see in the future of the church is a shift from a systematic approach to theology to a more inclusive holistic Systems approach. The integration of so many differing systems into our daily environments will eventually warrant a change in the direction of the theological approach of most churches. Whereas in the past we have been somewhat satisfied with compartmentalizing differing aspects of theological interest.

We have been content to “zero in” on faith, grace, salvation, righteousness, etc. exclusively. Now there will be decidedly all-encompassing approach that will examine how these all are related to one another and dependant on each other. As the strings that connect shift, so does the related change in the tension between each area. What is exciting about all of this is that it brings a new dynamic to the conversation(s) concerning every issue that was previously looked at in exclusivity.

Systems Theology will seek to bring more of a solid foundation to much of the weaker present offering of “new church”. I’m reading a book now about the changes and shifts in cultures as different paradigms take shape. This is a key concept as we look both where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

The (re)Myth: Part 2

February 6, 2009

In the process of looking at words used too long by the Church are some others. Another word is, “Revolution”. This is a word full of baggage and energy, some positive, but mostly negative. In the global sense, Revolution is all about overthrowing something (be it a belief system or a way of experiencing church). To those doing the “revolutionizing”, nothing could be greater than removing the old guard with something new.

Later, however, the posture is much different. Somewhere someone will want to “Revolutionize” this new way of doing things for a new, newer way and the cycle continues. The one word that should be used instead is “Reformation”.

To re – form something is truth. To take the expression and refigure it is the great challenge, not obliterating the visage of the past church. When we use our language, we must use care and think from different perspectives.

The (re)Myth: Part 1

February 1, 2009

Alot of things that we hold dear in mainline church have a presupposition about them that has been handed out to  us by a previous generation. These ideas are no more than cultural myths that reside within the context of the western Christian church. One of these is the notion of Revival. In the typical sense, the concept of Revival seems straightforward enough, but by looking just underneath the surface we see something more. Integrated in the idea of Revival is that something has died and needs reviving.

In my history, and my study of The history of the church, I can not find a time when the Church was dead. Plenty of times when respiration was shallow and the pulse slowed, but never dead. So if you wish to bring up the word, “Revival”, the truth cannot be used.  The truth is that the Church has had struggles, but never dead.

Though many within the church culture would simply “understand” what we are saying when we use the word “Revival”, those not indoctrinated with Christianese will be left trying to understand what we mean, or taking our words and coming to conclusions we never meant.


January 22, 2009


Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost have a new book out called ReJesus. It is one of the most compelling reads as to how we can never get outside of our own distinct cultures to a pure Jesus. In every age Christians are compelled to again struggle with the meaning of Jesus again. Neibuhr wrote in Christ and Culture that we always are reshaping Jesus out of our cultural imaginations. Jesus is the center of the religion of Christianity, and yet, as Jacques Ellul, the French theologian questions, “How has it come about that the development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the Bible, to what is indisputably the text of the law, the prophets, Jesus and Paul?”

To follow Jesus requires not simply believing in belief, but to encounter Jesus on an ongoing basis. This is true spiritual transformation. It becomes more than knowing about him. It must become about experiencing redemption, following his way, becoming like him and taking up his cause all the while in the current Western context.

We all know that Jesus is like God, fewer are aware that God is like Jesus, ans fewer still would admit that Jesus shows us the perfect example of what Human is – AND that we should seek to be like that perfect example. Roman 8:29 speaks of us being conformed into the likeness of his Son. It speaks of us being like Jesus.

What would our world look like if we became more like Jesus who was like God? Would we not wake to a better world? Instead of worshipping Jesus, what if we followed Him. What if we used the mysterious Christ as an example to what our own lives could be?

Too often we have relegated Christ as a figure to be looked at or revered – separated from us. We learn at an early age “how” to worship, but Jesus came to show us how to live. It is in the living that we learn to know him and experience that abundant life He spoke about.

The Greatest Words Ever Spoken

December 28, 2008

greatest words

A new book by Steven K. Scott, the author of the best-selling book The Richest Man Who Ever Lived, is entitled, The Greatest Words Ever Spoken. It includes over 1,900 statements by Jesus organized under more than 200 different topics.

The subtitle is – “Everything Jesus said about you, your life, and everything else.” When you read this book , you encounter the living Christ in a way few books allow. When you read the statements of Jesus, unencumbered by additional commentary or explanation, the truth, power and impact of His words become even more evident.

You read what Jesus said about Himself, about His followers, and about eternity. This book is a resource whose value will only increase each time you reach for it and read the “words in red”.

During His time here on earth, Jesus made remarkable promises to each of us who would hear His words and follow them. This book gives us the perfect tool to do exactly that, all the time providing a fresh view of the incomparable Christ.

This book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your favorite local Christian bookstore.

Karen Armstrong – Religion:A Force for Harmony

September 29, 2008

Karen’s words are so fitting for how we face the uncertainty around us. She begins by shedding light on the birth of the idea of “believing”. She then moves toward the Golden Rule as a global religious effort. She recognizes the desire for people around the world for change. Typically, the established church would rather be right than follow the words of many spiritual sages to “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

She posits that people want to be religious, and that religion should be a force for harmony; that the Golden Rule should be global: do unto other countries as you would have other countries do unto you. That we should move beyond toleration to appreciation of the other. Listen, really listen and see how we can have a positive impact by living out the Golden Rule. This has incredible impact on how we continue “doing” church, indeed on how we continue living at all.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Karen Armstrong – Religion:A Force fo…", posted with vodpod

Debbie Blue – From Stone to Living Word

September 18, 2008

Had to write a little about this book. From the first line – “I’m not good with answers” – the book is immediately accessible. Blue writes openly and confidently as she weaves through some thoughts that many of us have had but found difficult to articulate.

As a pastor, she talks about wishing to be like Father Zossima in The Brother’s Karamazov.

She quotes Eduard Thurneysen speaking about Father Zossima saying:

 “It [his pastoral approach] is not designed to remove [people’s] burdens, to lead them out of the uncertainties of their lives, but it is intended to lead [people] into them truly and for the first time…for in persevering in the uncertainties of life, he sees the only way of redemption.”

She follows that great quote, about a character in a book that you should read if you haven’t, by stating, “I honestly don’t know what it would even quite mean to straighten a life out.


So often we perceive the church as a place to fix things, as God a “fixer”, as life needing to be fixed. Life is meant to be lived fully and that often means it will be messy and loud and unpredictable and wild. When we accept that we are trying to embrace the Unembraceable, know the Unknowable and understand the Incomprehensible, a non-straightened out life seems to be the only kind that would fit.


Oh to let go and embrace nothing, knowing that in that futile attempt you have found what you were looking for. He is unembraceable not because he is far and distant, but because he so permeates every inch of our lives that if we were to contain him, he would cease to be himself. He is “in all, above all and through all”. If we can learn to live within the drawing love of God the Other, our lives themselves will transcend understanding and the chaotic will become beautiful and our view of God himself or herself will expand into an ever increasing undulation of love that desires to overwhelm and overtake us.

Wine….and more wine!

September 17, 2008

In lieu of the comments from Sunday’s message I feel compelled to bring up the story of Jesus and the wedding in Cana. In spite of the church’s need to display Jesus as a party pooper, he was nothing of the sort. Jesus was, in fact, the kind of guy you would want around if you were to throw a party.

Jesus’ ability to turn water into wine, although very handy, is not the reason I chose to give my allegiance to him. Jesus embodies hope and gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. He sees all of life as a sacred celebration. This story is full of implications that when life seemingly runs out of joy/hope/peace/meaning (wine) he is there to bring it back. When everything seems lost and the party is doomed, look for Jesus like Mary did and he’ll bring the abundant life back to your party.

The biggest thing this story can teach us is seen as John mentions that it took place on the third day. The third day is typical of resurrection, and if so, the first day would be the wonderful – everything is OK  good Friday. The second day would have to be those liminal spaces where we are anything but settled, but the third day is significantly different. With Jesus’ response, the third day becomes a day filled with expectancy and hope.

For us the significance of this story has to go to the jars of water. Prepared for a sacred service they are transformed into functional jars for the service of the people. How much of our own religious world is filled with sacredness. So much so that we overlook it’s functionality to service. If the service needs to change from Sunday to Thursday let’s change it. If we need to sit on the floor instead of pews, let’s do it. If we need to have a true conversation instead of a talking head let’s do it. Certainly in the church there are issues of practicality, but ultimately everything that we do has the ultimate end of bringing people into the abundant life Christ has given to us. Everything is a means to that end – not an end to itself.

Mary knew that the party didn’t have to end. She knew what resided in Christ -and so do we. As we look toward our future, let our response be that of Jesus. Crank up the music, tell the baby-sitter you’ll be late, smile and grab your partner, this party isn’t near over. The best really is yet to come!