Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Open Letter to the Growthinistas, Pt. 1.5

Dovetailing just a bit with my previous OLTTG post, I just read this a.m. (again, in my Bloglines reader) another great post from the Church Matters dudes, this one examining the question of whether or not I consider my gifts to be "too big and spiffy" for the field that I'm currently called to.

I.e., though I know the Bible tells me to not "despise... the day of small things," do I subtly in fact view the "day of small things" I'm currently in as somehow just a stepping stone to "something better," or do I view my lot as what it really is - my calling that I am to discharge as a faithful steward, no matter what the cost?

This blogpost from the 9Marks dudes is something of a book report on the biographical preface to The Letters of Samuel Rutherford by Andy Bonar. My wife had fallen in love with the Letters a few years ago, and had read them to me (I like the sound of her voice - she could read the ingredients of squid pituitary and aardvark navel goulash to me, and I'd like it...), at which time I really came to like Rutherford.

Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian in the 17th century whose writings on the Rule of Law have had immeasurable impact on, among other things, the formation of our own federalist/constitutionalist government here in the U.S. of A. The Letters (which are available online here) are a collection of...well...letters that Sam wrote during a time of great personal trial and first published as soon as three years after his death in 1661.

All-in-all, a stupendously good and spiritually eye-opening read.

Specific to the question of the OLTTG, however... the author of the 9Marks blogpost added the Letters to his devotional reading, and was commenting on the biographical sketch of Rutherford that Andy Bonar put in to his (and the currently most enduring edition of) the Letters. He makes one particularly timely and telling observation:

I wonder if one of the main challenges facing churches might not be that too many potential shepherds think their education, gifts, and abilities would be wasted in humble, anonymous service? If there are not too many of us who remember too infrequently that the Chief Shepherd knows His blood-bought sheep in country villages are worth caring for? I wonder how many men "settle" for this or that little congregation as a "stepping stone" to a bigger, "better" ministry? How many fear that anonymity is synonymous with unfruitfulness and a certain kind of death?

And, yet, Rutherford speaks to us hundreds of years later and his faithfulness shames the most gifted and talented among us (well, let me not project onto others; it certainly shames me). Bonar adds this line a couple paragraphs later:

Anwoth was dear to him rather as the sphere appointed him by his Master, than because of the fruit he saw of his labours.

Because Christ place him there--not because he saw "great fruit"--Rutherford rooted his heart in that place and that people. May we all be satisfied to serve, and find satisfaction in serving, wherever the Master places us. And may we never regard our congregations--however small--as unworthy of our gifts or our care.

The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect as we look back on them from the perspective of history are those who weren't consumed by things like numerical growth, or setting tithing goals, or...or...or...

The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect are those whose driving passion was faithfulness to their calling, no matter the cost. The pastors whose legacies endure and whose lives and ministries we respect are those who loved the Lord with abandon and lived that out in life by pouring themselves out and giving the last full measure for the flocks that God entrusted them with - completely without consideration to so many of the things that dominate the thinking of so many of our contemporaries.

Many (probably most) of us aren't called to be shepherds over dynamic, explosively growing congregations whose monthly budgets are measured in excess of five digits - though, upon reading many other pastors' blogs, I think that's what we (and by "we" I mean "pastors in general") lust most after.

I want to be like Sam Rutherford.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Preachers are Hypocrites

One of the blogs I read avidly in my Bloglines reader is the Church Matters blog. So long as you read their church polity stuff (the ninth of the "9Marks") with a fairly massive block of salt, it's actually quite good.

Today's offering is just awesome: A Hypocrite's Guide to Preaching.

Good, great stuff...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Liberals are Crazy.

Now, the article refers to political liberals, but Dr. Lyle Rossiter's premise on the correlation between liberalism and mental disorder probably translates well to the question of theological liberals, wouldn't you think?

How long do you think it'll take Ricky Abanes to come to the Open Source dudes' defense, there, eh?

Okay, that last statement was more than slightly snarky. And unjustified.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Da Scoop'a on NOOMA

Greg Gilbert, on the Church Matters blog, has done a three-part series examining Robbie Bell's NOOMA videos.

Living in Bell's backyard as I do, I very much appreciate Gilbert's perspective, which I found to be fair and accurate.

At least, from my perspective, anyway...

Good stuff.

Ten More Things

So our fellowship's deacon (when you're as micro-small-tiny as we are, you only get one deacon), after reading the preceding post, forwarded me this post, 10 Ways to Effectively Criticize. you think he's sending me a semi-oblique message...?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ten Things I Like About Chris Elrod

Alrighty, then. For starters, a confession: The title of this blogpost was originally going to be a take off of the Ten Things I Hate About You movie... but I can only think of one thing I hate about Chris Elrod:

  • I am not him. Darn it. that title wouldn't have really worked.

Oh, well...

Chris's latest blogpost, Ten Things I'm Learning is good. Really good.

Darn it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On the subject of worship

I've got two blogposts from the Church Matters blog marked as "Keep As New" in my Bloglines reader so that I can go back and re-read them, both on the subject of worship.

They are:

Well worth the read.

Season's winding down...

...and it looks like the Wings still dominate the league...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Skiing would be fun...

...if it was hockey.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

GTD in Space

A lot of pastors whose blogs I read make oblation at the altar of Getting Things Done, which is all well and good if that's your thing (personally, I'm a FranklinCovey-aholic - I have PlanPlus on my HTC PPC6800 to keep me in line and beep at me to remember to... do stuff... that I need to remember... stuff...), though I have to wonder how much of the "effectiveness" fad among my brethren-in-the-cloth is (ironically) counterproductive to the real work of the Kingdom (which is often messy an disorganized) and really little more than a more-than-vaguely amusing and ultimately futile attempt to look "proffessional" and "respectable" to the world...

But anyway.

One of the couples in our fellowship forwarded me a great post on The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Spaceship Captains. Tongue-in-cheek, very entertaining... but also somewhat insightful.

With the glaring exception of Habit 3, the habits and lessons learned can with only minimal tweaking be applied to pastors - and to ministry in general, both vocational and lay.

Though, sadly, some pastors have indiscriminately lived out Habit 3 with individuals other than their respective wives. And are still pastors. Which I will never get. But I partly digress.

The language of the post is mildly Mark Driscoll-ish, which means it's probably best rated "PG-13". So if worldly word usage wigs you way out, don't click on the above link. Remember: You can't expect unbelievers to act (or speak) like believers - you can barely expect believers to act (and speak) like believers these days. This is NOT a Christian post. On that note, if you've never been in the Navy and therefore are unused to sailor-speak, avoid the comments as well.

But if you can forgive the occasional ECM-like verbiage, it's a funny, interesting, and strangely applicable post.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christm--HEY...

I'm sitting in the Starbuck's at the Barnes & Noble bookstore (one of my favorite places to go an study and such) and it's snowing like it hasn't snowed all year so far.

Lots of snow.

I mean, lots of snow.

The pictures that follow really don't do it justice.

At least, the pictures of the snow outside won't (thanks to the relatively low technology of my 4.0 megapixel Nikon camera).

But... I'm sitting here, updating the website, doing some administrative stuff for the church and getting ready to get some study time in for our Thursday evening study through Leviticus, and I see this monstrosity roll on by the window in front of me...

at barnes 'n' noble 024

at barnes 'n' noble 025

at barnes 'n' noble 026

at barnes 'n' noble 027

at barnes 'n' noble 028

You know it's snowing when they call out the big Caterpillar mongo-huge tractor and slap on a massive snowplow on the front.


at barnes 'n' noble 005
"The Plowman Cometh"

Thankfully, our small yet tiny house is almost literally right around the corner. If it wasn't snowing (...and, if I wasn't lazy) I could walk home. So the drive won't be too bad...

Monday, February 04, 2008

McCarty Returns

Darren McCarty, one of my favorite players, is making his comeback with the Red Wings' AHL team, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

My lovely and gracious wife and I have four Griffins tickets left to spend this season (we bought a season "mini-pack" earlier last year), so I can't wait to go watch Darren mix it up on ice again...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Brane Gates

On a lighter note, I just read this in my Bloglines reader from Slashdot: Apparently, Dr Alexander Shatskiy, from the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow has postulated a way to detect the difference between a black hole and a wormhole.

One of the consequences of M-Theory (a theoretical framework devised as a possible solution to the apparent duality inherent in much of string theory, as a way of unifying the five major superstring "flavors") is that there are very likely multiple "universes" (if you accept the basic premises of M-theory, and that many of the forces we see propagating in "our" universe (such as gravity, which propagates very weakly compared to the other three fundamental forces) are in at least some sense really the echoes of interaction between various "branes" (universes) and ours. Gravity, for instance, as we perceive it, is really "leaked into" our universe from and adjacent one.


Wormholes are theoretically permissible in general relativity, but so far no reliable means of detecting them has been proposed.

Enter Dr. Shatskiy.

Interesting, intriguing... and although I anticipate it'll basically amount to nothing, it's fun to think about, anyway...

Shepherds and Sheep

One of the things that characterizes a shepherd is that he smells like the sheep.

That is, he spends his life with them. He knows them, lives among them, shares their joys, sorrows, even grief. When one is hurting, he's there to help and heal. When one is sick, he tends to it. When the flock is hungry, he searches diligently and leads them to good pastures.

It's no surpise that the Biblical image the Holy Spirit chooses for pastors is that of shepherds.

And it's particularly the joy of the small church pastor that he really has no choice but to "smell like the sheep." The bigger-church dudes can add layers of interference betwixt themselves and them smelly sheep them thar... but the small church pastor doesn't have that luxury option. He is in the thick of it with them.

But that's not always a joy. Sometimes, especially when the sheep are deeply wounded, he gets bled on, then bitten, by the bewildered sheep.

In our tiny yet small fellowship here on the lakeshore, 2007 has been a particularly painful year for a number of our families. For one family in particular, it has turned out to be the worst year of their lives. And it all came to a head the week before Christmas, when the husband discovered that his wife had been unfaithful to him. Through much counseling, and praying, and venting, and tears, the marriage has since disintegrated. But the sheep still hurts, and hurts deeply.

So much so, that he's at the point of walking away from the Lord.

It's heartrending, to watch a sheep, in spite of multiplied myriads of warnings, walk right over to and begin to leap off of the cliff on the edge of oblivion.

Some thoughts, though, that have arisen through this all:

  • If my walk with the Lord is based on whether or not I get anything out of it, I'm not really serving Him - I'm really serving my own interests.

  • If my walk with the Lord is based on the faithfulness of others, I'm not really serving Him.

  • If my service to the Lord is based on any outward perk, reward, "attaboy," or external criterion (like, oh say, numbers), I'm not really serving Him, but my own interests

  • If I serve Jesus for any motive less than absolute devotion to Him no matter the cost, no matter what He calls me to go through, no matter the consequence or result, I'm not only not really serving Him - I also won't stay the course.

If there's anything that can cause me to give up and throw in the towel, that is what I will inevitably face.

Tonight, I've felt more like throwing in the towel than I have for a long, long time.

But I can't.

I don't have that option.

And realizing that, I find His peace...

The brother I mention above is doing better, and has asked for the men of the fellowship to lay hands on him and pray over him (which will happen this coming Sunday). I have no desire to go into any detail as to what he's been called to endure this last year, but just suffice it to say, it's been a particularly bad time for him and his family.

He'd sent me an e-mail today, with the following:

It has been a tough year and I am not out of the woods yet but I am in the word and learning to trust more in the Lord every day. In you blog just have people pray for our family.

So I'd like to ask both my readers to pray for the wounded brother - and especially for his children. Always when things like this happen, it's the kids who get the most deeply hurt.