Talking Various Church Oddities on a Sleepy Fall Morning


Sometimes, there’s just not enough in an idea for a full post. Sometimes, there’s almost too much, and the only recourse is a brief overview lest the topic overwhelm my ability to write. On such days, the best option is a series of post vignettes offered up for reader input. Feel free to fire away at any of these musings.


Is it me, or has much of contemporary worship music become more tribal and chant-like? I find a lot of this stuff tuneless and unsingable. First there was the charge that the lyrics were shallow. Now the melody is. When the Vineyard Churches energized modern worship music back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the songs had lovely melodies. I dare you to find the melody line in more recent songs.


Sermon topics I have not heard preached in years:

The Fatherhood of God

The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ


Holiness: Why God Demands It, and What It Looks Like in Modern Living

Hmm. Weren’t those once considered foundational?


Conservative Christians are always accusing liberal Christians of a self-help, Oprah-esque form of the Faith that owes more to Jung than Jesus. But conservative Christians fall into their own ditch: sanctifying business solutions and calling them “spiritual wisdom.” Frankly, both are in error.


Kevin DeYoung has a new book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, that seeks to address the frantic nature of contemporary life. I have not read the book, but from what I have read about it, DeYoung seems to throw the solution back onto the individual. I keep wondering when Christians are going to wake up and start challenging the entire system of how we live rather than trying to get individuals to modify their behavior to better work within that system. There’s only so much behavior modification one person can do. But then, show me Christians with a national platform who are willing to speak against the entire system of how we live, work, and play in America, and I’ll show you the one hand I can count them on.

Prepackaged, prefilled, communion cups & wafers***

These prepackaged, prefilled communion cup + wafer thingamabobs are just…well, words fail me. Nothing says prepackaged, prefilled, consumerized American spirituality more than those things. I dare anyone to partake of such a consumer good and soberly recall Jesus’ words that this is His body and His blood. Can you say that this is true of such a “communion meal”? Does this resemble the communion meal in the Scriptures in any way? In the end, what does it say about the Lord?


Jake Meador wrote “Why We Need Small Towns” for Christianity Today. I live in a small, rural town of about 3,100 people, and I have for the last dozen years. Heck, my son was off from school all last week because so many kids are involved in the county fair, there’s no point in having school. I can say without hesitation that Meador has over-romanticized the benefits of small town life. In truth, most small towns are no better than the suburbs, and in some ways, they have all the same problems but with fewer solutions. Most churches in a small town regret being churches in a small town, with their eyes forever on that suburban megachurch as their pined-for model. Really, I have no clue what Meador is talking about.


Tim Challies tried his best to bring some sense to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference. He is braver than I am. As a charismatic, what bothers me most about this conference is the number of ways MacArthur and his select speakers could address the “charismania” issue, yet it seems they are going the most inflammatory route, one certain to cheese off charismatics everywhere, no matter how orthodox those charismatics might be. If the conference truly was about restoring sanity to the ranks of charismaniacs, then where are the solid charismatic speakers MacArthur has partnered with in this effort? You say there are none in the speaker list? Hmm…


Over at Patheos, Peter Enns wonders if there is wisdom in using the writings of contemporary “spiritual” authors (the kind Oprah—there she is again—would endorse) to jumpstart  conversations with lost people about Jesus. Looking over the Bible, I guess I’m at a loss as to where the Apostle Paul recommends that Christians read the liturgy of Molech with lost people before talking with them about Jesus.


I used to be able to talk to fellow Christians about any topic. We could even skewer each other’s sacred cows and both laugh and think more deeply about the possible flaws in our own thinking. Today, everyone walks on eggshells, every discussion of personal belief follies descends into battles and hurt feelings, and nothing seems to get better. We are all so caught up in our own stuff that we are all heading toward prideful unteachability—if we are not already there.


Every last one of us needs an infusion of genuine, Christ-like humility.

Business, America, and the Courage to Do What Is Right


One major lesson learned from the economic meltdown is that far too many people in American business today are morally bankrupt. And it seems the higher up you go in the corporate org chart, the more malfeasance one finds. The post-Enron push made by companies to hire more ethical workers has been shown for the farce it is. We continue to hire and promote foxes for hen-house guard duty.

With allegations of fraud dogging Goldman Sachs, and with further indictments and allegations (thankfully) coming to others behind this debacle, the question is: Are we going to learn anything about the bankruptcy of the American soul from this?

I want to pass along a story on CNN written by Bob Greene. It details a transaction that goes on many thousands of times in this country each day, though this transaction has a slight, but important, twist. Greene tells of his encounter with Mark Dalton, the owner of a mom-and-pop bookstore, after purchasing a used book online:

In 2008, I found a book I was looking for on that Amazon marketplace, and submitted an order. The price was more than reasonable: $6.95 for the used hardcover. Used books are not shipped by Amazon itself, but by the local booksellers.

A week or so after I placed the order, the package arrived, from High View Books in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The book seemed to be in good shape. I was pleased.

But with it was a personal letter to me. It said:

“Thank your for your recent book order. I have enclosed a check to you for $2.95. The reason for this is that this book is only in ‘Very Good’ condition, while I mistakenly described it as being in ‘Near Fine’ condition in my listing. Please accept my apologies for the error. (Also, please note, the soiling that you see on the dust jacket is actually on the Mylar and not the dust jacket itself.)”

[Dalton] wrote that he hoped his apology and the refund were satisfactory. Sure enough, tucked into the book was a check made out to me, for $2.95.

Greene goes on to mention that the condition issue was beyond his ability to discern. Instead, he was surprised that anyone would go to the lengths Dalton did to ensure that the sale was completely up and up, especially for an item with such a small price tag.

As they say, read the whole thing (“A $2.95 Lesson for Wall Street“).

One of these days the business world is going to wake up to the reality of genuine customer service. But beyond that, I hope they finally discover whatever moral compass the owner of High View Books possesses.

The allure of money in our society, that “get rich quick by any means necessary” mentality that permeates our culture, may be only one of our many vices, but it certainly is the root of great evil. My brother had a CAT scan done recently and got a $4,000 bill for the procedure. That’s insanity for what amounts to a glorified x-ray, but I’m sure it reflects a “gotta get my cut” reality from a dozen different sources who stand to profit from that scan.

I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of pile-on mentality wicked. Yet it’s the norm anymore in America. It’s why an airplane ticket is more fees and taxes than payment for time spent in the plane traveling. It’s why gas prices are so high, why it costs so much to educate our kids in public schools, and why the answer to everything governmental seems to be a tax hike. It’s the Great Gouge. We’ve reached an era when sick people avoid the doctor not because of the fear of a cancer diagnosis but of bankruptcy!

But in a bookstore in Rhode Island, a man realized a $6.95 used book may not have been in the condition he described, so he refunded the purchaser $2.95.

In contrast, on Wall Street we have morally bereft con men who knowingly sold worthless securities because they could get rich, even if their jackpot ruined other people.

I say all this because The Wall Street Journal once featured an article that exposed the religious backgrounds of all the major players in the Enron,  WorldCom, and other business scandals of the early 2000s. They found that almost all the people with the dirtiest hands were pillars of their churches.

I don’t know anything about the religious beliefs of the owner of the bookstore in Greene’s story. But I know that he had far more Christian character than church elder Ken Lay of Enron infamy.

The little things matter folks. There’s courage in sending back $2.95. God not only looks at our weights and measures, but He knows what we do in secret.

As Christians, do we conduct our daily business with God in mind? When there’s money to be made, do we join the pile-on, even if it ends up hurting people? Would we have sent back $2.95 because the book we sold was a fraction less perfect than we had described?

Honestly, if America wants to get back to greatness, a good first step would be for American businesses to fire the morally bankrupt (no matter how high up the org chart) and hire godly men and women who realize that the God they serve is always watching.

In ending, I want to help reward the courage to send a $2.95 refund. While I could not find an online link to them directly, I did find contact info and a means to order books directly from High View Books through Biblio. So the next time you want to buy a book, consider supporting High View Books. And let’s send a message that character still counts.

Christianity and a New America?


I read the following article at Front Porch Republic and it resonated with me:

Beyond Capitalism and Socialism: Rebuilding an American Economy Focused on Family and Community

What the article lacks, though it mentions G.K. Chesterton extensively, is a keen understanding how these ideas mesh with biblical Christianity.

I’ve written before how the 19th-century Church failed to understand the consequences of industrialism,  social Darwinism, and postmillennial eschatology. Recovering what the Church gave away may be the only hope we have in keeping America from sliding into yet more high-handed governance.

But how does the Church accomplish such a task while staying on the Gospel point? And given the unrest in our nation, are we more open to the ideas in the article or even less so?

The comments are open. What do you think?