Something’s Gotta Give!


Between doing my exceedingly complex taxes, writing & editing for my business, waking the farm from its long winter’s nap, picking up the slack while my wife’s been sick, fighting the Wal-Mart that’s supposedly coming to town, trying to fight the RealID monstrosity, editing a novel and novella for publication, and writing another novel…well, this boy is strung out!

What’s gotta give? The finale of my series “Banking on God.”  The bad news is that I won’t be able to finish it this week, especially since the final posts will be on the tough financial times we are facing as individuals, churches, and a nation. Plenty to say on that, and I want to give it proper attention.

So I’ll be picking up the series next Monday, I hope. Thanks for understanding.

Meanwhile, here are a few links you should check out if you haven’t already:

Jan at the view from her (which is possibly my favorite blog title) regularly discusses a number of issues facing Christian singles, especially from the female point of view. Though I long ago tied the knot, I was single long enough to still resonate with much of Jan writes. Plenty of great insights into Christin living in general, too.

Travis at On the Other Hand talks some of the same financial smack as I do here, but interspersed with talk on comic books! How cool is that?

Rick at RickIaniello charts that wise middle course on all things theological. Lots of common sense Christianity at that blog. Love the “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse” photo of Rick + cigar.

The Pearcey Report is the online news source of first regard should I need a dose of newsblogging. Plenty of secular news, plus news of peculiar interest to Christians.

Milton at Transforming Sermons gives Cerulean Sanctum a lot of link love. Here’s to you, Milton, for locating consistently superb writing from other fine bloggers and sharing it with us.

And lastly, if you love genuine horror stories, check out Mish’s insights at his Global Economic Trend Analysis blog. Read enough posts there and you’ll be ready for the finale of my series next week! (HT: Oengus Moonbones)

Have a great weekend,


My Hope & Prayer for 2008


I have a hope and prayer for 2008 that I wish to share. It started off from a series of negative experiences, but I want to make it positive because I believe the positive word comes from the heart of God.

I’m late to the show on the book Simple Church by Rainer and Geiger. Judging from Amazon’s rankings of the book as #1, #2, and #3 in various evangelical categories, it’s still hot long after its release in 2006. I’m also amazed at the number of strongly approving reviews. Amazed. In fact, if I could sum up my review, I would describe the book in one portmanteau word: Craptacular.

That encapsulates almost all the hottest books on “How to Do Church” that I’ve read in the last few years. The same hot churches are held up for mimicking. The same church problems are cited (correctly, I might add—the one nod I’ll give these books). But the solutions are always wrong. Always. Nearly all are just business principles given a good shellacking of Christianity to make them look smooth and shiny. Honestly, if Google and The Gap are the models for effective churches, all is lost. (That author Tom Rainer is the head of Lifeway Christian Stores should not surprise anyone.)

What is my biggest problem with all of these modern “How to Do Church” books? Every last one of them offers solutions that can be instituted without the Lord. The fixes are universally man-made. This, universally, makes them the arm of flesh. And the arm of flesh will always fail. Always.

But one fix never fails.

That fix is not a thing, but a person. We know Him as the Holy Spirit. He will lead us gently if we allow HimHe’s perfect. Unlike one craptacular, modern, “How to Do Church” book after the other, the Holy Spirit guides into all truth. Not some truth, but all truth. He’s the ultimate source for making the Church all She can be.

Here’s how I can save you hours of reading lame books on how to fix your church and turn it into the church God desires. You only need to listen to the Holy Spirit.

I suspect that’s not a very satisfying answer for some people. You can’t make money selling curricula, church models, and seminars by telling church leaders they need to dump all their craptacular books and start listening to the Holy Spirit. But that’s what church leaders need to do.

A church is made up of too many diverse people for a “How to Do Church” book to succeed. If you read the Bible closely enough, you’ll realize that it doesn’t even attempt to provide all the solutions to how a church should operate. Yes, some general ideas exist, but when it comes down to the specifics, that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Take this passage:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
—Acts 13:1-3

No “How to Do Church” book is going to give you that. They’ll tell you a process by which you have to funnel everyone, but they won’t get down to this level of leadership.

Why not send Lucius? Or Manaen? Why send that guy who used to persecute the Church, that Saul character?

I would suspect that at the board meeting of your typical church, simple, complex, traditional, emerging, or whatever, the process would dictate who got chosen and for what purpose. What God thinks and the ones He would choose would probably be far down the list. Too dicey to depend on the Holy Spirit; just let the established process make the decision instead. We send the ones WE think are best, the ones who best fit our idea of who should go for the given job. And aren’t we the ones deciding what that job is anyway?

Give me a thousand copies of the bestselling Christian leadership books out there and I’d burn them all than trust one over what the Holy Spirit thinks. Why then, do our church leaders trust books so much and God so little?

The Holy Spirit provides perfect answers to intractable problems. He also provides specific answers for dealing with specific people in specific situations. He alone makes a church what it should be. He alone makes genuine disciples out of wrecked people.

We need to stop this craziness and get back to the Lord. If our churches are not run by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then they are not churches. We must also keep the Scriptures ever before us, but with the understanding that people—sadly—can use the Bible to justify all manner of leadership styles that rely not one iota on the Holy Spirit. These “How to Do Church” books quote a million Scriptures, but they use the Scriptures to support their foregone premises, rather than seeing what it actually says. And what it actually says is that we’re blowing it if we’re not dependent on the Spirit for guidance.

My hope and prayer for the Church for 2008 is that we find a way to get back to depending on the Holy Spirit to guide our churches. And not just lip service, but genuine dependence so that we don’t do a thing unless the Spirit confirms that thing one way or another.

How do we get there?

1. Know the Scriptures—We’ve got to really know them,our leaders especially. The Holy Spirit calls to mind the Word of God, but if the reserves aren’t there, we won’t hear.

2. Holiness—It’s time to get serious about holiness. That means dropping out of the world’s game. That means being a people separated unto the Lord. You want to hear from the Holy Spirit? You want your church to prosper? Then tear down the altars and purify the temple. That never fails.

3. Waiting—The Holy Spirit answers on His time, not ours. Just because our society is enslaved to busyness doesn’t mean our churches must be. We must stop trying to force things to happen that aren’t in God’s playbook.

4. Humility & Repentance—We must repent and humbly admit that we’ve attempted to take the world’s ways and make them the Church’s. But what fellowship have Christ and Belial? None. We cannot continue to swallow fleshly business practices within our churches. Those ways end in ashes.

5. We must desire the leading of the Holy Spirit—The Holy Spirit leads where Christ is hungered and thirsted for. He is faithful to those who desire to hear from Him. The Lord does not leave His people adrift. He never has and never will. However, we did not believe this, so we gave up on His leadership and instituted the world’s. It’s time to get back to the Lord and desire Him above all.

I wrote this several days before it posted because I cannot escape the message. The Church that is not led by the Holy Spirit is utterly directionless, not matter how smoothly it may operate. God has a better way. My hope and prayer is that we rediscover that leadership by the Holy Spirit in 2008.

May you find the Lord in 2008, and know his guidance, when you seek Him with all your heart.

Demolishing the Culture of Busyness


I didn’t want to put out two “Dire Dan” posts in a row, but besides the problems we have with taking care of the least of these, we have a serious problem with busyness. Yep, speed kills...and now we have the proof!Any long-time reader knows that I feel busyness damages the soul and makes us less aware of the the Lord’s leading. And it’s a growing problem.

Now my suspicion is no longer conjecture.

Dr. Michael Zigarelli, associate professor of Management at the Charleston Southern University School of Business, conducted a study over five years that shows that Christians are succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent.

I’ll wait here while you read the article.

Read it? Great!

In light of yesterday’s post, how can we possibly meet the needs of others if we’re always focused on our own lives as we rush hither and yon? Well, we can’t. Sort of puts a crimp in those Kingdom of God plans, doesn’t it.

Who succumbs to the rush?

And professionals whose busyness interferes with developing their relationship with God include lawyers (72 percent), managers (67 percent), nurses (66 percent), pastors (65 percent), teachers (64 percent), salespeople (61 percent), business owners (61 percent), and housewives (57 percent).

Let’s break that list down to root issues that create busyness.

Lawyers, managers, salespeople, and business owners

  • Distorted work lives (caused by industrialism).
  • The pursuit of money.

Nurses, teachers, housewives, and pastors

  • Bearing the load of caring for others in a relationally-disconnected society created by distorted work lives and the pursuit of money.

The root causes listed are familiar to readers of this blog. Many posts here cover these root issues. Sadly, those tenacious roots grow deeper every year, but we hear little about them in our churches.

It’s not enough to say that we must focus more on God. That’s just adding another task to the problem. Instead, we Christians must start questioning the underlying root issues that cause this busyness.

While the study does not explain why Christians are so busy and distracted, Zigarelli described the problem among Christians as “a vicious cycle” prompted by cultural conformity.

“[I]t may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.”

I agree with Dr. Zigarelli’s analysis. First, we are caught in a vicious cycle of busyness. Second, the implied cure is to no longer conform to the culture.

What must that non-conformity look like?

I suggest that we Christians must

  • Revitalize and rebuild local economies that counter globalism’s trend toward marginalization of communities and individuals
  • Discover alternative work lives that keep families (and communities) together during the day
  • Pursue simplicity by rejecting consumerism
  • Create alternative Christian communities that better conform to the Gospel’s standard of benevolence and more effectively shoulder the burden of caring for others
  • Reform our doctrinal emphases from head knowledge to the practical outworkings of the Faith
  • Stand by and encourage those who reject conformity to the prevailing culture rather than marginalizing them
  • Craft a new vision for living lives devoted to God first and to each other second.

Folks, these root issues penetrate deeply into the Western psyche. Busyness simply reflects the root. As Jesus notes of some demonic powers, only prayer and fasting will drive them out. And I believe some element of the demonic weaves through these roots.

None of this will be easy. It means revisioning all aspects of how we live our lives. Too many of us think how we live now is the only way it can be. But that’s a lie. We’ve got to stop believing that lie and start believing that God can change things if we repent and start asking hard questions that demand even harsher answers.

See these posts for more: