November 2009

Luther, Calvin and Wesley were three men with great convictions many years ago.  Where are those kind of men today?

And finally, this really isn’t a thesis, but maybe it’s half of one…  A few hundred years ago there were these men that had an impact upon the direction of Christianity.  I’m not sure that the three of them could have attended the same church or served on the same committee, but they were firm on their convictions and were willing to sell out for the greater cause.  Maybe hundreds of years from now, someone will be looking back at our time and be able to pick out a few people that had as dramatic of an impact.  If so, I’d love to associate myself with those people.  They will be ones that challenge the way I think, what I believe and will hold me to a higher standard than the majority of my peers.  They are also the ones that will push me to wrestle with these other 9 theses and the ones that I add as I travel this journey.

A pastor’s message is not “good” if it doesn’t strengthen your stance or change your direction.

This is a new one for me.  I’ve been guilty of walking out of a service, having listened to a pastor speak about something that seemingly made no sense to me.  But because it didn’t ruffle my feathers, I stopped by and let him know that it was a “good” message.  But I’m coming to realize that our time to make a difference is limited to an ever-shrinking window.  If we miss that window, we might not get another chance.  So, my measure of “good” lies within the boundaries of firming the ground upon which you stand or redirecting your steps in an alternate direction.  I take this stance because if a pastor is going to capture a group of people’s attention for a given period of time, he ought to have something to say that will make a difference.

I don’t have to convince anyone of or defend God to anyone – He’s got that under control.

This has been a liberating thesis to learn and live by.  If God is who He says He is and the Bible accurately tells of the beginning and end of man’s days (both of which I believe to be true), then there’s nothing I can say to convince another of who God is.  Now, I don’t think this absolves me of living a life that displays God’s love and provides a conduit to those that would like to learn more, but I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are told to convince of or defend God to another.  And in light of my sixth thesis, I don’t think I am qualified to do so outside of God speaking through me anyway.

Being in the majority does not mean that I’m right.

We live in a society where majority rules.  If there are three people and a dispute comes about, the third mediates and casts the deciding vote.  If you’re accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial by a jury of your peers.  Church denominations gather together on some regularity to agree on the manner in which their denomination will uphold their theological stance.  Church boards gather to agree upon how to guide the local congregation.  Leaders attend conferences and neighbors talk over coffee – all to determine the common ground of the majority.

In our brief history as a country, we’ve watched our majority believe we would be best served to own other human beings as slaves and repress females from having a voice.  Both of these issues were debated as Biblical issues and are now argued as Biblical issues in opposition to the previous stance.  I use these examples as a reminder that being in the majority, no matter how exhilarating it may be, does not conclude one’s rightness.

God does not conform to my reasoning.

I am bound to the limitations in which I was created.  Much like a picture frame was created to hold an image and not power an airplane, I do not possess the capability to reason with or dictate to the God that created the heavens and Earth.  And for that reason, what He chooses to do doesn’t always make sense.  Why are babies miscarried by their mothers?  Why doesn’t every couple have the ability to become parents?  Why do children get cancer?  Why do mothers die when their children are young?  Why don’t parents ALWAYS love the kids they’ve been blessed with?  Some things don’t make sense from my point of view.  But I believe that’s because I don’t have the luxury of seeing the entire picture or the capability of understanding the good that comes from what seems as bad.

Tradition is not gospel.

This thesis became a glaring problem in my life a few years ago when I looked in the rearview mirror of life and realized that a good portion of my theological belief was rooted in tradition and not the Bible.  I’m not talking about style or musical preference or whether it’s OK to wear jeans to church, but in where I gather my view of God.  Is He simply the flannel-graph cut outs from the 50 Sunday School stories that were repeated from the age of 5 until 12?  Or was I wrestling with a God who would rescue a son from slaughter (Abraham and Isaac) on one hand and then would protect a father (Lot) who offers his daughters to be raped by an angry mob on the other.  I began to question where my beliefs were coming from and am embarrassed to admit that it was mostly from tradition.  And while tradition’s great when it comes to Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, it doesn’t build a very firm foundation for faith.

The U.S. is a mission field.

Let me preface my explanation with the fact that I’m glad there are people that God has called to leave their home and make a difference in a region of the globe other than where they originated.  That being said, you don’t have to leave home to be a missionary.  The U.S., on paper is still a nation formed on principles of those that have followed Christ.  But if you sit down in your local Starbucks or McDonalds or the food court of your local mall, or wherever you might be and listen to the people around you, you’ll quickly hear that they don’t know the God of the Bible anymore.  They are searching for something – anything that will put the pieces of the puzzle together for them.  I’ve grown up listening to people being trained in dialect, moved to a foreign region and becoming entrenched in the local culture to become like Paul in Athens and create a bridge from where people are searching to where God remains.  At the same time, I’ve listened to the argument that “good Christian people don’t listen, watch, wear or go to that” – whatever “that” might have been.  Again, I go back to our command to go and make disciples.  Very few people are going to uproot and go way over there to make a difference.  But, every one of us is surrounded by people that aren’t following Christ.  (If you don’t know anyone that’s not a Christian – then that’s another issue and I question your value to the cause.)  Become a backyard missionary.  Love the people God puts you in contact with.  Maybe you’ll be the spark that ignites the flame.

“They” will only change the world if you won’t.

I’m amazed at how easily people are inspired by what someone else does but sits on the sidelines and just watches as the world changes.  Thirty years ago, listening to the stories of missionaries from around the world compared to reading a fictional tale.  But today, with news being instantaneous and the Internet expanding our backyard into the four corners of the Earth, we have a connectivity that has never been experienced before.  I can hear the excuses welling up already, “But what can I do?”  I’m going to stick with three simple examples.  There’s thousands, but here’s three.

Blake Mycoskie, while on a reality TV show fell in love with the people of Argentina.  He combined that love with a need for footwear and created a company called TOMS Shoes that gives away a pair of shoes for every one sold.  This has been mimicked by countless other organizations now and may not have been new with TOMS.  TOMS has now provided shoes all over the globe and there’s no end in sight.

Austin Gutwein, at the age of 9, inspired by kids orphaned by HIV/AIDS, began a program called Hoops of Hope to make a difference in their lives.  To date, the small program that he began has enlisted tens of thousands of participants and raised more than one million dollars for the cause.

Craig Gross and Mike Foster banded together a few years ago to offer the love of Chirst to the porn industry.  They’ve been documented in film, print and on video as being the porn pastors.  Together, they created a software accountability tool that nearly every one of my pastor friends is running on their computers.

Leverage what you know, enjoy, surrounded by, and what you’ve been gifted with.  Join with a few other people and make a small difference to someone.  Grow with a vision or try something else.  Just don’t give up!  Americans spend more on their morning coffee than most people live off of for an entire day.  We have an abundance of resources available.  What are you doing with them?

“Christian” is not an adjective.

At which point did we begin using the noun as an adjective?  I understand that in America, we’ve created this nice little bubble of all things related to Jesus and tied it up into this little bundle labeled “Christian”.  We’ve defined music, films, clothing, educational institutions, sections of bookstores, whole bookstores, types of tattoos, and on and on as “Christian <insert item here>”.  I understand that this probably occurred in a very innocent manner trying to make items of similar content easy to identify, but as a follower of Chirst – a Christian – I’ll stand up and ask, if we’re supposed to be going into the world, why do we bundle all of this stuff together and market it to only those that are already followers of Chirst?  And where’s the quality control?  And originality?  If we’re just going to change out a few words and create lame knock-offs of yesterday’s fads then can’t we label it with some title other than the name of the unique Creator of everything?

Martin Luther changed the course of Christianity when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door at Wittenberg.  I’m going to take the next 10 days and address each of my 9.5 theses individually.  Some of these have been mantras of mine for some time now, and some are a bit newer to my journey.  In tackling these one-by-one, my hope is that you’ll wrestle with them as well.

The church is not a neighborhood social club.

I have a problem with the idea that the church is nothing more than a place where like-minded people gather together.  At a gym, like-minded, athletic people gather together.   At a restaurant, like-minded, hungry people gather together.  At a movie theatre, like-minded entertainees gather together.  Isn’t the church more than just a gathering place?  Acts 4:32 may suggest differently if that’s the only place you look for a definition.  I go back to Matthew 28, where Christ tells his followers to “Go into all the world making disciples…”  That was, has been and remains the command that He gave to us.  If the church is nothing more than a gathering place for people attracted to Christ to gather, how does that fulfill the command we were given as followers of Him?  The church has got to be more than a social gathering.  It has to love, inspire, restore and send people out to make disciples.  If I had a succinct little formula to make that happen, I’d be a rich man.  I don’t know how a gathering of people take on this mindset, but because I don’t know, I’m going to default to thinking it is done one person at a time – and that has to begin with me.