I look around at my small corner of the world, and I wonder why God doesn’t just fix the looming darkness and brokeness immediately. Why hasn’t God lifted the curse of “thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:18) that’s become part of the fabric of life as we know it on our planet? I just stumbled upon a great explanation for this in the book The Emotionally Healthy Church.
We may have been built to engage the earth and to work, but now frustration and failure will be our lot. In essence, the ground will be hard. Thorns and thistles will mark our work. We may reach our goals and accomplish thing, but we will never feel completely satisfied. A sense of restlessness and incompleteness will always accompany our work on earth. In this life all symphonies remain unfinished. Why does God do this? He releases the curse in order to drive us to our knees and to seek Him, to recognize our need for a Savior (Gal. 3:21-25). The problem is rather than be broken by the thorns and thistles of life [and then choose to seek God] we either flee, fight, or hide. – Pete Scazzero
There is a very healthy conversation that is finally beginning to open up on the mission field of North America. After more than 50 years of what’s been called “The Church Growth Movement” that’s emphasized the goodness of large, resourced, effective churches – there is an opening in the conversation about the goodness of over 90% of churches that are no bigger than 150 people This is an important thing to be talking about at a time when each church needs to be who and what God has uniquely called them to be and not waste time copycat-ing another church’s success story.
With that in mind I share with you this Christianity Today interview with William Vanderbloemen who is on the leading edge of what’s happening in churches, both big and small. If you want to read the entire interview feel free to click on this link. If you just want a few nuggets from the conversation, here are a few good ones.
- Small is a four-letter word. People talk about small churches, and they don’t remember that what they mean by saying small is actually the average, normal church in the United States, with 100 or 150 people gathering on a weekend. One of the major strengths this type of church brings to the table is they are much more resilient to a change in leadership than a large church.
- A great strength of the small church or normal church is that normal churches can gather around one or two specific causes, own that cause, and then make a significant difference in its city. We have a normal-sized church here in Houston who has made it their mission to own the business of feeding breakfast to homeless people. Everyone in the city knows it, but it’s not because it’s a big church. It’s because they’re small enough to have their entire community wrap their arms around one common cause.
Praise God for the healthy, and vibrant normal sized churches!
I know you get made fun of in our culture, and that many TV sitcoms make you out to be the idiot in the room. I know that because of the deadbeat dads, who really hurt their families, our culture actually believes you cannot exist. I also know that your family doesn’t mean to but they can overlook how hard you work, and how hard it is to leave a little extra gas in the tank for their sake when you come home from a hard day at work. But I want to say thank you to all of you dads who try, and don’t make your family life all about you. I want to thank all of those dads who sacrifice parts of themselves, and their dreams, so that the dreams of their families can become reality. I thank all of those dads who did the hard work of dealing with their own pain from their own wounds so that they didn’t perpetuate those same wounds in the lives of their kids. I thank all of those dads who knew that what they could give their kids had limits so severe that they had no choice but to point their kids to a Heavenly Father who would always do a far better job of caring for them. To all of the good dads out there, I salute you for the hard work you’ve put in to be who you are for your children.
For all of the graduates who wrapped up high school and college over the last few weeks, here’s an insight from our great American novelist.
“I’ve never let my school interfere with my education” – Mark Twain
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Last Sunday our faith community celebrated the high school graduates in our church. We put up a photo of my son, and his friend Jaden, when they were tiny little guys learning about Jesus in our Kids Community. Now they stood up on the platform as tall young men getting ready to step out into the next season of their lives. I don’t know what it was, but looking at the photo of those two guys when they were so little spoke a thousand words to me. In the background I saw the room our little church plant once had to house the few kids who came with their families to our little start-up church. The mere background was a reminder of God’s faithfulness. The photo of that kid’s room also reminded me of the amazing women who championed and built our fantastic Kids ministry over the last 12 years: Sarah Webber, Monica Trevino, and Tarah Brown. Of course I looked at the photo, and then back at the young men standing in front of us, and I marveled at how kind, gracious, helpful, and committed to Jesus these two young men had become along with the commitment of their church to help them grow into Christlike maturity. God truly is good!
Yesterday morning I started a new sermon series on the names of God, and we talked about this interesting moment in Exodus 3: 14 where God gives Moses His personal name, “I AM THAT I AM!” If anyone is curious, let me share with you this wonderful video put out by the fabulous Bible Project team that further explains God’s personal name in the Old Testament. It’s good stuff!
I don’t know Beth Moore. Apparently she’s written a lot of christian books, spoken at a lot of conferences for both women and men, and has earned a certain level acclaim and trust in the evangelical world. That’s all I know about her. But I also know that the Southern Baptist Church, from which Beth Moore got her start, just took an appropriate step to force the resignation of it’s former President who has said and done things making his resignation necessary, and she has opened up and written about her experience.
She posted a more open description of her experience in evangelical circles on her personal ministry blog, and I thought I’d share some of her insights because I think what she says helps us all better understand the kinds of things women face, even in ministry environments. Beth observes a couple of sobering things:
- “As a woman leader in the conservative Evangelical world, I learned early to show constant pronounced deference – not just proper respect which I was glad to show – to male leaders and, when placed in situations to serve alongside them, to do so apologetically. I issued disclaimers ad nauseam. I wore flats instead of heels when I knew I’d be serving alongside a man of shorter stature so I wouldn’t be taller than he. I’ve ridden elevators in hotels packed with fellow leaders who were serving at the same event and not been spoken to and, even more awkwardly, in the same vehicles where I was never acknowledged. I’ve been in team meetings where I was either ignored or made fun of, the latter of which I was expected to understand was all in good fun. I am a laugher. I can take jokes and make jokes. I know good fun when I’m having it and I also know when I’m being dismissed and ridiculed. I was the elephant in the room with a skirt on.”
- “I had an opportunity to meet a theologian I’d long respected. I’d read virtually every book he’d written. I’d looked so forward to getting to share a meal with him and talk theology. The instant I met him, he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, ‘You are better looking than _________________________________.’ He didn’t leave it blank. He filled it in with the name of another woman Bible teacher.”
- “I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women. I’m also asking for forgiveness both from my sisters and my brothers. My acquiescence and silence made me complicit in perpetuating an atmosphere in which a damaging relational dynamic has flourished. I want to be a good sister to both genders. Every paragraph in this letter is toward that goal.”