Sunday, October 31, 2010


Today is Halloween ... not exactly your basic Christ-follower’s number one day-of-the-year. Or is it? Recently I read something that kind of piqued my interest and thought I’d share part of it with you. It's from a pastor named Tony Morgan. He writes:

“I love Halloween. I know. I’m not supposed to love Halloween since I’m a Christian and a pastor, but I do. Here’s why ...

  1. Friends from my neighborhood come to my front door, unannounced, to visit.
  2. I get the chance to meet people I've never met before.
  3. I have the opportunity to engage in conversations I would not normally have.
  4. No one is expecting me to do anything “pastoral” on Halloween evening. I can just be normal.
  5. I get to enjoy a fun evening with my family.

I’m probably going to get slammed for admitting this. After all, Halloween is supposed to be the evil holiday. But how can you blast a day that allows you to connect with your neighbors and enjoy quality family time? Until someone comes up with an alternative, I’m going to be a fan of Halloween.”

As missional KFA-ers, I encourage you to throw on your porch light and connect with your neighbors tonight.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Tomorrow is Sunday. I look forward to Sunday. It's my favorite day of the Seven. I get to see friends I haven't seen for a week, sometimes longer. I get to see acquaintances who exchange smiles, hand shakes, hugs or chat, and then we go our separate directions until next weekend when we do that over again. I get to see strangers who seem excited to be where we both are. I also get to see people for whom that particular day might be the start-up to a whole new life, though they don't know it yet.

Twentieth-century churched Americans like me were taught to focus on instant salvation, a conversion that was an EVENT. Though this may seem normal to many of us, it is a relatively modern way of coming to faith. It has been more common throughout distant history to focus on the process of conversion, not only the event.

Just as the physiological birth event is the culmination of a longer process (and a painful, laborious one for half the population), and is the commencement of another long process called 'life' - so the conversion-to-faith process is seen as a flowing river, a critical episode in a larger, all-important process.

As a result, we don't rush people toward a decision. We see rushed decisions as potential abortions - harmful, dangerous, even criminal. We see this process and its ultimate event taking place under the careful, watchful, providential eye of a relational, dynamic God.

And to think, all that takes place tomorrow, on my favorite day of the week.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Tiny is important. Since the beginning of time, God has chosen the tiny over the huge. David over Goliath ... Gideon and his 300 over thousands of enemy Midianites ... Elijah over the powerful prophets of Baal ... one lone sheep over 99 sheep.

Spirituality is about doing the tiny work of God -- small acts -- ordinary responses to God's presence in our lives. Every day my church shows me heroic acts by ordinary people who will probably never be recognized.

Because we have read and heard the stories of Jesus over and over and over, we have exaggerated the size of the tiny ministry He actually had. Jesus was around for three years of ministry, but He really didn't do all that much. He hung out with a dozen guys, healed a few lepers, a couple of lame folk, a blind guy or two, made some wine from water, helped out three or four women, raised a guy from the dead, calmed down a crazy person or two, caused a scene in the temple, and then disappeared.

Think what He could have accomplished if He'd stayed on earth doing ministry for 20, 30, 40 years. Instead, He showed up on the planet, did a few amazing things, said a few amazing words - and left.

But His few tiny words changed the world forever. Tiny becomes huge when Jesus is involved.

It's easy to get the impression that God is about big - and that if He isn't doing big things thru our lives, He isn't working. But spiritual people are about tiny things. The spiritual life is not about a life of success; it is a life of faithfulness. Sure, God does big things once in a while, but there is no question the primary work of God in the world is salt-and-light tiny.

God knew we would be naturally enamored by big. Why do you think Jesus told the stories of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the mustard seed? He was trying to tell us something - the spiritual life is a tiny life, filled with tiny decisions and tiny acts and tiny steps toward God - tiny glimpses of His presence - tiny changes and movings - tiny successes and stirrings.

Stuck in the Bible book of Mark is a tiny four-verse story. Jesus has just finished ranting about excessive displays of arrogance and showy spirituality. As He finishes, He sees a woman nobody else notices. He recognizes the unmistakable look of poverty. Shuffling across the temple grounds, she drops two thin coins in the collection box. Headline: Old Woman Gives Tiny Gift. Who cares? It doesn't come anywhere close to the incredible stories of the disciples or the life-threatening accounts of the heroes of the faith.

Which is what makes her story so powerful. It isn't at all spectacular - revolutionary - dramatic - significant - or amazing. In the world she lives, she's part of the wallpaper, a blur in the sea of faces - but a faithful blur - an inconspicuous adorer of God who loves Him every day and lives for Him every day. She doesn't care if she is noticed; she cares if God is noticed.

This is exactly where Christianity shows itself best and most powerfully: in the unnoticed life - the invisible life - the tiny life.

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


None of us is immune or unfamiliar with criticism. I'm planning a message for some time in the near future on turning criticism into blessing. Stay tuned for that.

But as most people as well as pastors know (pastors are actually people, if you didn't realize that), complaints and criticism range from sensible to incoherent.

Church is too boring.
It's too entertaining.
It's too shallow.
It's too intellectual.
It's too emotional.
It's too sterile.
It's too loud.
It's too soft (believe it or not, I heard that one this week).
It's too modern.
It's too traditional.
It's too passive.
It's too active.
It's too inward-focused.
It's too outward-focused.
It's too long.
It isn't long enough.
It's too demanding.
It's too easy.
You name it. We've heard each of these at some point.

In the church-going-forward, complaints will continue, because humans are simply chronic complainers. But there will be a difference. In the church-going-forward, the mission will be the arbiter of the conflict. Will this help us achieve our mission better ... or not?

During my nearly thirty years in professional church life, we have tirelessly repeated one mistake: we have argued over methods, as if old methods were the problem and sparkling new ones will solve everything.

Unfortunately, if the method ever was the problem, it will in itself become the problem sooner or later (probably sooner) when another newer method is needed to replace it. This is nothing more than the Parable of the Wineskins being replayed again and again.

So the church-going-forward must be accustomed to and welcome to change. For instance, a certain kind of small group may be all the rage for several years but it will eventually reach its potential and then become incapable of holding the new wine. There is a new kind of group - or service - or program - or prayer meeting - or class - that will take its place. Worship will evolve. Student ministry will experience ebbs and flows.

In another example, a church of 45 people feels silly trying to put on the 'professional, front-focused' program that would be perfectly expected in a church of 1,500. So the small church's environment practically screams for informality. But if the informality is actually effective, soon the church will grow to 85 and then 125 and then 275 - and after time, that same informality will no longer be so attractive because it has reached a size where that same informality is no longer conducive to growth. The church will have to morph to something that better suits its size.

The church-going-forward won't just trade one, hallowed tradition for an alternative hallowed tradition. It will accept the truth that no one tradition will serve and satisfy forever. In the old world, that cycle might have been 150 years. In the new world, it may be 5 years - or 5 months.
So we must continue clarifying our mission - making it easy to find and experience God - and adjusting in order to achieve that mission.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


We had a great, fun day with Olivia, our 'baby,' while she was home on break from North Central University for the long weekend. Olivia just sent me these pics we took so I could get them up here.

Early lunch at Kenosha hot spot Frank's Diner (featured on The Food Network)
Pumpkin patch fun
Stop at Mars Cheese Castle to sample the free food
Some Outlet Mall shopping
A movie
Home for a fire and more food

A great day.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I think balance is highly overrated. It certainly seems to be a cherished value in society today. In one sense, balance means that a negative is offset by an equal but opposite positive. Balance is a place where the middle is considered healthy and desired. When someone is described as 'balanced,' it is intended as a compliment, meaning the person is well-adjusted and stable. It describes a person who has it 'all together' physically, spiritually, financially, socially, relationally - 'balanced.'

It sure sounds like a worthy goal to seek and an attribute worth pursuing.

But beware of balance.

Jesus was constantly criticized for being unbalanced. Think about it. Jesus could have healed just six days of the week and not upset anyone. But NO - He had to heal on that seventh day, too. He could have calmly sat down with the temple leaders and logically explained His reasoning for not wanting the temple to become a center of commerce. But NO - He had to go in and act like a crazy man and upset the apple carts and create chaos. He certainly could have been more balanced.

We had communion at church yesterday. Some days I just wish we would show up and - for whatever reason - find that the preparer had replaced those little round cookie cutter wafers we use with hotdog buns or something.

And for one brief shining second, we would have an imbalanced moment.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I love the story of Norman in Robert Fulghum's book, "UH, OH."

An elementary class was putting on the play Cinderella. The best parts get passed out first, of course, and upon asking who wanted to play Cinderella and the handsome prince, the hand of every girl and boy shot up.

'Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!'

Soon, the students realized only two people could have the choicest parts, so many of the requests quickly changed to: 'Can I be the ugly stepsister?' and 'Can I play the mean stepmother?' Being the wonderful diplomat she was, the teacher soon navigated thru the selections until everyone had a part. Except for Norman.

Norman was a quiet young man who didn't say much in class. It wasn't that he was super-shy or bashful; he just didn't like talking as much as everyone else. Norman thought talking where nothing was really said was a waste of time, so he talked only when he really had something to say. Norman had a mind of his own and was completely comfortable just being himself.

Knowing all the parts were taken, the teacher approached Norman and asked: 'Norman, I'm afraid all the big parts are taken. Is there a part you're interested in?'

'I'd like to be the pig,' said Norman.

'The pig?' said the teacher. 'But I'm afraid there is no pig in Cinderella.'

'There is now,' said Norman.

Norman designed his own costume - a paper cup for a nose and pink long underwear with a pipe cleaner for a tail. Norman's pig followed Cinderella around everywhere on stage and became a mirror for the main character. If Cinderella was happy, so was the pig. If she was sad, so was the pig. Afraid, afraid. Worried, worried. One look at Norman and you knew the emotion of the moment. At the end of the play when the handsome prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella and they walked happily offstage arm in arm, Norman went wild with joy, dancing around on his hind legs and barking with incredible enthusiasm. In rehearsal, the teacher had tried to explain to Norman that pigs don't bark. But, as she expected, Norman calmly explained that this pig barked.

The presentation was a smashing success - and really, surprising to no one - guess who received the standing ovation? Norman, the barking pig - who was, after all, the real Cinderella story.

What I love about that story is Norman's persistence, impervious to intimidation - Norman refused to believe he had no place.

Norman was so like Jesus. The religious leaders of the day had written the script for the Messiah. When Jesus announced It was He, the Pharisees screamed at Him: 'There is no Jesus in the Messiah script. Our Messiah does not hang with losers. Our Messiah does not cavalierly break all the rules. Our Messiah does not question our leadership or threaten our religion. Our Messiah does not befriend riffraff or frequent places where questionables go. Case closed."

Jesus' reply? "This Messiah does."

Do you see why Christianity is called 'good news?' It proclaims an equal-opportunity faith. Open to all. This, in spite of the abundance of in-house playwrights who are more than anxious to announce: "There is no room for you here if you [have a tattoo / have too many questions / look weird / have pink hair / have a nose earring / dance / smoke / drink wine / are in the wrong ethnic group / have had an abortion / are gay or lesbian / are too conservative or too liberal]."

Jesus believed messiahs find places for people who have no place, and as a result, He invited every Norman He could find - from the sleazy businessman, trampy prostitute, terrorist, murderer and rapist, hopelessly deranged outcast to the rich, successful and over-privileged of society.

I'm so thankful for that. My name is Norman.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Anybody who thinks ministry is the same in 2010 (or should be) as it was in 1980 is kidding himself. The comments that follow are at the very heart of contextualization, relevance and connecting with the culture. It is not about whether the Bible is true or authoritative (it is both) or whether we should be expository or thematic (pick one). It is about understanding the 'who' that is supposed to hear the wonderful things we plan on saying, singing and preaching.

For instance, for the average student who entered college this fall, e-mail is now too slow, phones have never had cords (except at their grandparent's homes) and the computers they played on as kiddies are now in museums.

If you're forty or above, imagine this ... the University class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to 'Go ahead, make my day.' Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

These are among the 75 items on this year's Beloit College's Mindset List. The compilation is assembled each year by this private school (pictured above) with enrollment of about 1,400 not far from us in Beloit, Wisconsin.

The list is meant to remind teachers that cultural references familiar to them might draw blank stares from college freshmen born mostly in 1992. Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These college freshmen don't.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students' lives, Russians and Americans have been living peaceably - including together in outer space.

Other items on the Beloit College Mindset List were:

- GPS' are part of normal life.

- Gas stations have never fixed flats, but have always served cappuccino.

- Electronic filing of taxes have always been an option.

- Clarence Thomas has always been on the Supreme Court.

- 'The Tonight Show' has always been hosted by Jay Leno.

- Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.

This changes everything.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 22, 2010


To fully appreciate today's blog, you have to go back and read yesterday's entry ...

(car #8 above left - 1989 Honda Accord; car #9 above right - 1995 Ford Explorer [failed transmission was this vehicle's ultimate end, right in the middle of Kenosha's busy 75th Street])

(car #10 above left - 1993 Mercedes Benz 300E [midlife crisis approaches - it's all about 'black' from here on - this car was eventually totaled by one of our daughters]; car #11 above right - 1997 BMW 540i [midlife crisis is now in full rage - but about 3 weeks ago, transmission was also its doom])

(Car #12 below left - 2002 Land Rover Discovery [Joelene is still driving it]; Car #13 below right - 2006 Infiniti G35, the newest thing in the stable.)

It's been fun to log the journey with you. Hope you had a good time. I did.

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Recently I bought a different car - only because the one I'd been driving lost its transmission and I didn't want to replace it. I spent eleven hours one Saturday down in Chicago checking out cars I'd seen online. Fortunately, the one-day search proved successful.

(car #1 at top right - 1973 Chevy Malibu Landau; car #2 at left - 1976 Ford Fairmont)

That led Joelene and me on a little stroll down memory lane reminiscing about all the cars we have owned over the years - and
the memories that came from those

(car #3 at right - 1981 Plymouth Voyager)

That conversation led me to make a list of all those cars that have been in our garages and -- well -- because it's a slow day and I'm
tired of talking about church - to post them here.

(car #4 at left - 1985 Pontiac Sunbird [our only brand new car ever]; car #6 at slight right below - 1987 Plymouth Grand Voyager [this vehicle was eventually totaled by one of our daughters)

Maybe it will prompt you to have your own memory stroll.
To 'milk' it fully, these are the first seven cars we've owned - the final six are coming tomorrow - just to keep the suspense high.

(car #5 below left - 1988 Pontiac Sunbird station [this car was eventually totaled by 'yours truly' - we liked Sunbirds, I guess]; car #7 bottom right - 1985 Buick Century)

And be blessed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I find certain topics really get people going. From my experience, 'holiness' seems to be one of those. I probably - deep down - have something 'rascal-ish' inside me that kind of likes that. I admit it.

Sometimes my mom reads this blog, but maybe I'll get lucky and this will be a day she's too busy to remember.

But growing up, we had a fair amount of 'rules' in our house that seemed to be equated with holiness. I may be slightly exaggerating (I'm saying that to cover my 'honesty factor,' just in case she doesn't forget to read today), but there were certain things in our home that had a heightened focus put on them - things we weren't supposed to get within ten miles of because they smelled of sin.

Certain kinds of music
Smoking and drinking
Going to pool halls
Loud drums in church
Saying 'darn' (because everyone knows 'darn' is a derivative of 'dang,' which is a Latin ancestor, two or three times removed from that REALLY awful "D" word). Same with 'shoot,' 'shucks,' 'geez' and 'gosh.' Although my cousins could say, "dad-gum" and things like that.
Card playing that had Spade- and Club-like symbols on them. I knew a lot of people who played the card game, ROOK, though. I think somebody told me that the Raven on top of the Rook Card was like a Greek expression of the Holy Spirit or a dove. I probably bought that at the time. After all these years, I finally found out that ROOK was OK because it doesn't have any face cards ... no King, other than God ... no Queen, that seductive temptress ... and that poor suicidal Jack, who only had one scary eye and was too emotionally unstable even to look at.

Now (here's that conscience thing again), in all fairness, many of the rules relaxed over time. I'm not going to tell you which ones. I'll leave you guessing about whether or not my mom allowed me to smoke and drink or say really awful "D"-type words as I got older (or if she does read today, maybe she'll personally set us all straight on today's information) - but like I said, some of those things did relax.

Most of that is just fun, tongue-in-cheek stuff, but if you're going to get 'out there' and do life in the big world, you will have to deal with some very serious tensions. Many of them center around the question: 'What IS holiness anyway?' It's the pink elephant with glasses in the room.

That 'holiness' issue has caused churches to split, believers to get angry and accusatory with one another, families to break up, young church planters to be mistrusted ---- and it is a primary reason people outside the church think God is like the Michelangelo-style old guy with flowing white hair and beard - - out of touch.

For whatever reasons, the church has theologized itself right out of normal interaction with the world - so often calling that holiness. Many churches have an alarming theology of 'extraction,' rather than going INTO the world to share the Gospel.

We must align our theology around the call of mission.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Some weeks (months - years) I feel like One-Track Johnny when it comes to blog topics. But that's only because it has been burned pretty deeply on my heart that we are called to be people who offer hope to those outside the faith, rather than become 'blessing catchers' in our little Christian circles.

I'll get off that point one of these days and just start talking about love or the weather or terrorists or something more interesting, but it's where my heart is right now, so you find me coming back to this subject over and again as I spend time with God and try to apply it personally.

I'm not sure how we got where we are, but it's amazing that we think our most powerful times, our most intimate experiences, are supposed to happen within the comfortable confines of our church services. The Biblical evidence is overwhelming and crystal clear that God's power is most naturally meant to happen 'out there.'

Of course, Jesus pulled His disciples away for times of 'just-us' and to debrief. That's great. I'm for that, too. I'm not saying private times with believers-and-believers-only are moments we should shun, but the majority of Christian activities in the early centuries were done in plain view and for the benefit of the onlookers. They met privately, not out of separation theology, but because they had to. If God's Church is to regain influence in the world, we'll have to get a whole lot more comfortable doing 'our stuff' out there again.

I've learned if I stay in my office studying all day long, nothing happens. But whenever I intentionally plant myself at the coffee shop down the street or some other local hangout, I run into people and conversations start up - and at the end of the day I know something Kingdom-oriented has happened.

Try it.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The programs aren't sacred.
The methods aren't sacred.
The ministries aren't sacred.
The service times aren't sacred.
The communication styles aren't sacred.
The room isn't sacred.
The committees aren't sacred.
The bylaws aren't sacred.
The denomination isn't sacred.
The style of music isn't sacred.
The color of the stage isn't sacred.
The font used on the bulletin isn't sacred.
The lobby decor isn't sacred.
The only thing that is sacred is the mission of Jesus.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Since yesterday's posting about PK Look-a-likes, I'm posting pics of some new people I've been told I look like inthe past 24 hours. You be the judge:

Above right: Scott Steele - Chicago channel 4 weatherman.

Above left: Barry Manilow - composer and pop artist (honestly I think this one is way more about the singing voice than about the looks).

At left: Brad Paisley - country music artist

At right: Kenny Loggins - soft rock contemporary artist

This was fun for me. Thanks for playing and reading.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I don't know if anybody has ever told you that you look like a famous person. It's happened to me a few times, including today. I posted this fact on Facebook this afternoon and it netted so many responses I thought I'd include it here.

So, just for fun - these pics are all people I've been told I look like down thru the years. I've posted shots of them that would have been what they looked like when people actually told me that.

So, what do you think? Do I look like any of these people? And who do people say YOU look like?

At left: Joe Namath - NFL quarterback for the New York Jets during the 60s and 70s.

At right: Guy Penrod - member of Bill Gaither Vocal Band for many years. (This is who I was told I looked like today. I'm sure they didn't mean the 'hair.')

At left: Dick Van Dyke - veteran of many TV dramas and comedies.

At right: Bill Bixby - TV star of "My Favorite Martian," "The Incredible Hulk" and several other TV shows.

Below: Jeff Goldblum - TV and movie actor.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 15, 2010


It's that time of year. This is God being Himself in my yard.

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I've talked a lot over the past couple of years about the three-legged stool we're called to operate on --- 'not IN the world ... yet OF the world ... and sent TO the world.' Tricky stuff.

I've talked a lot about not being cloistered in our church club mentality.

I've talked about how we need to change the incorrect assumptions people have about God and Jesus and His followers -- i.e. their programmed responses.

I've talked about the mission of the church being to seek and save lost people - and then disciple them into Christ-followers fully engaged and in love with the One who gave us life. And then ... understanding that we are the church and ultimately we aren't here for ourselves, but for the world.

So now ... given all that ... we have to get to the point where outsiders consider us 'one of them' in some sense -- that's the tricky 3-legged stool part -- and to do all this is not so much a matter of 'evangelism' or 'outreach' or 'mission.' It is a matter of understanding our communities and neighborhoods. It is a matter of grasping in greater measure the forgiveness and love and grace and compassion and mercy of God and then turning around to horizontally spread that. It is a matter of the trembling acknowledgement that there is an all-powerful God who has within His character the elements of wrath and judgment and holiness and that there is a real hell that many are headed for if we don't help them want we have so graciously been freely given.

It is a matter of 'living out' - like Jesus did.
Did I mention this was tricky?

Have you ever thought about how Jesus lived those first 30 years of His life without drawing much attention to His Divine nature? I don't know about you, but if I knew I was going to change the course of history, I'm thinking I would manage to slip that into a few conversations along the way.

'May I try these shirts on, Ma'am?'
'Absolutely. Just go behind that curtain over there and help yourself.'
'Thanks very much. You know - one of these days - when I die and rise again, I'm going to split one of these from top to bottom and the world is never gonna be the same ... I'm just saying.'
'Yes sir. I'm sure you are.'

I doubt I could have lived a normal life. But Jesus did. He lived among people for three decades, developing relationships and trust among people. He showed us what 'living out' was all about. He was nothing like what people thought He was. He impacted the responses of every person He talked to or touched. He changed the world.

With His help, so can we.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Much has been said and written about churches that call themselves seeker-sensitive. I'm not going to get into that conversation today, now that I have immediately caused half of you to get your hackles in an uproar with just the mention of it --- and the other half whom I have immediately deflated because you were ready to say: 'You GO, PK!' --- two divergent views which, frankly, accurately describe the plight of the church today.

But in that seeker conversation, what I fear we have neglected is the concept of seeker-sensitive CHRISTIANS ... people who, without any doubt on my part, must see their personal mission as helping those uncommitted become vibrant followers of Christ.

That's why our KFA mission statement is "Making it Easy to Find and Experience God" -- not because we believe it will necessarily be easy for everyone, but because we believe the reason many aren't making the choice for God is because they aren't seeing the Jesus-life lived out around them enough without hypocrisy. So, our KFA goal is to live in such a way that people see us and are attracted to what we are and in that way, the road is made easier for people to find God and experience Him.

This is instant oatmeal to say and brain surgery to do.

I believe in seeker-sensitive CHRISTIANS. I believe that in the church (not the building, but the people) we should increasingly see ourselves as existing for something beyond ourselves. We are a catalyst for something way bigger - the Kingdom of God.

Imagine we are a big construction company building a housing development. Our goal is to build a great community for the good of our company and the pleasure of future residents. So we cut down trees, scrape away topsoil, fill in the wetlands and do whatever is necessary to build the development. We clear-cut and strip-mine a mountain for the raw materials we'll need for our houses and roads. Downstream, silt from our development clogs up the bay. Animals flee. Native plants are destroyed. It's not that we don't care really; we're just focused on something else ... something 'better.' We talk about the larger success of the development. That is our real goal. We finish the work, people move in, they're happy, and we win some awards for a job well done.

This is the church we have too often practiced. The world is the source of raw materials for the church. It's all right to tear people out of their neighborhoods as long as we get them into the church (the building) more. It's OK to devalue their 'secular' jobs as long as long as we get them involved in church work more. It's fine to withdraw all our energies from arts and culture 'out there' as long as we have a good choir and a nice sanctuary 'in here.' It's acceptable - even desired - because, after all, we're about salvaging individuals from a sinking ship where all but individual human souls will sink, so who cares?

By this way of thinking, we could rescue more Uncommitteds, build more Christians - better Christians - and create dynamic sheltered Communities --- at the expense of the world, not for its good.

So as we move forward, could we ask ourselves some tough questions?

Is it OK to be a seeker-sensitive CHRISTIAN?
Is the world a mountain to be clear-cut and strip-mined for the benefit of the church?
Or are we called to be a catalyst of blessing for the good of the world?

You know which answers I believe we must choose.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


When you think about the disciples of Jesus in the Bible, do you think they were Christians? I guess I've always seen them that way. I mean, it is the default opinion on this. When Jesus called them on the beach, I always thought that was their come-to-the-altar moment.

Maybe that was bad theology - but we're all learning as we go.

I don't think those 12 guys had much of any clue what Jesus was asking of them - or how it would transform their lives. What we do know is that even when Jesus spoke again and again of the New Kingdom, they didn't quite get it. They thought He'd be the next Jewish Terminator coming to kick Roman butt and re-establish the Jewish nation.

But all the while Jesus was turning water to wine - casting out demons - multiplying bread and fish to feed a million - writing in dirt with sticks - healing anyone with disease - they still didn't have clear faith. None of them had prayed a prayer, gone thru membership class or been to a church service. In fact, on the evening before Jesus was going to entrust the future to them, one of them was actually of the devil and the rest of them weren't even Trinitarian.

Today, if we met someone who loved Jesus but they didn't know or realize He was God, I doubt we would call that person a Christian, let alone use them in ministry. Yet Jesus did.

Jesus invited these guys into a school of apprenticeship and pushed them into activity as spiritual leaders, all before their faith was fully formed. For Jesus, the process of discipleship was just that: a process. He wasn't concerned about who was 'in' or 'out,' or their level of knowledge or prior experience or love of people. What He did know was if He could get these guys involved or helping alongside Him, they'd learn about Him and His Kingdom, and someday they'd get the whole picture.

To push that point further, notice how Jesus let someone who He knew was 'out,' namely Judas, hang around at the same level of leadership as the rest of them. We have to be able to put on that same pair of inclusive glasses if we're going to be at peace with this new missional structure.

"OK, Mr. Smarty Pants. How do we control all those people and avoid trouble?" You don't all the time. Sometimes it's messy. (See October 1st blog.) But even messes are part of the Kingdom and may be the best tools to re-orient us back to our mission and to remind us why we do this church thing to begin with.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 11, 2010


My goal today is to talk you out of following Jesus.

Still reading? Good.

'Yeah ... I know what this is. This is one of those reverse psychology gimmicky things pastors do. Tell them you're going to try to talk them out of something, and they'll respond the opposite way in droves. You think we're morons?'

But I don't think a 'gimmick' was what Jesus had in mind when He used that approach Himself. It's in Luke chapter 9. Three men approach Jesus, seemingly eager to follow Him. But Jesus tries to talk each of them out of it.

Guy #1: "Jesus, I'll follow You wherever You go." Jesus said: "Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." In other words, if you're going to follow Me, you might expect some discomfort ahead - even homelessness.

Guy #2: "My father just died. I need to go back and take care of that and then I'll follow." Jesus: "Let the dead bury the dead." I can't imagine hearing those words. 'Let somebody else take care of that; there are more important things for you to do.'

Guy #3: "I want to follow You, but I have some people to say goodbye to first ... it'll just take me a few minutes." Jesus: "Nobody who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." This relationship requires complete devotion, superior priority and exclusive attention.

Become homeless.
Let someone else bury your dad.
Don't even say goodbye to your family.
And from all we can tell from Luke chapter 9, Jesus was successful at dissuading the three from following.

It was not a gimmick to get more followers. He was simply making it bold and clear from the outset that if you follow Him, you abandon everything in comparison.

What if that was you? What if you were the person Jesus told not to even bother going back to say goodbye to your family? Because that scenario is entirely possible if you follow Him.

But we don't want to believe that, do we? So we do some heavy rationalizing and say: "Well, He didn't really mean that. It was an allegory. What He really meant was ... "

And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to re-define Christianity. We are in danger of twisting Jesus into a version we're more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who would never think of asking us to forsake our very closest relationships in order to have one with Him. A Jesus who is pretty much fine with nominal devotion that doesn't infringe on our comforts - because - after all, He loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be 'balanced.'

But you realize what we're doing at that point ... we are molding Jesus into our image. He's starting to look a little bit more like us, rather than the other way around. After all, WE are who we're most comfortable with.

And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and pray and lift our hands in praise, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves.

'Gimmick?' I don't think so.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I hope you don't think I try to be controversial just for the fun of it. Not at all - but somewhere along the line we've convinced ourselves that America used to be a Christian nation - and then some 'bad people' took it away from us. But let me just ask: When was it a Christian nation?

... when we were stealing from Native Americans and taking their land and robbing them of what they had called home for decades?

... when we were importing and exploiting millions of slaves?

I'm not even here to debate the above claims - just to say that mentality has turned us into victims (the bad guys took our country) ... aggressors (we're going to take it back by force now) ... and defenders (quick! the enemy is coming! circle the wagons!).

And if we become aggressive, defensive victims, we hardly carry the posture of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save lost people with great compassion on nameless crowds.

In the new church era, this attitude toward pre-Christians must change. 'The world' must be viewed less and less as the 'bad boys' who we are here to fight, fear and resist ... or whom we seek to control thru legislation and intimidation.

Instead, 'the world' must be seen more and more as the needy neighbors who haven't yet found the grace that has found us ... who receive our love because God loved them enough to send His Son to grant them eternal life ... who are doing the best they can with what they have and who can't be expected to do much better until we find ways to help them want what we've got.

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It was a great day yesterday spent with our pastoral team in New Berlin listening to Coach Mel Ming talk about church mission/purpose/values/focus/model. We've learned so much over the past year as we've met with him - and have another whole great year to come.

The evening was extra-special for us. Just Mel and our team meeting over dinner, picking his brain.

I love it.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Nothing makes people in the church angrier than grace. One of the official values of KFA is that God has called us to be grace-filled people. As soon as you put that out there, it is only a matter of time before people begin casting warnings that we shouldn't get too sloppy with our grace. Fair enough.

But according to His critics, Jesus 'did God' all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all, let just anyone into the Kingdom. He scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-clubbish religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus' irresponsible habit of throwing open the doors of His love to the whosoevers, the just any-ones, the not-a-chancers -- like you and me.

And so it is ironic that few things put churchgoers more on edge than grace. We stumble into a party we weren't invited to and find the uninvited standing at the doors making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then this strange phenomenon occurs. As soon as we are included in the party - because of Jesus' irresponsible love - we decide to make grace more responsible by becoming the Kingdom Guards at the door -- keeping out the riffraff.

So we have decided to turn the tables on that, act more like Jesus, and be and become KFA-ers who are grace-filled. Join us on that journey.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Jesus cares more about desire than about competence. That's why He paid attention to people who interrupted Him, tugged at Him, yelled at Him, touched Him, crashed thru ceilings to get to Him, climbed trees to see Him, and followed Him around everywhere.

My hunch is that most of us who read here feel utterly incompetent at least some of the time and yet, we can't let go of Jesus. He sees right thru all of that competence-overtrying into a heart that is leaning and yearning for Him.

Christianity isn't for those who think religion is a pleasant distraction - just some nice alternative. It is for desperates.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Loved the CHAMPIONS meeting at my house tonight. A dozen guys all pressing in to be better for the Kingdom. There are four other Champions groups meeting this month as well.

This is our 5th month out of 12 to read a different book and then gather together to download it. Great to learn from one another and hear what the impact has been. You can feel the growth happening around the room. It is palpable.

Tonight's book download: "Just Walk Across the Room" by Bill Hybels. If you want to be challenged to share your faith in normal, life-giving, natural, practical, non-threatening ways, this is the book for you. There are treasures on every single page.

Each guy came with his personal testimony written in 100 words or less (most of us made it in under a hundred words, that is). Great stuff.

Next month's book: "Tender Warrior" by Stu Weber.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Our guest today at KFA - Allen Griffin - spoke on 'The Empire Strikes Back' --- pushing back the forces of evil to live the life God intended for you to live by spending time with Him -- ratcheting up the intimacy level -- remembering that in your trouble, He promised to be present -- living a 'no holds barred' kind of life for God -- no regrets.

Great day to be together. Hope yours was equally great.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


In this one-two punch connected to yesterday's blog ...

There is a group of men out there who call themselves Notorious Sinners. They are from all walks of life and they meet regularly to openly share their 'messy faith' with one another. Their group name refers to the scandalous category of sinners whose reputations and ongoing flaws never seemed to keep Jesus away. In fact, He had a strange habit of collecting disreputables; He called them disciples. He still does.

I kind of like people who openly admit their notoriousness - who believe unabashedly that they are not only hopelessly flawed, but hopelessly forgiven.

I will admit that I'm on a fine line here, but there is something attractive about believers whose discipleship is blatantly real and carelessly passionate - a bizarre mix of the good, the bad and the ugly - living a spirituality that denies conventional and simple definitions.

It's really a description of the lives most of us live but few of us admit. It is a celebration of a discipleship under construction - a spiritual life that is complex, perplexing, at times disorderly and sloppy, even chaotic -- and yet, authentic. It is anything but a straight line. It is upside-down, full of unexpected turns and twists, and occasional bone-shattering crashes.

It is a life completely ruined by Jesus, who loves us day by day no matter what.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I'm a mess. My life is a mess. After 43 years of following Jesus, I keep losing myself. I know Jesus is in there somewhere, but it's tough to make Him out in the haze of every day life.

I want to be a good person - a great person. I don't want to fail. I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to rid myself of distractions. Much of the time, however, I feel like I'm running away from Jesus into the arms of my own personal clutteredness.

I desperately want to be consistent. When I was younger, I thought my inconsistency was due to my youth. I believed I would eventually reach the age where the secrets of life would automatically unfold like flowers and bring true spirituality and maturity to my walk.

I AM older now - considerably so - and the secrets are still secrets to me.

I sometimes dream that I'm tagging along behind Jesus, longing for Him to choose me as one of His disciples. Without warning, He turns around, looks straight into my eyes, and says, "Follow Me!" With a heart that skips several beats, thinking that my long-hoped-for spirituality is about to come true, I begin to run toward Him when He suddenly interrupts with, "Oh, not you; the guy behind you."

'Spiritual' has become a term reserved for people who pray all day long, read their Bibles constantly, never get angry, possess some hidden special powers, and have an inside track to God. It calls to mind eccentric 'saints' who have taken vows of poverty and isolated themselves in cloisters.

Not so. Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test to pass. It is relationship. It's not about competency; it's about connectedness. It's not about perfection; it's about intimacy. It begins right where you are, accepting the reality of your brokenness - your flawed-ness - not because spirituality will remove our flaws, but because we end up letting go of seeking perfection and instead, seek God, the One who is present 'in the mess.'

Yes. I'm a mess. And I'm loving it.

And be blessed.