June 2005


Describe the perfect church. Well, of course there are no perfect churches. But what would your perfect church LOOK like?

As I walk around the college where I work, I picture this as the perfect church, or at least what the church is suppose to look like. We have young, and old, and in-between. We have black, white, brown, and yellow skin. We have skin that is tattooed and pierced; skin that is flawless. We have blond hair, brunette hair, grey hair, red, yellow, green hair. Hair on the collars, spiked in a fish fin, no hair. Jeans with holes and patches, designer jeans, baggy shorts, sandals, slacks, loafers, tennis shoes. Tall, short, skinny, overweight. Drama queens, ex-cheerleaders, athletic types, geeks, special needs, studious, motivationally challenged. Rich, poor, not sure. In other words, we have humanity. And they aren’t as concerned about the way everyone else looks because they are usually here for one reason – to learn something.

But look around the local church. We all look alike. And to be comfortable in some of our churches, you have to be a clone. We have difficulties setting aside our prejudices. Mixed race couple? Tattoos covering the body? Body piercing? Guitars, drums, praise team? Organ and choir? No instruments? Suits? Jeans? KJV? NIV? The Message? Raising hands? Incense? Candles? Power-Point and videos? And on and on. Surely the Bible speaks against all of these things. At least, we think it must.

I read Todd Rhoades’ site daily, and he’s always talking about new and different ways to do church and ministry. But I’m amazed at the narrow-minded and mean-spirited comments some in the “ministry” make about what they perceive as “not the way to do it.” I long for the day when the church will not be so concerned with “conformed” and focus on “transformed.” We’re here to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ. He is the only one we are suppose to conform to. Our problem is figuring out what that looks like.

Maybe what I desire is Heaven. Maybe there we can all get along. Maybe.

If you’ve never read Randy Bohlender’s blog, start with this. You won’t be disappointed.

Thoughts are bouncing about in my head, in no particular order. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately, mostly about the Emerging Church (EC). The blogs get me thinking about all kinds of things, but they mainly make me wish I was young again to join in the conversation. I start out with the blogs listed on the right side of my site, and from there I start bouncing around to the links that are on their sites. Some good stuff out there, just almost too much.

Some of the bloggers just got back from the SBC convention in Nashville. From their comments I wonder why EC leaders and participants are even a part of the SBC. I dropped out many years ago even though I still belong to an SBC church (we mainly align ourselves with Willow Creek and Saddleback than SBC, along with the Baptist General Convention of Texas). I graduated from Southwestern Seminary, but that was under Dr. Dilday. I was working for an SBC agency (the old Radio and TV Commission which is now a part of North American Mission Board) when Dilday was fired. I was also responsible for the video feeds (the image mag and live feeds to the old ACTS network) at the convention every year, so I saw a lot of stuff going on in the background. I have a real problem with what is now being called the “Conservative Reformation” of the SBC. From what I saw and experienced, it was a power struggle, and not much else. It’s sad that most of the Young Leaders (YL) today weren’t even born when all this started, and now only hear one side of the controversy. And from what I’ve been reading, the YLs are experiencing some of the same frustrations that have plagued the convention for years. Some of what these YLs believe are just not compatible with the good ol’ boy way of doing a multi-million dollar behemoth.

One of the things that came out of the convention is a new evangelism movement to baptize one million people in one year. The messengers were given, I’m guessing, a new six-point plan for lifestyle evangelism. But we’ve have, and had, all kinds of programs for years, and yet the baptisms for the SBC have declined for the past five years. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Why are we so hung up on numbers. I read one of the bloggers, and I’m not sure which one, mention that he doesn’t have “membership” at the church he pastors because membership doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t committed. This applies to membership in a health club as well as a church. And the SBC claims 16 million members but half are unaccounted for.

I’m all for evangelism, but what about involvement in the community? What about showing love? What about getting to know others? I worked with a young man several years ago who wasn’t a Christian. Almost every other worker in the company was. One day after one of our staff meetings, several of the Christians “cornered” this guy and began to witness to him. It did little good. Later he told me that made him so mad because these people had NEVER even taken the time to get to know him, to find out what made him tick. They just made assumptions and judgments and went after him like sharks to blood. I don’t know if this guy ever became a Christ follower, but I have my doubts.

Ok, enough of my rant. I could go on and on, but it’s best if I just take a break. I’m going to try to post more often, if not for my 3 or 4 readers than just for me.

His peace be on you.

Colin Sedgwick, pastor of Lindsay Park Baptist Church in Kenton, Middlesex and wrote:

“Churches that buck the trend see themselves as communities, or families, not simply as buildings where people gather for an hour and then leave to go back into ‘normal’ life. God is taken seriously but not solemnly; worshippers are participants, not spectators; there is silence, but also noise and laughter; there is structure, but also informality.”

Check out Rob Rigg’s blog about living life to the last drop. Good stuff.

I think it’s interesting how dress codes over the last several years have relaxed, with companies now offering “casual Fridays.” Before I came to seminay, I was a bank officer in a large, family owned bank. We were required to wear suits and ties and have that banker look. I hated it and that’s probably part of the reason I went into video and television production. The dress code is just the opposite. I now only wear suits for weddings (if my wife makes me) and funerals. Of course, banks today have even relaxed the “banker” look.

Same with church. We have two kinds of worship in our church: a “classic” service that is traditional and is made of older members, and two “contemporary” services made up of the younger members. Our pastor will wear his suit for the classic and change into business casual for the contemporary services. When I mentioned that, my almost 80 year old dad said that the older generation were use to having their “Sunday best” that was different from what they wore during the week. But not so with my generation and younger. We wear whatever we want. And I wonder if that doesn’t reflect in our attitude toward God in general.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think dress code has any bearing on a believer’s heart or worship. But, at least for me, with our casual dress comes a more casual attitude. We are shifting away from a reverence, a certain respect, for God and the “things” we have dedicated to His service and use (like the church building and our worship times). We don’t put on our “Sunday best” anymore. Our churches are now promoting a “casual worship time.” Our corporate worship times aren’t any different than a day at the ballpark, watching our favorite team play the national pastime. Only they aren’t as enjoyable. Sunday morning I saw a man in church wearing shorts and sandals. The only thing missing was the hotdog and beer (which, at the moment, may cause an uproar but give it time). And our lives reflect, during the rest of the week, a casual approach to God and our relationship with Him. If we happened to think on the things of God, it’s usually in passing. Like what was the score of the Rangers game last night?

I’m not promoting a return to suits. I’ll go to the Ranger’s game first. What I’m asking for is that we put on our “Sunday best” in our attitude and hearts, approaching God with reverence, awe, and fear. And not just on Sunday or whatever sabbath you worship on, but everyday. Let’s stop taking such a casual approach to our worship and our relationship with God. He wants a serious relationship with us, even if we are at the ballpark watching baseball.

As Lauren F. Winneris, the author of Girl Meets God , says

“The way into Christian Sabbath observance isn’t so much about rules as orientation: away from the busyness of the week and towards the Creator who rested. In this we may find a true sense of Shabbat shalom, Sabbath peace.”

His peace be on you.

I don’t know why I care, or even if I should, but I want to ordain three women in my home church. Well, not me personally, but I want the church to do it. You know what I mean. I don’t know if the women even want to be ordained. My friend Smitty, who just graduated from seminary in May and accepted a call from the church to become the full-time minister to children, is just that: a full-time minister. I think it is interesting that because she is a woman, and that she is not really “ministering” but doing what women do best (working with children), we don’t automatically jump in and say, “If she is going to be a minister she needs to be ordained!” We’ve got two other women on staff but no one ever really talks about them being ordained. We tried at one time to have one of them ordained, but it just seems to have gone away.

What keeps us from ordaining them? They are not trying to be lead pastor, or associate pastor, or even a teaching pastor. They work with the children and in the recreation ministry. But we don’t give them the same level of “respect” we do other staff positions. I joked with Smitty that I was going to vote against her call to the church because when she gave the children’s sermon the Sunday morning we voted, she should have called it Children’s Talk, not sermon. But I think there are still a lot of people in our churches that feel a woman should never be a minister. She can be music director, or children’s director, or director of whatever, but don’t call her a minister. And there is absolutely no way a woman could ever teach. But tell that to Anne Graham Lotz (Billy’s daughter, who he says is the best preacher in the family) or Beth Moore or Kay Arthur or…you get the message.

I’m not sure there is much of a Scriptual basis for not ordaining women. It seems to be based on tradition. And today it’s more for the IRS than for anything else. But if a woman wants to be considered as an equal on a church staff, and she wants to be ordained, then I think the church should do it.

I’m not sure why I blogged this, it’s just something that was on my mind and I wanted to get it out. Do you agree or disagree? Or does it really matter?

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