September 2005

Last night I was talking with a childhood friend of my wife who was spending the night with us, and she made an interesting comment. She is pastor of a Disciples of Christ church in Missouri (and has been for a number of years) and she stated that seminaries get a bum rap about how they train their ministers, not preparing them for life outside the hallowed walls of theological academia. She heard a man speak once, I can’t remember who he was, and he said that seminaries (using a music analogy) can teach these minister wannabes all the right notes and melodies and compositions, but they can’t teach them to play Jazz.

I personally loved that analogy. Even though I am NOT a musician, I enjoy Jazz. If you’ve never listened to a really good Jazz trio or quartet (I heard my first live Jazz trio in a club at Underground Atlanta), it’s difficult for you to understand what he’s talking about. But basically Jazz is about improvisation. I read where Jazz improvisation is “the process of spontaneously creating fresh melodies over the continuously repeating cycle of chord changes of a tune.” In other words, the basics of the original tune and chord harmonies remains the same but the music comes out differently because of the improvisation. The Jazz artist finds new ways to say the same things. Duke Ellington said, “You’ve got to find some way of saying it without saying it.” You don’t do away with the composed music, but with Jazz it is combined with improvisation in a unique mixture.

Ministers and Christians can be taught all the right notes and melodies and compositions (Scripture) but if it’s played the Classical way (interpreted and performed based on denominational doctrine and traditions), it will usually result in saying the same thing the same way over and over. But in Jazz, the right notes and melodies and compositions are performed with improvisation creating a melody that is new and interesting. Improvising does not mean creating something out of thin air. Wynton Marsalis said, “In Jazz, improvisation isn’t a matter of just making any ol’ thing up. Jazz, like any language, has its own grammer and vocabulary. There’s no right or wrong, just some choices that are better than others.” With Jazz, you are free to release the unique creative passions within you, thereby creating new works, but based on a solid foundation. And you will never play the same song the same way again. Jazz is individuality.

A Passion for Jazz wrote:

Most genres of music involve the listener into the realm of the completed work as it was scored. Jazz draws the onlooker to a deeper league, that of a partnership so to speak, of being along when each new phrase is created, when each inspired motive is often the interactive result of audience involvement. Jazz music’s dynamic is its “newness” which can be attributed to the defining component – improvisation.

While Classical music may strive to conform the musical tones to orchestral sonorities, Jazz music thrives on instrumental diversities; the player’s individual “sound” becoming the desired proficiency. This is where the passion is, a kind found no where else.

Jazz for Jesus. Individual passion. Improvisation.

Sit back with a good glass of wine and let the music just flow over you.

His peace be on you all.


I mentioned on Sunday in our class that I thought the world had certain standards for the Christian, and that we should strive to live up to those standards. What I wasn’t talking about was their (the world’s) distorted perceptions of the church, but a certain rule of conduct by which, right or wrong, they hold Christians to. Our ultimate standard, of course, is Jesus. But the world doesn’t know, or fully understand, what Jesus’ standards are. They look at Christians and expect us to act a certain way, and scoff at us when we don’t saying that we aren’t any better than they are. And we’re not any better- we are just like them. Except we are saved by grace. And it’s that grace that should be transforming us, making us new creatures. The world doesn’t understand grace, but they understand what we say and what we do and that they should be the same, and by that we can change their perceptions of us.

Case in point. I just had lunch with an old friend of mine, someone I hadn’t seen in a while. It was good to get caught up with each others’ lives. He’s a believer and the vice-president for a audio/video design company that designs and installs sound, video and lighting systems for churches and other large venues. He was telling me the reason he was in my part of town was because he was picking up money that was owed his company, and the only reason they were getting paid is because they had threatened liens. Who owed the money? A large Southern Baptist church in town. That got us on the topic of churches and their actions, and he told me that everyone who worked on this church (and many of the contractors and subcontractors weren’t believers) came away with some very negative feelings towards the church because of the attitudes and treatment from the staff and members. He also told me that the worse churches to deal with were either Southern Baptist or AG (and his company has worked with quite a few). The bigger the church, the more difficult they were to work with. And it’s not just churches he works with, it’s the architects and contractors who profess to be Christian that deal in very unethical ways.

Basically my point is this: we as the Church, or Christ Followers, must do more than talk the talk. We can talk all we want but if all we are doing is sucking air, and there is no action to back up the talk, then what good is it? Like Paul said, “If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” We’re just making a lot of noise. And after a while, noise gets to be an irritation and gets tuned out. A concert of just a gong or clanging cymbal is hard to sit through.

This is my rambling thought for the day, brought on no doubt by the burrito I had for lunch.

His peace be on you all.

A person I’ve never met, but feel I know because of her blogs, is Layla. She was kind enough to link to my site when I wrote about stereotypical Christians. In the comments on her post, there was a person who commented: “Most people that “can’t see past the church”, don’t want to. It is usually just a nice excuse for them to continue in their wicked ways.” While I agree with the sentiments of this statement, I have problems with saying “most people…don’t want to.” I think the real problem is us: Christians, the Church that people can’t see past. The world looks at us and we haven’t given them a reason to look past the church and see Jesus for themselves. Besides, the world should not have to look past us to begin with; they should see Jesus IN us, and THROUGH us, not past us. I know there are those who disagree with me here, but we Christians are the reason people have a difficult time accepting God at His Word, and accepting His grace through Jesus. They focus on our pettiness, our condemnation, our legalism, our own breaking of the Law, our self-righteousness, our lack of forgiveness and grace even to other believers. Paul said the same thing in Romans 2:24 when he wrote, “No wonder the Scriptures say ‘The world blasphemes the name of God because of you.'”

Until we as Christ Followers give the world something more to look at than the facade* we call the church, they may never see Jesus for who He really is.

*Wikipedia defines “Facade” as a figure of speech to describe the “face” that people show other people.

His peace be on all of you.

In my last post, I quoted from McManus’ book The Barbarian Way about how Jesus made it clear that being a disciple was never intended to be the equivalent of being molded into a stereotype. My friend Trinitie wanted to see the Scripture references for that, but to be honest I couldn’t find many. Not specifically anyway. But when you look at the Scriptures and what God did when He called someone to Himself, their lives were never the same as those around them. Or like anyone before them. They were changed because the God of the universe had touched them in a way that made them different. Not look different, but act different. Look at Abraham, Moses, Noah, David, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, James, John, Paul, and the list goes on and on. Look at John the Baptist. Would he be the man YOU would have called to be “the voice crying in the wilderness” exclaiming the coming of THE Messiah? And when, after the resurrection, Jesus and Peter are talking Peter wants to know if Jesus is planning on the same life for John as himself. Jesus told Peter know to worry about what is in store for John, Peter was to follow Jesus on Jesus’ terms. When McManus is talking about disciples as stereotypes, what’s he saying? What is a stereotype Christian?

Dan Kimball of vintage faith just wrote a book about why people love Jesus but hate the church (Christians) and these are some of the perceptions he found people had of church:

  1. The Church is an “Organized Religion” with a political agenda
  2. The Church is Judgmental and Negative
  3. The Church is Male Dominated and Female Oppressive
  4. The Church is Homophobic
  5. The Church Thinks They Have the Exclusive Way to God (and everyone else is wrong)
  6. The Church takes the Bible too literally and are “Fundamentalists”

It’s tough being the Church and not letting the church get in the way. We’ve got to let God touch us in such a way that we are changed, we are transformed, we are no longer “civilized” in our faith. We have the Truth, we’ve got to learn live Truth.

His peace be on you all.

ADDITION: Let me add to my list of Bible people changed by God: Sarah, Mary (Jesus’ mother), Mary (sister of Martha), Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, the woman with a sickness who touched his garment, the woman caught in adultery, Priscilla (a deaconess!) Timothy’s mother and grandmother, and again, the list goes on and on.


In my very slow reading of The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus, I came across this last night:

.: Jesus made clear that being a disciple was never intended to be the equivalent of being molded into a stereotype.

.: Talking about Jesus and John, McManus wrote that their lives could not be explained apart from God.

.: Somehow Christianity has become a nonmystical religion. It’s about a reasonable faith. If we believe the right things then we are orthodox. We have become believers rather than experiencers.

.: In the civilized view of discipleship, everything and everyone moves toward the center. Discipleship is translated into standardizing everyone into the smae pattern. We have equated the promise that we would be conformed into the image of Christ with a belief that all of us will be the same. Discipleship has become the mechanism for uniformity rather than uniqueness.

.: The entire focus of our faith has been the elimination of sin, which is important but inadequate, rather than the unleashing of a unique, original, extraordinary, wonderfully untamed faith.


His peace be on you all.


Thanks to Charlie Pharis (Just Charlie) for bringing this term to my attention per his blog. According to Charlie, this term was made popular by Rick Warren who made this notation in his Bible as he listened to preacher’s preach, probably on how to revitalize a dying church.

I had the same kind of feeling Sunday night as we met at our house with our single’s group and discussed the class and ministry. I do that every year just to get my focus, and hopefully those in the class, back on what we are about. I need feedback and sometimes, well a lot of times, I just don’t get what I’m looking for. What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong kind of thing. I’m hungry to reach young (20s and 30s) single adults, but for me it always comes back to YBH.

I read an interesting AP article by David Caruso recently, and it should effect the way we do church, at least in part. In this article, Caruso writes that according to the 2000 Census data, the number of Americans living alone has exceeded the number of households containing the classic nuclear family.

Caruso writes:

“The analysis found that single-person households in the United States grew by 21 percent in the 1990s. eclipsing the growth rates for all other types of living arrangements.

About 27.2 million Americans lived alone in 2000, accounting for about 26 percent of all households and about 9.7 percent of the U.S. population.

By comparison, 22 percent of households consisted of a married couple and their natural children. About 21 percent were married couples living without children. Eight percent were single parents living with at least one child.” (Emphasis mine)

So what is the church doing about this shift? Overall, not much. The church still programs to the mass audience (married) and the emphasis seems to always be about families. And while this is important (my friend Smitty is the Minister to Children at our church and I wouldn’t have her job for anything), we need to start reaching the growing single population. And this is becoming my focus – ministering to the growing number of single households, in whatever form they take. But it always comes back to: YBH. I’m more than willing to learn, so if any of you have suggestions, let me hear them. I want to change YBH to TIH (This Is How).

His peace be on you all.

I’m not real crazy about Christians copying well known slogans, but there is a hospital here in Dallas that has a slogan that I think should be adopted by the Church, or at least by Christ Followers. Their tag line on their commercials say that they are “Specialists in Life.” What a great thing! As Christ Followers, shouldn’t we also be “Specialists in Life”? We’ve become specialist in eternal life, but what about the life here on earth. The Scriptures are full of Life, from Genesis when God breathed the breath of Life into Man and he became a living being, to Jesus talking about being The Life. And in Him is Life, and that Life is the light of man.

Why do we not understand what it means to have Life, and have it abundantly? Have we become so religious, so traditional, so ritual, that we have become like Ezekiel, set down in the middle of a valley full of dry bones? I love that story. Seems to me this is the story of the church today. Ezekiel was led around and saw a great many bones “on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry.” If you look around at the church today you will see a great number of bones who are very dry, including myself. God asks Ezekiel if he thought these bones could live again, and Ezekiel very wisely answered, “Lord God, only you know.” Of course, only God can do it. Even after Ezekiel prophesied and the bones were covered with tendons, and flesh, and skin (much like we have programs, and activities, and Bible studies, and worship, and on and on) the bones still did not live because there was “no breath in them.” But God, as He did in Genesis, breathed Life into them and they became a mighty army. God told Ezekiel that He would lead them, he would be their God, and that they would know that He was the Lord. But the defining verse in all of the text is Ezekiel 37:14 – “I (God) will put My Spirit in you, and you will LIVE.”

Seek His face while He may still be found, and He will give you Living Water – He will give you LIFE.

Become “Specialists in Life!”

His peace be on you all.