January 2008


My older brother and I have been having an ongoing discussion in recent months about hell. The discussion centers on whether a loving God would actually send someone to hell. My brother maintains that God would not do that. It’s not like my brother is some kind of God-hating liberal with no understanding of Christianity. He is a somewhat conservative, Republican, Evangelical pastor who has come to this conclusion over several years. 

I don’t spend a lot of time on You Tube but occasionally I run across something that is just too “good” to ignore. I’m quite sure that some will be offended by watching this, and that’s ok. There’s some real truth to what is being said. Some of it has to do with hell, and some of it just has to do with the mixed messages we as Christians send to those around us when we say things like, Jesus Loves You!

My general feeling is that we’ve made Christianity much more confusing than God ever intended (we’ve done the same thing to church). We’ve somehow separated God’s love from His forgiveness, I’ll write more about that soon. For now, take a look at the video and let me know what you think. Hell, Yes? or No?

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Just recently a friend and I were talking about God’s level of involvement in the ongoing affairs of the universe. A theologian he’d been talking with believes that God doesn’t know the future, nor is He the kind of “cosmic coordinator of universal events” that many people believe. For God to place Himself in that role strips human beings of the free will He created us with, and He’s unwilling to take away that freedom.

My friend’s view is more of the traditional belief that God is involved in the details of our lives. He believes that as a Christian, God has a plan for his life and his responsibility is to live his life according to that plan. God not only knows the future but He helps him get there. My friend can’t accept the view of the theologian because he thinks it puts God in a very small box. As he put it to me, “My God is bigger than that.”

That debate began an internal conversation for me about God’s knowledge, power and control. His vision into the future. His involvement in our daily lives and actions. Whether or not He has plans for us as individuals. I began to wonder which of these people’s “God box” was bigger, because I’m sure they each believe their view of God is larger than the other’s.

So what are your thoughts? Who has the bigger God, my friend or the theologian? Does God orchestrate every activity in the world; choosing the bad things that happen to some people and the good things that happen to others? Does He rain down difficulty on evil-doers while showering the saints with blessings? Does He take a more passive, hands-off role in the daily routine of our lives and allow the world to function according to what He placed in motion thousands of years ago?

What size box is your God in?

In the late 80’s I was Worship Pastor in a brand new church in Phoenix, AZ. One Sunday I created quite a buzz when I walked on stage and opened the service by singing the theme song from Cheers. The premise was simple and straightforward: Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name. We sincerely wanted people to think of our church whenever they thought about hanging out with friends; with people who knew their name. While singing this song in church doesn’t seem all that creative 20 years later, I still think it represents a worthwhile goal for a church to pursue.

I’m reading a book called Microtrends. It’s a fascinating look at emerging trends around the world and the implications of those trends for our lives. The author cites a trend of organized religion being on the rise but it is now switching over to what he calls the Starbucks economy and the growth of the Mini-Church. These Mini-Churches (could also be called Boutique Churches) are “tailored to as many individual preferences as we can come up with. These days you can choose your faith, and your prayer community in practically as many varieties as you can choose your morning coffee.”

As I’ve thought about this I’ve wondered what would happen if this trend grew from a micro trend to a much more major trend. This could have a major impact on the church landscape in this country. What if churches were much more boutique in nature and catered to small niches of people. Not only would those who attend know everyone else’s name but they’d probably know much more about one another. On one hand I’m not sure this is all bad. From another perspective this only further supports the consumeristic tendencies so much of the American church landscape leans toward. From still another point of view this could lead to small, elitist churches where only certain people feel welcomed and comfortable.

So, what are your thoughts on these so-called Boutique Churches? Good thing, bad thing? Could it ultimately attract more people to Christ, or just shuffle the already convinced around from boutique to boutique? What do you think this trend could bring about?

Happy new year! It seems like such a long time since my last post. With so much happening during the month that has passed I’m almost tempted to do a recap, but I’ll refrain. The most significant thing during this last month was the marriage of our son to Claire Seward. The wedding required us to journey to Idaho and many months ago we made the decision to drive the 1425 miles from our home in Olathe KS to the bride’s hometown of Nampa ID. A decision that made good sense when we made it last July, however let me encourage you to never drive across Wyoming (or most any northern state) in the winter. I’ll avoid the details but suffice it to say there was a single 50 mile stretch that took 4 hours to cover.

As with any road trip there was plenty of time for thought and in spite of the white knuckle periods this trip was no exception. As a result of those streams of consciousness I have many things I’ll be writing about in upcoming posts. Some of these streams will flow in the form of questions and others will be more statement or belief driven. Here’s a sneek peek:

 

  • Are God’s love and His forgiveness separate from one another?
  • The mantle of the in-law
  • Scripture and theology: Which one grows out of the other?
  • We tend to define God by our ability to understand Him
  • The forgiving power of the cross of Christ
  • Christianity: With or without hoops
  • Boutique churches
  • Why do we gather each week for a service of worship?
  • How do our personalities impact our preferences when it comes to church attendance?
  • Can too many choices be a bad thing?

Well, there’s a sampling. It should be a fun journey to flesh-out these thoughts and others in the coming weeks. I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to spend at least some of it with people you love and cherish.