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August 2009 entries

What's In Your Trash Basket?

I get lot's of mail. It litters my desk as it piles up day after neglected day. Other things have priority like sermons, Bible studies, phone calls and counseling. So once or twice a week I take a deep breath and dive in. About 10% are requests from evangelists, comedians, Christian magicians and vocalists who want to preach, perform, sing or play at Dallas Bay. Those can be sorted into file 13 pretty quickly. I only prayerfully entertain those I have personally encountered somewhere along the way or have been referred by a trusted friend or colleague. Another 5% are periodicals or magazines. Some of which I have subscribed to and others are trying to sell me something. Another 10% or so are correspondence from members, convention agencies or local pastors. Let's see if my math is correct that leaves another 75%. The remaining 3/4 of my incoming mail is comprised of requests for contributions from various charitable organizations from either me personally or DBBC. Most of these are legitimate groups who are doing some great work. They consist of orphanages, both domestic and foreign, mission churches needing start-up funds, pro-life groups, independent foreign missionaries, para-church organizations, shelters for the abused and homeless and so many others I cannot even begin to list them all. I have to be honest with you. I do not read them all. It's just frustrating to be reminded that we live in such a broken world and in such difficult times there are too few funds to go around.

So how do you deal with such frustration? How can you toss so many requests for help into the cylindrical file draw under your desk and just keep working? I can only share how I deal with it. I ask God to make me sensitive to any need that He would have me to contribute to. I have learned long ago that a need does not necessarily constitute a call. There are too many good causes and truly needy people to help them all.

 So I guess I should tell you what has prompted these thoughts. This morning I was going through my mail and painfully tossing one request to help into the waste basket after another. I grabbed one and the Spirit prompted me to look further. Being the uber-spiritual person that I am I tossed into the file along with the others. Then trying to get on with "more important" tasks I could not get my mind off the newsletter now next to spent handkerchiefs and post-it notes. Not being able to concentrate on anything else I decided to at least skim the paper and thus alleviate any guilt on my part. Why, I might even pray for the organization or person who sent it. That would sure win me some browny points with my Boss!

As I looked at the newsletter I tried to skim over and get the gist of the articles. Each one drew me into the story. One was about a homeless single mom with an autistic daughter who had gone to college to better her situation. Not only did she get a degree, but she bought a home after finding employment and is now mentoring young women in her neighborhood. Another was a story about a monk who is praying for tents. Not for himself or his family, but for the homeless in Chattanooga. He talked about the homeless having to keep moving from one hiding spot to another to stay ahead of the police. He even quoted Bob Dylan. "How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home? Like a complete unknown? Like a rolling stone?" Any monk who can quote Dylan is a friend of mine. Then turning to the front page I read of another family who are not poor, nor homeless. As a matter of fact, I'll bet financially they are better off than most of us. So why are they in this newsletter? Maybe because they volunteer at night shelters for the homeless and serve meals at the community kitchen. Then it hit me why the Spirit had prompted me to retrieve this one correspondence. I have been blessed with so much and in return I give so little. No I can't help everyone, but I can help a few. If we all helped a few, then the few would become many.

I decided to write a check and give it to this organization. I thought about how much I should give. Immediately, I came up with a number that would definitely alleviate my guilt for not giving much in the past. But just as the Spirit had caused me to look at the paper the first time He prompted me to put down the pen and reconsider. Now what, I thought to myself. You want me to give more? I looked at the paper again and the Lord directed my attention to a part of the story I had neglected to read before. The paper asked that I consider skipping one meal and sending it to the organization. The Lord said that is what I want you to do. He said this is not about writing a big check. This is about being obedient. So I wrote the check and a note to go with it. I put both in an envelope and sent it if off. I then tossed the newsletter back into the waste basket and there it now awaits the janitor. My prayer for you is that you are more sensitive than I am when it comes to being open to the promptings of the Spirit in your life. My desire is not to have you impressed with what I do. I'm afraid I have neglected God's voice more often than I have been obedient. My desire is that we all work together to share the blessings of God with some of those who are hurting the most.

Matthew 12:20 (NKJV)
20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;


I'm Glad God is My Judge, Aren't You?

I've been working on the last installment of the summer series "Mirrors." Those of you who attend DBBC can't miss Sunday! The Spirit has really put together an awesome finish to the series including a powerful drama and conclusion. The theme for the last message is the thought that God see us differently than others or ourselves perceive us to be. We can be really hard on ourselves and others can be down right brutal. This has come to my attention in two separate conversations recently.

The first was a few weeks back when the widow of a gentleman who just recently died told me that he died with one question that remained unanswered. This wonderful Christian man wanted to discover why God had allowed such a scoundrel as Solomon to be portrayed so prominently in scripture and to have been allowed to write so much of the Old Testament.

Then last evening I got a call from another gentleman. He too a fine Christian man wanted to know why God had allowed Samson to be included in Hebrews chapter 11 with all the other great believers. He contended that Samson was weak and morally bankrupt, my words not his, and there was no good reason to list him in that chapter with others that lived by faith.

Which brings me to this thought, I'm glad we are not God and He is! We tend to remember only the bad that people have done and push their goodness into the shadows. I'm not talking badly about these two men, but all of us are guilty. We say things like, "Yeah, he or she did some good, BUT..." and we go on to list all the negatives of their lives. Sure Solomon made some bad moves, particularly when it came to the opposite sex. And sure Samson was also prone to get in trouble with the ladies, but God loved them both and more importantly forgave them both. Because God forgave them and did not turn them to toast, as we would probably do, they had the opportunity to turn their lives around. Solomon ended up writing to his son about the stupidity of his actions and the consequences of his immorality and neglect of God's Word. We call that book The Proverbs. Samson, without his two eyes, killed more Philistines in his last act of heroism than he did in all the battles while he was fully functional. He prayed, "O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes." (Judges 16:28) Thankfully, God did remember Samson's heroic acts of the past rather than just his sin.

I'm glad that God is my judge and not others. We are too hard on one another. We are too judgmental and our memories are too extensive when it comes to our screw-ups. Thankfully God exercises grace when it comes to how He sees His children. Grace! Grace! God's Grace! Sounds good, don't you think?

Pastor Ken    

If It Ain't Broke...

Israel pictures 080 What is a church? A community of God? The body of Christ localized and visible? Followers of Christ who band together for the purpose of worship toward God and ministry toward others? All of the above? Yes. Yes. Yes and yes. Churches are different styles and many different sizes, but they all generally can be described by one of the answers above. Now, those who think about such things have begun to delineate between churches not based upon denomination or even size or style, but upon the purpose and place of those churches.

The one we are more familiar with is called the "attractional" church. These churches offer worship, ministry opportunities, fellowship and Bible teaching and preaching typically at one campus. The idea is that people are attracted by the activities to come to that location. DBBC would be in this category.

The second category of church has been labeled "missional." Some refer to this church model as the "house" church. These congregations, if they will allow themselves to be called such, are driven by service given to a city or a portion of a city. These groups often do not own property but often rent or meet in homes. Consequently, these missional churches are usually smaller that attractional ones. 

I honestly believe there are merits to both and there is room in the kingdom of God for each. The issue I have is the conclusion that some in the latter category have about the future of the church. Some in the missional movement claim that unbelievers and younger Christians are no longer attracted by the former model. I have read the term "inneffective" used to describe the programs of the attractional fellowship. My problem is that I see little eveidence to back up that claim. One panel member defending this view stated that "younger people in the city will not be drawn to larger attractional churches characterized by preaching and music." What this panel member failed to recognize is that they were coming to large churches in droves. DBBC has as many people joining in worship between the ages of 18 and 35 as we do 60 and up. 

Advocates of the missional church claim it is more similar to the early church. My problem with that thinking is that I haven't found a missional church yet that is multiplying many converts or birthing new congregations as did the early church. However, I do know that most large attractional churches, like DBBC, are sending out missionaries almost weekly to some place in the world. In the last several months people from Dallas Bay have traveled to Romania, Costa Rica, South Africa, Canada, China, Thailand, Belgium and Malta. Here in the US we have gone to Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Tennessee. In a few weeks we are going to activate an army of hundreds of volunteers to do mission work right here in our city. 

Those who say missional churches are the evangelistic tool of the future are seeing a trend that I have not personally experienced. This is my 20th year as senior pastor of DBBC and we are going to baptize more than any year in our history. Missional church advocates also claim that younger people and non-believers are not willing to come to a location like a church and be discipled or taught. I agree there are more ways than one to skin a cat, but once again we have classes on our campus mornings and evenings almost everyday of the week. We have only begun meeting in homes to attract more students and because we have run out of facilities. 

Yes, people are still attracted to good music, children's programs, senior adult activities and Biblical preaching. For that I make no apologies. But there is more to being a large attractional church than just programs. There is also power. When Spirit filled believers gather in one place for worship there is power. When thousands gather to pray and praise God there is power. When the Word is shared with a dynamic and growing body of believers they can turn the world upside down. I'm not saying a lot of people in one place is a powerful church. A mass of people without God is just a mess. But a mass of people who are filled with the Spirit of God and who are fed the Word of God can be a mighty force to be reckoned with.

I hope in the future there are examples of fruitful and multiplying missional churches. I believe there is room in this world for both models. I also know that the old saying is true; "If it ain't broke don't fix it!" So for now I am blessed to pastor a church, of any size or style, where people are coming to know Jesus and lives are being changed for the better. 

Pastor Ken        

Tradition versus Innovation

Last Sunday people filing into the worship center at DBBC were greeted with reflective mylar surfaces and balloons representing mirrors. It was a stark contrast from the bare minimums of the last few weeks whenI spoke of choices in a person's life. The contrast is indicative of a bigger picture. A balance we try to maintain. Tradition with innovation. My natural tendency is to always abandon tradition for innovation, but I know that is not healthy. We all struggle for balance in our lives and this is where I often get out of balance. 

A world without tradition is a world with endless novelty and innovation. While I'm an advocate of both, I also understand a life of no tradition would rob it of meaning and continuity. While life continues to change at an ever increasing rate, tradition can become a bedrock of memory that connects us to those who have gone before us. Like standing at the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag or pulling to the side of the road as the hearse and family car pass by. Yet tradition mindlessly repeated becomes meaningless. I recently read about a soldier in Russia who stood at attention in an empty field. No one knew why he was to stand in such a non-strategic place until the mystery was discovered. It seems an ancient Czar had spotted the first bloom of a crocus flower in that spot andappointed a soldier to guard that spot and had never rescinded his order. Now compare that empty ritual to the meaningful and powerful guard who stands at the tomb of the unknown soldier. One Russian soldier performs an empty ritual while the American soldier performs an honored tradition full of meaning and privilege. 

So please be patient as I struggle to keep traditions that have purpose such as our patriotic presentations at the 4th of July and Memorial Day. Also be aware that God calls me to be inventive and creative as I seek to present the gospel to our generation. Sometimes that means innovative use of media and drama, visuals on the platform, or even my personal dress to get the age old message across to a modern audience. I have been charged by my Savior to use all the tools and gifts at my disposal to do my best. Jesus said it this way, "Every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." (Matthew 13:53) So don't blame me, He said it!

Pastor Ken