Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ruby Thomas

I've not been able to blog for a week due to the general demands of life, a business, a wife & 2 kids' soccer. So, yes, I've been busy.

But I want to tell you about Ruby Thomas.

Ruby is my wife's grandmother & up until a year ago, was a resident of Lafayette, GA, where she lived with her husband, Kenneth. Kenneth passed away last year & Ruby was placed in a nursing home in my hometown so my wife & my mother-in-law could be close to her.

She is a fine, fine lady.

Kenneth & Ruby were very similar in believes & attitudes. Lifelong Baptists but not the typical Baptists: they were rural GA Baptists. It was 1611 King James & women wore skirts or dresses to church. They sang from the red back hymnal & could read those shaped notes. The doors were opened & they were at church --- unless seriously ill. Yes, they were everything I believe paints Baptists in a bad light.

But they were 2 of the nicest, most humble, caring & good-hearted people I've ever met. They rarely said anything that would be considered judgemental, though they would openly tell you about their faith. Neither would harm a fly. Both believed in hard work, honesty, & doing the right thing, even if being honest had a cost to it. The loved. They cried. They planted seeds of caring.

Ruby will be not be in this life much longer. The doctor said it will be any minute now.

I'll miss her. I miss Kenneth. While I didn't agree with them on matters of doctrine, I do believe Heaven will be the better for Kenneth & Ruby being there.


Edited to add: Ruby passed away this morning, 02/29/2008. She leaves behind a daughter, a son, several grandkids & a lot of good memories for the whole family to share. Most of all, she leaves behind an influence that will live on long after her memory has faded from recollection.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Saints are Marching Out

I read an article by Dan Ivins (link to the Mercer University site) that capsulated an idea that every church needs to seriously consider in order to be a viable body of believers in the next generation. Basically, the article says that the church spends a great deal of effort on evangelism, but precious little on the "de-churched," e.g., those that leave & don't return.

Why? What happens that makes one want to leave & not return?

People leave churches for a variety of reasons, some legitimate & many more not. They don't like the pastor, but they may not go anywhere else. Some get hurt their feelings, though it happens at work everyday. Some did this or that or whatever. Minor things like that are =excuses= & excuses don't cut it.

No, Irvins is talking about those reasons that deely wound & divide people, making them leery or so damaged that attending any organized church is painful. We all know of those churches that seek to control every facet of its members' lives. We all know there are sexual predators that use religion as a means to gain trust & harm people. We all know those churches who use the Bully Pulpit to be a de facto Political Action Committee, telling the congregants what side of the political isle God is on today. And, sadly, many people have mental health issues & get their jollies out of using "truth" & the "Scripture" to brow-beat & abuse. Many churches use shame, guilt or scare tactics to keep people in line. Others are not so subtle & will use public humiliation. Those cuts on people's soul last a lot longer than a few stitches from a bar fight . . . is it any wonder the church is viewed by these people as a place of pain instead of where the Prince of Peace is shown?

I'll admit it right now; the meanest people I've ever met in my life are Christians. And those people will manipulate everything & everyone to get some power in the church because it gives them an avenue of legitimacy to just run over people. Stories are legion of deacons who are almost the Anti-Christ in charcter & action. I remember one WMU lady in particular . . . never mind.

All of those things wound people. It is real. It hurts. And it is killing churches because they are losing numbers every day.

The answer is that the churches need to seriously evaluate themselves. It means taking a long, hard look at what it is, why it is, how it got there, & where it wants to go. It means detoxifying itself --- a very painful process. It means talking to the community, former members, people who dislike the church & even people who simply "heard rumors" & then face up to its image & history. For many churches, it will mean public apologies & private weeping over past sins.

Ivins is onto a topic that is only now being discussed as a serious field of study among missional bodies. In the past, this area was only used as a pretext for evangelism or church growth. But with 75% of churches more than 25 years old either declining or plateued, this requires some serious discussion.

Here's a quote from Ivins:

The Bible is not unfamiliar with religious wounding, as in the passion narratives. Somebody joked once that God said to Job when he asked God “Why?” “I don’t know Job…there’s just something about you that ticks me off!” But being wounded in the name of God is no laughing matter.

Sadly, the life-giving words of scripture are viewed by many as toxic, not salvific―a negative collection of judgments and damnation. So the Bible has to be un-learned and re-learned from the damage caused by zealots claiming biblical inerrancy who simply have not read it. Or else they would admit that even the Bible argues with itself. If you take Jesus literally in the Fourth Gospel, you’ll miss his meaning most of the time.

The first time he preached in Nazareth, he talked about part of his agenda as “liberating the captives” (Luke 4:18). Properly so. Battered women who’ve heard their pain justified with “wives, submit to your husbands” (Eph. 5:22) could stand some biblical de-con, in the form of a healthy understanding of gender and spirituality and equal submission. Or how about some good ol’ grace for the gays, to balance the Levitical “abomination” code? After all, if we’re living, we’re living in sin.

Restoring a damaged faith is one of the most difficult journeys a person can make. We better have something for such who frequent the fellowship. If any get enough courage to give the church a second chance, they’ll need to encounter a solid theology of thoughtful answers, radical acceptance, honesty, and authentic community. None of this can happen without unconditional welcome. Anything less will be quickly exposed as a sham by the wounded.

Realistically, many of the de-churched will never darken the doors again. The damage is too deep. Hopefully, our churches can start planting seeds on the journey

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pastor in Trouble for Stripper Ministry

When young pastor Matt Brown announced he was supporting a ministry for women in the sex industry led by an x-stripper, he was expecting applause. Instead, he got cold stares and an e-mail inbox filled with angry letters. (News article.)


Seems Matt took the command of Christ to reach the down-&-out seriously. Jesus often went to the wildest parties where the guests were prostitutes, thieves, drug users & drunks. And then there is that little command to "show compassion for the least."

So when Matt decided to help an ex-stripper turned evangelist to reach out to strippers, he got the cold shoulder.

But he gave the money anyway & the stripper-turned evangelist really did get some of those ladies to come to church.

That's when the problems started. Soon the rumor was that the young pastor was using the church's money for lap dances & "other things." And it didn't help that the stripper-turned-evangelist was quite a looker.

Reminds me of Tony Campollo who once set up a birthday party for a street prostitute in a little resturant where the ladies of the evening used to congregate. A rather judgemental customer asked Campollo what kind of preacher was he, & what kind of church was he at, that would do that. He replied that he was the kid of preacher that would do what Christ did & give a birthday party for whores.

Can we really say we love people like Jesus did, if we're more concerned about how it looks than how it touches lives?

GA's Governor Sonny Perdue Mentioned as McCain VP Candidate

This is all we need. Utmost sarcasm intended.

According to WSB Radio news in Atlanta,  GA's own Sonny Perdue is being touted as a possible VP running mate for the GOP's John McCain.

I don't normally endorse a candidate. I used to until I realized it only confused the pulpit issues even more. So I don't do it. Whom I vote for will be known only to me. But in this case, I think the people of the US need to know for sure who Uncle Sonny really is.

This is the "Praying Governor." During GA's severe drought, Uncle Sonny decided some help from Providence is what we needed. So he scheduled a prayer meeting on the steps of the GA Capitol Building. Of course, he scheduled the meeting after the weather forecast had already declared heavy storms were coming in the night of the Prayer Meeting.

Talk about playing politics.

And let's not forget that he used State employees to set up the stage & chairs, etc., for the event. Even published the Glorious Event on Official GA letterhead.

So much for separation of church & state.

This is the same governor who was asked if the over building in North GA, especially around ATL, had contributed to the water shortage. Remarkably, the guy said an emphatic "no" right there on the TV in front of God & everybody. Any moron can look around ATL & the 'burbs & know that housing has exploded. But not according to Uncle Sonny. All that housing had nothing to do with it.

I've met Uncle Sonny. He is a personable guy. His wife is exceptionally nice. But he is not qualified to be the Vice President of the United States.

Isn't there another politician somewhere else that can be on the GOP losing ticket? It doesn't look good for the GOP. They can even resurrect Reagan & it would be hard for him to win in '08.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Big Fib

I'm certain that David Barton believes if he says it long enough that more will believe it. Problem is that now Congressmen are telling the same Big Fib.

Time nor space won't permit me to go into all of it but suffice it to say that Chris Rodda has outdone herself this time. She has masterfully exposed the Big Time Fibs of David Barton & his "Christian" means of telling the Whoppers to Do God's Work.

Of course, she exposed HR 888 for what it is: a political ploy to get the Revisionist View of history taught in public schools so that eventually the "True Christian History" can replace the "Godless, Liberal, Commie Garbage" being taught now.

Where's the gag spoon?

Take the time to read the piece. HR 888 is a dangerous thing because it is replete with fabrications in an attempt to rewrite our history & laws. Telling lies does not make our faith look better, Mr. Barton. It hurts our efforts. And Congressman Forbes, please stop trying to do us favors: you're hurting my discipleship efforts when the college students laugh at the obvious fabrications. Please, just stop it.

Here's the link.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More GA Legislature Stupidity

The idiots under the Atlanta Gold Dome are considering a new law. And you can tell that these morons we sent to ATL are playing politics with our emotions in an effort to pander for votes. Like that is normal.

This time, they are playing with people's lives.

Under consideration is a law that would allow people to carry concealed weapons into churches, restaurants (with alcohol being served, mind you) & "transportation facilities." As long as they have a concealed weapons permit, guns in the church.  (See news article.)

What idiocy.

All we need is to have people in a religious debate have instant access to weapons. And if you've ever seen a knock-down-drag-out in church, you know that bloodshed is right around the corner. Imagine how the pastor would feel moderating a contentious budget meeting.

Look, churches have some great folks in 'em. They also attract the most mean-spirited, nut jobs I've ever met. And we want them in a room in a religious frenzy, armed like Rambo? I certainly wouldn't feel safe knowing that some religious whack job has a loaded Glock just waiting to expend a few rounds at the heretic sitting near me.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Community Prude

We've all had to deal with them: those insufferable people in the community who don't attend the church but will be the first one to tell you what the church should be doing & saying; how to preach & act; etc. We even have a lot of members like that too, except they either only show up at business meetings or they are there every time the doors are open --- either way, they chap our butts.

Here is Prime Example of one of those people.

From the TX community of Allen, comes a "shocking" story about a church delving into what some view as a taboo topic: sex. And, yes, some are up in a tizzy over it. Especially the soccer moms of Allen, TX.

Then there is this one particular lady who happens to blog about it.

Here's the particular church ad that has gotten her so riled up.

The church wanted to talk about sex. Straight talk about sex. Even the topic titles are fairly easy to surmise what will be said.

Not so easy for a lady with an axe to grind.

I'll post a brief quote of her original post, but you simply must read her responses to people that posted comments. She is the Church Lady, Cotton Mather & Molly Hatchet all rolled into one, loveable bundle of joy.

This church has put out a large advertisement on the front page which boldly announces something to do with their church and in big bold red letters: MYSEXLIFESTINKS.TV. View it yourself here:

What the heck??!!! Our Allen American newspaper, you know the one, "In the Community. With the Community. For the Community." is now selling out this type of advertising on the front page in big bold red letters for you and your children to see!
. . .
I'm shocked and horrified that the Allen American would stoop so low as to allow this type of ad on the front page for their paper...knowing that so many children look at their paper weekly. I'm furious! And I've sent an e-mail to the powers that be at the Allen American as well as copied the Allen ISD Board and PTA Council president so that they know what their elementary aged children will be seeing this week as they peruse the paper looking for their schools pictures.

So, after sending off my "opinions" to the Allen American, I decided to go check out the web site for the church. Take a look at the next 5 weeks of their church service topics:

1. How to Have Incredible Sex
2. Manage the "Real Friends with Benefits"
3. Dating for Dummies
4. What Happens in Vegas Won't Stay in Vegas
5. Porn Versus Purity

I have a huge problem with a "church" that promotes this type of sermon, service or article. Nothing about any of these sermon topics seems religious. And I'm not one to cast criticism or opinions on another persons religious preferences but I don't consider sex a religion and that seems to be all that they are talking about at this so called church.

I've made my call to the church to let them know how infuriated I am over this advertisement and I invite you to do the same: 214-383-5851.

Also, if you didn't catch it, this church meets at Kerr Elementary school, which personally to me is like a double whammy. A church that talks about nothing but sex for 5 weeks in a row is meeting at an Elementary school in our city. The thought of that makes me nauseous. I'm glad it's not my child's school!!! Do the parents of Kerr children know about this?

Who approves this ridiculousness? Who approved the ad at Allen American? Who approved this church meeting at our schools? What can be done about any of this?

I don't know. But if you live in Allen, you should know about what's going on in your schools and how your city newspaper is helping to promote it. At minimum, just make sure you are getting the paper out of the yard instead of your children so that they don't see this trash being advertised!