Friday, April 28, 2006

Submission to Authority

I was at church Wednesday night as I always am and as I was walking through the lobby, I noticed a brochure about "How to Become a Member" at Otter Creek. I'm always interested in how we're presenting ourselves to people that come in. I think perspectives on ourselves are always interesting and perceptions of how other people perceive us are intruiging to me as well.

So I'm looking through this brochure and agreeing and disagreeing with stuff, like I always do, and I come to the section called "Expectations of Members." I wish I had the brochure with me, because I'd type them all in, but one that stuck out to me was to Submit to the Authority of the Elders and the Scripture reference was Hebrews 13:7 or 13:17, and I honestly can't remember which one. However, the concept is the important part of this.

What I start to wonder about is how does a member react to leadership and/or eldership when you disagree with a decision that is made or being made. For instance, I became pretty opposed to moving to the corner of Franklin Road and Concord Road for a variety of reasons. What I did was take my concerns to an elder and gave him a letter outlining them to take to the other elders and the leadership of the church. Was that the right thing to do? I honestly couldn't think of any other way to go about it.

So here's the question of the day: If you disagree with what an eldership/leadership is deciding, what do you do? And I think this works on two levels. One is the minutiae. Little things like a DVD at the beginning of a service, or when the Lord's Supper happens, or if instruments are on stage, even if we're not using them.

The other is the big stuff like the direction of the church. What is the focus/mission/driving principle. And if you disagree with that aspect of things, what do you do?

Do you keep going with the church and just be a malcontent, or better enter into dialogue with people to see where they're coming from, even if you disagree? Or do you leave and try to find another congregation with a mindset more in line with yours?

I think congregations benefit from divergent mindsets and the dialogue that can come from that. However, at what point do the opinions and ideologies become too divergent?

I realize I'm asking a lot of questions in this post, but that's because I really don't know. I would be very interested in the thoughts concerning this.

Also, for those interested Episode 9 of the Post-Restorationist Radio podcast is available. It's entitled Maintenance vs. Mission.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Teaching Story

I talked a few weeks back about a story from my years teaching English at MLK here in Nashville, so I thought I'd share some of that with you guys.

I was very fortunate to get a teaching job right out of college and even luckier to get one at an academic magnet school. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a magnet school, the idea is that something about the school draws kids from the suburbs into the inner city areas. In MLK's and Hume-Fogg's cases, it's academics. It's all a part of the desegregation plan from 1972 and then re-upped in 1983.

The nice thing about getting into a magnet school was that I had gone to Hume-Fogg for high school, another academic magnet, so I knew the mindset of a lot of these kids. Pretty high test scores, a lot of things academically had come easy to them and this was going to be some of the first real challenges that some of them had faced and they would react in different ways. Some would rise to the challenge, some would continue their "class clown" ways to avoid dealing with the idea that they might not be the smartest kid in class now, and some were really good testers but not great students.

So, in my second year (I'll talk about the first year one of these days; therapy is really helping ;-)), I got two classes of 8th grade history, in addition to my 1 class of Senior English and two Creative Writing rotations. The second History class was the final period of the day and so kids (and teachers) were punchy any way. Add to this that the class was 14 kids: 12 boys and two girls. And one of the girls was, shall we say, an early developer. And all the boys were fascinated with her. Now, 8th grade boys are hormones who happen to have legs. So they would do crazy stuff to get her attention. Straws up their noses, pencils in the ceiling, yelling out random cuss words in class, crazy stuff.

Well, I would rant and rave to get their attention and keep it in class, but I could usually only hold it for 10 minutes or so, or if we were talking about a war, sometimes the whole class. Finally I had had enough and I decided to use a strategy I had heard about from another teacher. One kid in particular had been giving me a lot of trouble and on this day it was the last straw. I actually forget what he did, but I'm sure I'd told him not to do it before. Nothing had worked before. However, I knew there was one thing that 13 year old boys hate more than anything else: embarassment in front of their friends.

So, I went to my desk and got out his personal information sheet. I got out my cell phone and in front of the class, I called his mom at work. I told her who I was and said that her son wanted to tell her something. I handed him the phone and he told her what he'd done. She talked for a couple of minutesthen he handed the phone back to me with tears in his eyes, apologized, and went back to his seat. His mom told me he shouldn't be a problem anymore and that if he was, to please call her back.

He, in fact, wasn't a problem anymore and that class got much, much better from then on. And while my relationship with him was strained for a couple of days, he got much better behaved and became a pretty good kid.

This is also the class where I developed my "fake test key on the ground next to my desk" gambit, but I'll tell that story another day.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I was thinking about U2's Joshua Tree album (CD, whatever) the other day, mainly because I found the DVD of Rattle and Hum in the $5.50 bin at Wal-Mart Friday night. I started thinking that it was 19 years ago that it came out. And then I felt older.

At any rate, I remember the first time I heard the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and it was rather confusing to me. I was a teenager and a Christian and trying to find ways that I could be a Christian in my high school and still be considered "cool." And Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Petra just weren't cutting it.

U2 provided that opportunity. People could ask what I was listening to on my Walkman and I didn't haven't be embarrassed to pull it out. However, as I listened to their biggest hit from the tape I did get confused.
I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
But yes I'm still running.
You broke the bonds
You loosened the chains
You carried the cross
And my shame
And my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
I liked the song because it felt a little like Ecclesiasties and going through the litany of futile pursuits. And I like that Jesus appears as the climax of the song.

It was obvious that the song was talking about Jesus, but I got really confused about why the singer hadn't found what he's looking for. If he found Jesus, shouldn't he have found what he's looking for?

I think the conversation on Friday really crystallized this song for me. I have found Jesus and I've found that following him is the way of life that I want to pursue. I wonder if what U2 is talking about is finding a community of people committed to following too. I wonder if U2 is talking about the church. I don't know, but after we all talked on Friday (and I hope that conversation isn't over, even in that topic), I wondered about that.

I think the hope found in the song and the hope that we can all bear is that we have to keep looking. Some of us are going to find that community we need at the church we are at (Otter Creek for me). Others might have to keep looking. And while we still might not have found what we're looking for, we do have to keep looking.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Church Growth

The one where Phil might step on some toes (including his own).

As some of you may not know, the congregation I attend, Otter Creek Church of Christ, has recently moved into a new building. It's moved us from a 600 (on a packed day) seat sanctuary to a 1300 seat one. It's enabled us to go to one worship service and it's generally a full one. Apparently there have been quite a few people who have been waiting for Otter Creek to get a larger building to come visit and/or place membership.

Our church is following a standard set up for churches in America.

On one hand, I'm proud that people can come to Otter Creek and find something that they need there. I'm proud that the church I've grown up at is somewhere that people can find encouragement and challenge and good teaching and good worship. I like that people like this guy can come and have a good experience.

But then I wonder...

I wonder if the measure of our success as a church should be the number of people that attend. That's an easy number to count and an easy way to measure "success," but I don't think that's the measure that we as followers of Christ should use. What we should use is a much, much harder standard to measure by any objective means. I believe the standard for church growth is how the people of that congregation are embodying Christ in their lives.

And like I said, that's a hard standard and one that we're not used to measuring. We're used to the measure of a good Christian being how often they attend services and if they're basically good people. But God calls us to such a higher standard than that, that I really think we settle for way less. You see, being called to follow Christ really means to be an imitator of Christ. And that's not so much to do exactly what Christ did, mainly because we're not first Century Jewish Rabbis. What that means is that we try to live our lives as if Jesus were living them. How would Jesus live as a usability engineer, mother, teacher, lawyer, receptionist? If Jesus were confronted by the jerk in the cube on the other side of the wall from me, yakking on his phone all day much too loudly, how would he respond?

We are called to be Christ's disciples in this world. We are called to be the Body of Christ, and the measure of a congregation's success should be the zeal that her members have for carrying to love of Christ to every corner of their lives. It's not enough to punch the church clock and be a good person. It's not enough to believe that Jesus is the Christ. It just isn't. If our lives don't mirror Jesus, we're not really following Christ. And if a congregation doesn't promote that lifestyle to its members, then that church can only be counted as a failure.

It may have huge numbers. It may have great worship. It might have great teaching. But without the person of Jesus being mirrored and lived out in the fabric of the members, it's a nice building with nice people. But not really followers of Christ.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Rock and Roll, Dude"

Thanks for all the welcome back's. It's always nice to be missed, even if it's just the writing that I've done. Btw, I made a change to my link section. I made everything so that it opens up in a new window. Do you guys prefer that or the old way where you had to click back here? The old way boosts my hit count, but it seemed like it would be annoying to have to click Back every time to come back to the list of links. This is where the usability engineer in me comes out. If enough people want it the old way, I'll change it back. Otherwise, I'll leave it like this. Also, note that I've added quite a few people in the Otter Creek blog section.

On to the family update.

We're about 6 weeks from Connnor's due date and getting more and more excited. Like I said yesterday, we spent last week doing some painting in Connor's room and will do some more this week in painting yellow stripes on the blue background, which is going to look really neat. My mom is also having a muralist (?) come out and she's going to paint something on the walls to match the theme of the room which is a circus (no scary clowns though [shudder]). Probably ballons or something like that.

Kinsey is getting more and more excited and she really enjoyed doing Connor's bear on Friday night. I think she is going to be such a great big sister. Possibly a tad bossy, but I've heard big sister's can be like that, but never big brothers. :-)

Kinsey and I have also been having some struggles with each other. Both of us are extremely stubborn and I think that she sometimes pushes my buttons just to see my reaction. I wouldn't have thought that a 4, almost 5 year old could be that manipulative, but I was totally wrong. She is. And we've had to have some serious discussions, a lot of time outs, and a few swats on the bottom. Bedtime has not been as fun recently as what it used to be, but last night was great.

As I was putting her to bed and reading her the storybook edition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (oh, and she watched the movie of it the other day; I'll talk about that later), she put on her sunglasses and climbed into bed. I told her how cute she looked and she raised her glasses up to her forehead and said, in a very affected voice, "Rock and Roll, dude." She is truly my daughter. I've got to get that on video, because the potential for future embarassment is just too great.

Have a great day.

Monday, April 17, 2006

So... How've you been?

Well, it was a very interesting 40 days without blogging. I found it to be an experience that had some unexpected outcomes. On the positive side, I had a bit more time, not having to write and think about writing. There was no pressure on me to try and come up with something deep to write on the blog when necessary. On the other hand, I didn't have the same outlet for my thoughts that I've had for the last year. So that really brought home the meaning of giving something up for Lent.

Of course, like I said yesterday, it's nice to be back.

So, here's what went down with me while I was gone. Otter Creek moved into its new sanctuary. This has positives and negatives that I'm sure I'll discuss in the near future. I served my first Sunday as the technical director of the worship services and I'll talk about that in the near future too (probably on the same day). I went to Colorado to go skiing with Sheryl, Kinsey, and my mom and dad. I read my first fun fiction book in a long time, Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers. A great fun book, btw. I've been heads down in a project at work. Sheryl and I have cleaned out the former office and her dad painted the walls a light blue last week. We'll paint yellow stripes on the wall at some point in the next week. This weekend I cleaned the carpets and got a closet system for his room. Kinsey and I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop on Friday and made a bear for her and she made one for Connor, which I think she'll enjoy knowing that she made something like that for him. I've also been reading The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal, which has been very interesting. I'm sure I'll be talking about that one.

Let's see, anything else? I don't think so. Adam Ellis and I continued doing the Post-Restorationist Radio Podcast which has been as fun as always.

Oh, I started doing a podcast of Lee Camp's class on the atonement that he's teaching at Otter Creek this spring. If you're not familiar with Lee Camp, he is a Bible professor at Lipscomb University. You also need to read Mere Discipleship right now. My current spiritual journey has been as informed by Mere Discipleship as much as by Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. Give Lee a shot. You will get some great thinking out of both the podcast and the book.

So anyway, I'll be getting back on my schedule of Mondays for what I'm reading and watching, Tuesdays for family, and Fridays for my other stuff. Nice talking to you all again.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Nice to be back.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Resurrection in this time leading up to Easter, as is appropriate, I guess. And I've kind of been wondering if I consider the Crucifixion more important than it. As I've thought about the Resurrection, I wonder if I have ascribed it a lesser place than the Crucifixion. Now, I admit that this might be the focus on Jesus' suffering that the Lent season brings, but possibly not.

You see, I wear a cross as do many Christians as a symbol of my devotion to Jesus. And the Cross is critical to understanding Jesus' purpose here on Earth, but it is not the sole reason for His coming. In other words, Jesus coming as a sacrifice for sin is not His only reason for existence. If it were, Jesus could have come as a fully-grown human, died on the Cross, and stayed dead.

What the Resurrection means, must mean, is that death is not the end. If what 1 Corinthians 15:20 says is true, then Jesus is the firstfruits of the Resurrection of the dead. And that means that death is not the end. That when Jesus talks about eternal life, it means that there's something after death.

Resurrection is a victory over death. Resurrection tells us that we don't have to fear losing our lives and we don't have to fear the end of them. Resurrection is hope, Resurrection is victory and Resurrection is Life. I hope today brings you a reminder of that life and the joy that can accompany it.

And as a visual reminder, I give you these done by a colleague at work for Otter Creek's Easter Celebration tonight:

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