Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't choke on your coffee:

I love coffee.  I go through at least a pound of beans a week.  French press is the best way to drink coffee, in case you were wondering.  So, when I was asked if I was going to stop drinking my favorite brand, Starbucks, the question was significant...

The question was in response to the subject of Starbucks providing insurance benefits for the partners of their homosexual employees.  In other words, could I still drink or purchase a product from a company that holds a different moral view than I do on gender relations.  Phrased another way: Does my patronage or financial support of a company like Starbucks with their different moral stance, compromise my beliefs, and, am I a hypocrite if I continue to enjoy their product?

Unequivocally, I answered yes I would still enjoy my Starbucks.

[Before I go further, this conversation I had on Starbucks was short, safe, and non-confrontational.  This wasn't an argument or debate; it was simply a probing question someone who knows me well asked.  I thought the question might be interesting to more people, upon consideration, I thought a blog post was in order.]

If you don't buy Starbucks because they have different views than you do on marriage or on the right gender orientation, that's okay.  I'm not their advocate.  I'm not taking their side.  I'm not even promoting their product, I simply enjoy their coffee so this makes a great example.

If you have quit using any company's product or participated in a "boycott" at all, then all I'm raising for you to consider is: Be consistent.  And ask, where will you and how you "draw the line"?

Consider the fact that our oil comes, mostly, from Muslim countries.  If you are a Christian, like I am, then you might want to think long and hard about this.  Yours and mine, our continual dependence on OPEC is fueling their economy, and building their Mosques...  The leader of Iran, Ahmadinejad, seems like a dangerous tyrant.  If we stopped purchasing his oil, I think he'd be riding a rusty old Schwinn bicycle and would be pretty harmless.  Why haven't we had people in an uproar saying lets stop buying Arabic oil?  

Also, don't buy any products made in China, or use products that have Chinese parts in them, like the computer you are on now.  Or, don't utilize the services the Chinese-made components your Internet provider uses to stream the Internet into your home.  Why?  The human-right's issues in China are despicable.  They force abortions on mothers who have too many children.  Child-labor is abundant, and in unsafe conditions.  Unclean and unsafe industrial circumstances maim thousands of Chinese monthly.  And, again if you are a Christian, the Chinese government has a low tolerance on the Christian church.  I've read stories of government officials killing house-church leaders by the tens-of-thousands annually.

Oh, and don't buy any American products that pollute the atmosphere or poison streams, or create radioactive waste.  Or, don't support any companies that under-pay their employees either.  And, don't send your kids to schools since teachers are severely underpaid!!!

And, one final idea: I bet there are elements of the US government you disagree with, passionately.  

So, will you stop paying taxes, quit driving your car, and abstain from buying TVs or tools (I can't think of anything that isn't made in China anymore...?)  You can't avoid supporting organizations you are at odds with, it's impossible unless you" live off of the land," in which case there will still be times you can't avoid this.  

What can we do then?

  • Write a letter to the corporation you have in mind and share your opinions, in a non-threatening way.  Show them your maturity and Christian Character as you articulate your views. 
  • Be the change in the world we wish others would be.  In other words, if you are opposed to supporting same-sex couples, don't be one.  Don't engage in the behaviors you are against.  
  • Be consistent.  We can't boycott one company and not boycott them all.  Every company and Country will have contrary views; there's no escaping this reality in this world. 

Remember, patronage isn't the equivalent of endorsement; joining in with another's behaviors, attitudes or activities is though...  

Consider I Cor 5:9-13 in a broader context, "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

There is no avoiding interacting with people we disagree with, even those we see as evil.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prometheus a movie worth considering:

If given a choice, I choose reading books over watching movies, 99 times out of a 100.  Movies, anymore, simply disappoint.  The best parts seem to be all wrapped up in the previews.  Last night I took Jacob to see the newest Ridley Scott movie, Prometheus.  It was good on several counts, and I recommend it.  The movie was well acted, and the plot was good too.

In the movie, several powerful Worldview questions are raised, like: Where do we come from, where do we go when we die, what happens after death, what were we created for.  I was impressed with how well the theme was woven through the plot.

Minor Spoiler Alert:  I won't give away the whole movie, but....  The aliens that are discovered, are actually a 100% match for our DNA.  The movie also has the aliens as our creators.  The question then becomes, who made the aliens?  Why did they leave us on earth and what are their plans for us are also part of the plot too.

I really like the tension the movie raised between Faith & Science.  One scientist is a believer, her partner is a Naturalist.  The cross necklace the believer wears, like a touchstone to her faith, becomes a focal point later on in the movie when the android who has it asks if she still wants it after what appears to be a crisis of faith.  She does still want it.

Prometheus, as you might remember from Greek mythology, was the one who sought to place man on the same playing-field as the Gods of Mt Olympus, and was eternally punished.  After giving mankind fire, an angry Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock, and daily his liver was gouged out and eaten by birds, eagles I think, and it miraculously regrew so that the next day he'd be tormented again, forever.

The Christian faith, on the contrary, doesn't have a wrathful God who punishes those who seek to be God like, in fact, that's the goal of our faith -- to be like the God in Whose image we were created.  The believer in the movie doesn't lose her faith when the evidence momentarily seems to discredit her worldview, it only causes her to ask better questions.

Back to the movie.  I won't give away the ending of Prometheus.  I will say the movie was not hostile towards faith or science, a rare balance in any movies these days.  It fairly and evenly raised questions each of us needs to grapple with.  The movie also showed the limitations of mankind, even with the best science money can buy, we don't get every question answered, and we don't always get the answers we hope for.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tentmaking helped me in Rethinking actual significance

Sometimes when I get home from working concrete, I feel like I have a tangible connection with the life of Jesus or the ministry of the Apostle Paul; One having been a carpenter before His public ministry, and the other sustaining his ministry as a tentmaker.  I look at new blisters or old callouses and head in the house to shower up, and after eating with my family I might meet with someone from church or begin on Sunday's sermon.  Work, then ministry, and sometimes -- those two even overlap during the day...

Being a tenmaker now, I'm amazed at what I still continue to learn about ministry and church-life.  For starters, I didn't think I had much more to learn about ministry, after all I've been doing this for 18 years now...  So, now I want to kind of list out a comparisons of sorts.  Here are a few things I've reconsidered, 1st things I thought were important throughout the years but now they don't seem so important.  Then, I will draw out some things I neglected to see the importance in, but now see as being significant.

So, in no particular order, here's what's not so inconsequential but once was seen as really important to me:

At one time I thought keeping up with every single Facebook post or tweet on Twitter was important.  don't ask me why, I have no idea.  I would check Facebook & Twitter periodically throughout the day, as if I needed to see every update.

Always being right in church; doctrinal or practical.  If I was in a conversation, like in a meeting, I pressed hard when I was right.  Now, I don't see the need to prove anything.  If I'm right, and I really know it, I can't see the need to keep on pushing.  If I know a better method for reaching people, or a better I idea, I simply have to be patient and wait till the other people sees it for themselves.  But, as the next point covers, sometimes there's no point in trying to convince people against their will.  

Getting everybody on board.  I used to think before a church could move forward, we had to wait till everyone got on the bus.  Not anymore.  If people can't see the light, after enough time, I don't think the whole group needs to be held hostage by the comfort-zone of the few.  Time is too short, and people will find a place to serve where they are comfortable; with or without me.

Reading every new book.  I used to be addicted to Amazon.  Every good blog that posted a new book on theology, ministry, small groups, apologetics, ect, I bought it.   Now, without an education allowance, nor the time to read, I don't have the same luxury.  Still, I see now (this will segue into the next point) that reading and learning everything I can isn't the most essential element to being an effective minister.

Covering the esoteric, sublime, and trying to be profound.  I find more and more these days that the debates that go on in Ivory Towers rarely appeal to the person in the pew (well we don't have pews at New Song, but you get the point).   There are interesting topics to be sure, with a jargon all their own.  Covering  deeper points on epistemology and ontology are enchanting to me, but I think that people just want to know how to live their lives in a Christ-like way, and that's simple enough.

Never saying no.  I once felt I had to always be 100% available to every need in the congregation.  That either equates to having a Messiah syndrome, a big ego, or a need to be needed.  Plus, that short-circuits  the development of others.  I'm not saying the church isn't a big priority to me, but the cemetery is full of people who thought the company couldn't go on without them.  God will provide, and that doesn't require having me on the go 18 hours a day.

The name over the door...  It's been many years since I concluded that the name over the door of the church wasn't essential, but now I see another nuance to this.  Not only do I think other tribes have access to God, I see the benefit of laboring with people outside our traditional lines or circles.

Duration...  I used to think if I didn't preach for about a 1/2 an hour, something was wrong.  Now, I don't care if I go 15 minutes, or an hour.  I see no connection to the time of the sermon to effectiveness.  Some topics need more time, others should be quick.  The sermon topic and the audience should determine the timing, not my feelings.

Keeping up with the evening news.  My family used to accuse me of being addicted to the news.  I was a news addict according to them.  I harvested a lot of good illustrations, and felt I was staying relevant, by being in front of the TV-news for 2-3 hours a night.  Now, I can't even remember when I watched the news last.  Now, so much of what I do see when I catch a few minutes of the news is crap.

Okay, here's a shorter list, but here's the flip-side.  Here are a few things that are now important to me, but before I let slide too much:

Writing.  I've wanted to write for years, but ironically with all of the discretionary time full-time ministry provided, I didn't take/make the time to write.  I love to blog, and I've also been in a few writing projects I'm pumped about.  Now, I try to write every few days.  I don't have quota, but I'd say I'm writing two or three nights a week now.

Family vacation time.  Strangely enough, I used to have 4 weeks of paid vacation time, along with 11 paid holidays but I didn't appreciate it.  Pretty sweet deal, all that paid time off, but only once that I can remember did I take all of the weeks allotted to me.  I now see time off just chilling with my family is so valuable....

Developing our volunteers.  I don't have a clue what I was thinking before!  I guess I just figured people would do what needed to be done, and they'd somehow figure it out along the way.  After starting up New Song, I see the need for volunteers more clearly.  And, I see that ministry isn't all about education, it's about application too.  Without money for staffing, and without a huge base to draw from, we need to disciple more people than ever!

Meals together.  No, I'm not talking about simple potluck meals.  For many years our family has eaten nearly every evening meal together.  We don't sit in front of the TV, we don't scatter through the house; we eat together, purposefully.  That hasn't changed for us.  What I see more clearly now is the need for our church to fellowship together.  Before, I never would've had the courage to insist we skip a Bible study to simply eat a meal and chill together as a Church.  Now, I have no qualms about emailing everybody that on a particular Sunday night there's no Bible study, we're just going to eat together and enjoy our time of fellowship.

Fuller gender-participation.  For years I've felt our congregations should be more gender inclusive.  Now, it's a non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned.  I'm not talking about forcing the women to serve, I'm talking about not repressing them.  I've served with congregations where the women couldn't even read the announcements, and I went along with that to "keep the peace." I can't see how that suppression is logical.  At New Song women offer public prayers, preside at the Lord's Table, read Scripture, and we would be comfortable with women leading singing too.   I knew intellectually "women's roles" were larger and fuller service was acceptable, but I didn't act on my beliefs.  Now, I can't ever see not doing what I know is right.

I'm learning a lot about ministry, church, and myself by being a tentmaker.  I'm starting to think I might not have learned these things, personally, any other way...