Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cowtown Lutheran on Vacation

Forgot to mention in my previous weeks post about my blog series that it would not begin until Tuesday May 31st as I am on vacation in Wisconsin this week.  Will see you in a week!

Until then, be thinking Evangelism!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Blog Series? Yes Indeed!

Ok, so I have occasionally done sermon series in the past.  Usually based on the Lectionary texts, tied to a season (which is actually easier than many folks think it is).  But I have never done a blogging series, until now! Today I begin something new, focused on an issue that has been brought up again and again in conversations I have had lately.

So what is that issue, the dread word is...EVANGELISM!

Despite the fact that we are people of the Gospel (literally εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion) or "Good News!") so often we recoil from the prospect of actually sharing this good news with others.  Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that some even contend that the goal of a congregation to increase the size of a church, or "church growth", might not be the most noble of goals.  

This is very strange to me in that I believe Christ was quite clear in Acts 1 that he desired us to take the Gospel to the nations and that we were expected to both face challenge and be successful in inviting others to know the wonder of a relationship with God.  So why is it so hard for us to engage in honest and hopeful Evangelism (as opposed to the Evangelism of fear that so many propagate)?  Why has church growth become a dirty word in our circles?  Can't we grow our communities, care for the poor and aged, help nurture new disciples, baptize the young and old, bury the dead and in all of this be evangelical?

So what do we make of this.  In the next 5-6 weeks I want to take on a series of topics related to evangelism that I hope might spark conversation at Trinity as well as in other places.  These topics (I will mostly cover one a week, but perhaps depending on the spirit, add new ones or subtract others) are...

1) What is Evangelism? (in 750 words or less, I am challenging myself)
2) Do signs, advertising, mailers actually work in generating visitors? 
3) Who is visiting your church?
4) Why would any of those folks join a church today?
5) Why would they join your church?
6) Why does this matter at all?

So we shall see where we go in this series.  But if nothing else, it keeps me accountable to actually blogging.  BTW: check out our church website at (of course nothing I say here represents what they think, after all, I just preach there, they think for themselves) because if you do it will drive up our traffic and that makes Google happy and Taylor happy. So visit the site at least twice a day ok!  See you next week (I will be blogging from Wisconsin!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Snakes and Spiders

So I actually got a comment on my blog last week when I ventured into the territory of current political events.  To be clear, I don't do that simply to generate controversy, but I do want to have open and stimulating conversation.  If we as Christians who think do not engage the world, those who do will wind up speaking for us in ways we might not appreciate.

That said, I would like to take on another of the conversations that have arisen in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Much of what I have seen have been comments like "we cut off the head of the snake."  Basically, stating that if the head is cut, the body will soon die.

A quick story from my childhood.  Playing at a friends farm, I remember one afternoon moving a toy dump truck and underneath it was a baby rattlesnake probably 8-10 inches long.  Screaming for my friends father, I ran away and he came with a hoe.  In one quick movement, the snake no longer had its head.  However, for the rest of the afternoon we watched in horror as its body twitched and shivered.  I never came within 5 feet of that shaking snake.

My point is two-fold...
1) Even if you cut off the head of the snake, be prepared for convulsions to follow which will be both frightening and sad.  These are the death pangs of the organism.  The good news is, the organism finally stopped moving after several hours and died.
2) But ultimately, despite this horror, hope that you have killed a snake.  Because in my leadership, I try very hard not to create snakes, but to create spiders.  Spiders spin webs.  These webs have no clear head, they are strung to many points of contact so that if you kill/separate one, there are others to pick up the slack.  The webs are complicated, with many strands that make them confusing, but also resilient and hard to destroy.  Good leaders create webs of accountability and authority, so that organizations are flexible and resilient, able to weather even hurricanes, and certainly weather to death of one leader.

For the sake of the world, I pray Osama's organization is a snake, but I worry that it will be a web.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Saying "I"

Sunday night about 9:30pm, the news started breaking into all the TV shows.  Apparently something big had happened, indeed, as K learned from the texts that started blowing up in the TCU library, Osama Bin Ladin had been found and killed.  About an hour or so later President Obama got on TV to announce that indeed the news was true.

In theory, this was a big win for the US in the war on terror, but of course in our 24 hour news cycle, winning elections is the only thing that really matters, so immediately the talk began, was this a big win for President Obama?  So jaded by political process, we couldn't even take 10 minutes to reflect on the reality our nation had chosen to assassinate this man, that his death would drag up issues for thousands of Americans whose lives were taken because of his leadership.  No, we immediately have to make it political.

Not long after that conversation began of course, the criticism started.  I saw it on facebook, from friends who couldn't bear to congratulate the president on the success of the military he commands to those who ripped into him for saying "I" too much.

Whether you support Obama as our president or not, whether you voted for him or not, I think this critique is a fascinating study in leadership.  Reading the text of his speech, there are but 2 paragraphs in which he references his role in this event.  He identifies in those 2 paragraphs his role as commander in chief to both authorize the following of leads and ultimately authorizing an incursion into another sovereign nation's air space.

Obama took a big risk on Sunday night.  Had the helicopters not functioned, had the bunker been empty, had the Pakistani air force shot down a US chopper, had US servicemen died in the incursion, it would have been him standing there taking the failure.  When you are the leader, it is you who are on the line.  30 some years ago, another Democratic President had to go on national television and own up to the fact that an incursion into a middle eastern nation's airspace, an incursion intended to free US hostages, had failed.  Many attribute his loss in the next election to that failure.

When you are a leader, you have to say "I" a lot.  Usually it is in defeat.  You take the blame when things go wrong and you should.  But occasionally, you get to say "I authorized that" and get a measure of credit for taking a risk.  Time will tell if he actually will profit politically from this.  And I can honestly say I hope he doesn't.  Because this I believe wasn't a "political" move.  This was a decision made for the safety and security of the world.  It certainly will not free us of violence, for violence cannot possibly accomplish that.  But today the world has one less bully in it, and it is because a man who the American people had given the authority to do so, said go.  I for one, think we should give him some credit for that and then encourage him to get our economy moving again.  Cause at the end of the day, "It's the Economy stupid..." that really matters.