Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Gems in Blogland

I've been away from the blog for a few days and this evening as I was catching up on some of the blogs I regularly read, there were several that were powerful...

Larry James has a terrific story about being a neighbor...

Craig Jones is an old friend dating back to my freshman year at Harding. His wife Jan has cancer, and he sent this article by Tony Snow to David Underwood. It provides a tremendous perspective on life, death, and disease...

Brian Mashburn's most recent post contains a link to this thought-provoking article describing the current condition of the churches of Christ by Joe Beam...

Many of you are aware of the wreck a couple of months ago that took the life of Conner Brown and severely injured his sister Bailey Brown, two of the children of Tod and Lee Ann Brown. I knew that Tod was a minister on the staff of a church in Midland, but did not realize until some time later that Lee Ann was the daughter of John and Rosalyn Bailey and the sister of Steven Bailey - a family that I have been acquainted with since my first year in the classroom. The Browns' journal is heart-wrenching and encouraging - an honest account of their struggle and faithfulness as they attempt to pick up the pieces of their family.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Free Movie...

This Sunday night, The Skillman Church of Christ will host a free screening of the movie Sophie Scholl. The movie will be shown in the church’s sanctuary at 3014 Skillman from 5-7PM and following the showing of the movie the audience will be invited to participate in a discussion about the film that will end at 8 PM. We will serve refreshments during the discussion time.

The movie set in 1943 tells the true story of Sophie Scholl, who along with her brother, is a member of the White Rose, a non-violent anti-Nazi group. At great personal risk, she, her brother and their friends distribute literature challenging Hitler and the Nazi government. Eventually, the government arrests her and her brother and tries them for crimes against the state.

The film raises many important questions such as, what do we value the most in life? Can we stand on our convictions when everything and everyone else opposes them? When is civil disobedience appropriate?

If you have any questions call the church office at 214.823.2179

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's WHO You Know...

We were in Austin this weekend and visited the University Avenue church this morning. They are beginning a series on getting to know Jesus better. Mark Love (not The Mark Love of PMC) is one of their ministers and spoke this morning. He was describing a number of situations in his life where he had benefited - tickets to sporting events, cutting through red tape, etc - because he knew someone, and used that old phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know".

The typical context for that phrase is often politics or business, or a combination of the two. It is sometimes used as sour grapes, but is often used in a fatalistic acknowledgement of reality. And in that context there may not be anywhere that it is more true than Austin, unless it's Washington...

But when it comes to our relationship with and standing before God, there is no truer statement - It really is WHO we know. And I think that the series at the University Avenue church is right on track. I believe we have settled way too often for the what we know - knowledge about the Father, about the Son, about the Spirit - and have been unable or unwilling to recognize that knowledge about is not the same as knowing God, knowing Jesus, knowing the Spirit. Brian Mashburn put it this way in a recent post, and I think he is right on target...

The great change in my life was the focus on depth, not breadth. I'm not interested in learning more stuff about the Bible as much as I am interesting in understanding and assimilating and becoming the stuff that I have already learned. I'm not as interested in more people being "in my church" as much as I am interested in the people "in my church" taking their next step into Christlikeness. I'm not as interested doing more stuff in my Christian service as I am in doing less stuff more deeply. I believe that the focus on depth can lead to breadth, if God deems it, but that the focus on breadth steals depth.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More on Missional Benevolence

In timely regard to the conversation and comments to this week's earlier post, the current issue of Leadership Journal includes Missions That Heal, an article by Joel Wickre that speaks directly to the concept of doing good with the best of intentions. Here are the first few paragraphs...

In my own attempt to deal with poverty in a Christlike way, the most profound lesson I've learned is also the most obvious: Poor people are people. Those who live and die in want of basic needs are just as smart, beautiful, creative, motivated, holy, and wise as you and I. They are also just as dumb, ugly, dull, lazy, sinful, and foolish as you and I. Living in Nicaragua, Mexico, and more recently Kenya alongside people in poverty, I've seen how our inability to identify with people across the wealth divide can subvert our good intentions in missions, hurting the people we're trying to love.

Examining our blindness to the humanity and volition of poor people would reveal a deeper issue underlying poverty: broken fellowship. We show our alienation from God by toxic relationships with each other, inequality, and poverty on a local and global scale. Fellowship among believers is at the heart of God's vision of redemption, alongside his desire for us to have individual relationships with him.

Maintaining healthy relationships across the wealth divide, however, is not easy. Lack of awareness of the enormous power differential between the "servants" and the "served" has led countless well-meaning mission groups to disempower poor communities. People who are treated as helpless come to hold a lesser view of themselves. People who believe they are "blessed to be a blessing" and in no need themselves come to a lesser view of the people they serve. These victim and savior complexes create a co-dependency that perpetuates the problems of poverty and far outweighs any temporary relief such missions provide.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reasons For Hope

A couple of significant signs of hope for Skillman's future...

Sunday morning James and some of the youth gave a brief report on their recent trip to New Orleans. That our kids and sponsors have been willing the last 2 summers to spend a week in the 9th Ward serving in dirty, humid, almost unfathomable conditions is in itself a good thing. But the sign of hope is in what James said at the conclusion of the report - "As we did in New Orleans, let us do in Dallas"....

The Friends (Young Adults) class has been exploring what it means to be missional in the community, and some have begun a practice of meeting an hour early each Sunday morning to pray for Skillman's efforts in this area. Below is a copy of the email reminder sent out today...

Hey guys,Just a reminder - to those of you interested in lifting up Skillman in prayer as we seek God for direction for our church and community, we will be meeting at 8:00 am before church every Sunday in the Prayer Room. (The Prayer Room is a room in the back and to the right of the auditorium if you are standing on stage looking at pews.)Hope to see you all there!

"Prayer and meditation have an important part to play in opening up new ways and new horizons. If your prayer is the expression of a deep and grace-inspired desire for newness of life—and not the mere blind attachment to what has always been familiar and "safe"—God will act in us and through us to renew the Church by preparing, in prayer, what we cannot yet imagine or understand. In this way our prayer and faith today will be oriented toward the future which we ourselves may never see fully realized on earth."- Thomas Merton

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Missional Benevolence?

Underlying many of our conversations at Skillman about becoming missional is a consistently voiced thought that the purpose of our participation in the Partnership for Missional Church is to attract more people and increase our numbers. I've not been articulate enough to bring about an understanding that becoming missional is about fulfilling the mission that Jesus gave us, that attracting new members may be a by-product but is not the goal. Transformed lives is the goal...

A recent conversation about reviving our Benevolence Program illustrates. A comment was made that we need to revive our food pantry because we have people who want to have a food pantry and who enjoy working in it. We need to provide that opportunity for them so we can retain them. Also, if people see that we have a benevolence program, they will find that attractive and want to be a part of it.

We may need to revive the food pantry, or we may not. If we do, it should be in partnership with our community to address a need in our community - not to provide a program to make our members happy or to be attractive to the neighborhood. The missional mindset has not yet become the norm...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Jesus Story

From the first century to the twenty-first century, stories have been a God-ordained medium for communicating truth. We would have been wiser to see the whole of Scripture as narrative carrying a single story of divine love, intervention, and redemptive work than as a law book. We would have grasped the gospel more naturally and communicated it more effectively.

More and more, I am reading and writing and telling The Jesus Story without syllogisms. Without argument. Without nuanced theology. Without mental gymnastics. It is dawning on me that a clear, compelling account of the heart, life, and words of Jesus creates a singular passion. People ache to get into the picture with him. - Rubel Shelley

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Screwtape Redux

In C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, a high-ranking official in the beaurocracy of Hell named Screwtape gives his nephew Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining the faith of Christians, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Patrick Mead has written a contemporary letter from Screwtape and posted it on his blog. Here is a sampling of it...

Full churches can mean that we are winning! If those churches are full of people there for the health, wealth, family benefits, friendship, minister, programs, worship… we win. Those kind of believers want the crown without the cross, not realizing that that isn’t the way it works.
There IS a church member who is dangerous to us. That is the one who is there because of their love for Jesus.

You can read the entire letter here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quote for the Day

We need to forget the imaginary Christ who has been ours too long and to rediscover the real Christ, the Christ of the prophets and the martyrs and the confessors, the Christ who is not only the lover of souls but also master, a monarch with demands to make in industry, in finance, in education, in the arts, in marriage, in the home; the Christ who is teacher of a social ideology which has eternal validity; the Christ who cries aloud with convincing force, "He who would save his life will lose it; only he who is willing to lose his life, can find it."... Bernard Iddings Bell

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Priority of God

We have adopted a new committee structure at Skillman - from my perspective it is an effort to move administrative tasks off the Elders' agenda to allow us to focus on more important things a la Acts 6. It will likely take some time and some adjustment, but there is hope...

One of the committees I am assigned to is the Worship Committee. As I run across articles and other resources to share with the committee, I will post some excerpts here. The following is the final paragraph from a 1998 article in Worship Leader...

The great need of the church today is neither to cling to the old or to create the new forms and formats. Our greatest need today is to recover the priority of God in our worship and in the whole of life. The wineskin issues are totally secondary to the more pressing need for the new wine of the Spirit. The crisis in worship today is not a crisis of form but of spirituality. When worship renewal comes, the congregation pursues God Himself as its ultimate objective. God Himself is treasured above any experience, any feeling or any result of worship. Love to God will be the dominant affection expressed through the various forms of worship. Fresh commitment to God is the common response of the entire worshiping community. Worship becomes an end in itself rather than the means to some other end. Worship will be experienced as a relationship with God being dynamically acted out rather than merely being a function of the church. - Bruce H. Leafblad, Worship 101: Recovering the Priority of God

Monday, July 09, 2007

Barbara Brown Taylor on Leaving Church...

One of the writers that Dwight occasionally quotes from is Barbara Brown Taylor . The following is from her latest book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith...

"Gradually I remembered what I had known all along, which is that church is not a stopping place but a starting place for discerning God's presence in this world. By offering people a place where they engage the steady practice of listening to divine words and celebrating divine sacraments, church can help people gain a feel for how God shows up--not only in Holy Bibles and Holy Communion but also in near neighbors, mysterious strangers, sliced bread, and grocery store wine. That way, when they leave church, they no more leave God than God leaves them."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The World We Live In

If there was a village of 100 people representing the earth's more than 6 billion people, in the existing human ratios as they are in the world today, it would look something like the following:

61 would be from Asia
13 would be from Africa
12 would be from Europe
9 would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
5 would be from North America

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white
30 would be white

31 would be Christian
21 would be Muslim
14 would be Hindu
6 would be Buddhist
12 would believe in other religions
16 would not be religious or identify themselvesas being aligned with a particular faith

82 would be able to read and write
18 would not
1 would have a college education
1 would own a computer

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

I woke up this morning with more health than illness...I am more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

I have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation...I am more blessed than 500 million people in the world.

I can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death...I am more blessed than three billion people in the world.

I have food in the refrigerator, clothes on my back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...I am richer than 75% of this world.

I have been given much; much is expected of me.