Writing a Book, Etc.

I’ve decided to write a book, a work of fiction drawing on places I’ve lived and experiences I’ve had. It will be pretty critical of certain perspectives, so I may write it under a pseudonym. It may be self-published, if no one is willing to take it.

I’m also going to start compiling a notebook of devotions, and perhaps self-publish that (after e-mailing around during 2007).

I want to find people interested in what I am interested in to form a fellowship here in New Jersey. The point isn’t to be trendy or fundamentalist or liberal or whatever. The point is to just discover what I believe is really true, teach that and form a group. The fiction work and devotional can play a part in that.

Church Growth and $$$

The Preacher had been ministering for the little church for a little over a year before he had his first baptism. Not bad for someone who stepped into a difficult congregation that had shocked and dwindled down to 32 from a couple hundred in a matter of a few years. There had been fights. Lots of fights, and several ministers before this Preacher came along.

The young lady he had taught the gospel and baptized was received into the church. People were kind to her. But the Preacher had detractors. “He’s lazy,” they muttered. “We need whole families, middle-class people with kids and money.” I’m not kidding! This is what they said.

How do I know?

I was that Preacher.

One couple was griping that “we” should have started a Wednesday evening program to “help” unwed single mothers.

When their suggestion came, I pretended I didn’t understand that I was supposed to do it, and said: “Great, they have my full support to start such a program.”

“Er, no…I think they intended for you to do it.”

What do I, a happily married man, have to offer such a group?

I spent all of 2005 in depression over the death of my father and the horrible experience with that wretched congregation. The depression is over, but apparently I’m on to another phase: Anger.

Last night I kept waking up, thinking about the baptism incident.

What degenerate people. I sorely hope that cancerous church has closed its doors and will give place to a better church…or even a corner market would be an improvement.

Big McChurch Mart: The Birth of the Swaggering, One-Size-Fits-All, Commercialized Behemoth

Back in the bad old days, when I was a religious whipping-boy…er…I mean, when I was a fully-funded congregational minister, I attended a leadership convention in Albuquerque at the insistence of some men in my church. Wow, was it pathetic. Basically, the whole thing was an attempt to sell people in the movement (they don’t call it a denomination, though I don’t see enough “movement” in the group to make that a valid descriptor either) on a post-modern church growth strategy they call “multi-site.”

They have several locations, and several preaching ministers. They collaborate on ideas for the weekly sermon, and it is hashed out by an editor. He then e-mails the final draft to all ministers, who preach the same sermon, word-for-word, at all locations. One location focuses more on active adults, another on families, another on college students, etc.

There is a senior pastor. When asked by men at the seminar about the role of elders in this multi-site church, the senior pastor him-hahed around and said that they have good men. Truth be told, they have embraced the one-man-show routine of most Baptist-style churches. Godly, biblical shepherds who are qualified by Scriptural standards don’t fit the new mold.

You can have a hamburger and shake from a franchise, your clothes from a franchise, and your religion from a franchise. I thought denominations were already a kind of franchise, but even Episcopalians have more diversity between their congregations than this multi-site monstrosity has.

If it means giving up local identity and control, I don’t want to be a part of it.

Something Different

I’m not sure what’s formulating in my mind. The drive to plant a church is strong, and I know that I have to wait for the right time and take the right steps to bring it about. What confuses me is the enormity of the vision for what that new church might be. It is different from what I have conceived before.

It has cell groups or “house church” meetings. In fact, the cell groups might be quite different from the house churches. The former can meet at any time and place as scheduled, but the latter I see as a “Sunday thing.” Maybe.

Is it multi-site? This means that the church is not one congregation, but possibly multiple assemblies aimed at different communities. Then again, aren’t these really different congregations rather than one? If we separate people by age or interest, aren’t we dropping the conviction that “one body” is important…even essential?

Perhaps it is a cell church, one that trains leaders then goes “multi-site” with a view towards those new locations eventually having autonomy.

Hamas: Are You Really Surprised They Won?

Holy crap. People seem genuinely surprised that Hamas won so completely the elections in Palestine. When I heard, nary an eyebrow raised on my forehead.

C’mon, is everybody so completely asleep? Do you really believe that, given free elections, any Arab nation would choose anything less than an Islamic state? This is what they want. They want a theocratic nation governed along Islamic lines. They detest what they think the West stands for, and much of what they think isn’t far from the truth, though we refuse to see it.

Consider the following:

“With America in such a ‘dirty man’ period I think nothing can be changed. In America there is a Christian Zionism. They believe that Jesus will return for the second 1,000 years. You heard from Bush when he said, ‘It is a new Crusade’. He is arousing a deep hatred, an historical hatred in this area.” – Dr Mahmoud-al-Zahar, the “voice” of Hamas.

Let’s break this down. There is something “dirty” about American politics at the moment. Dirtier than usual, anyway. George W. Bush and his Vice are really good about taking care of their business buddies. There is Christian Zionism rampant in the Midwest and South. Large segments of the Evangelical Protestant community believe that the United States has a divine duty to protect and promote Israel as a part of God’s end-time plan. We are, they believe, awaiting a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. This blinds them to all else, and justifies virtually anything for the sake of this cause. Bush did call this war on terrorism a “crusade,” though I tend to think that this was merely one more unfortunate choice of words on Bush’s part.

The fundamentalisms of the West and the Middle East will fuel a drive toward destruction and war without end.

Tissue-Paper Faith
It never ceases to disappoint me when I see the instability in Protestant churches. People no longer associate themselves with a particular denomination. Though I consider the desire to be considered “Christian Only” very laudable, it disturbs me that people:
1) Quit a congregation at the drop of a hat
2) Move and don’t seek a church of the same faith they attended before
3) Don’t think the content of a church’s teachings really matter.
People say that all that matters is Jesus. Of course, he is the focus of our Christian faith, as God’s living Word revealing God in human form. However, what about teachings regarding eternal security vs. free will, or end times doctrines? Are these really irrelevant? I have a difficult time thinking so.
This tissue-paper faith is a matter of serious concern to me. Is faith really so weak and insubstantial? And worse, is it only good for spiritually wiping your nose, but not solving bigger problems and providing stability to the human heart?
Brand Loyalty

“I’d rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy!” The foregoing was the message on a lapel pin I found on the playground as a kid. Pretty classy, huh? Truth is, I prefer Chevy. More importantly, this sentiment of liking one product rather than another one is common in modern culture. Jill can’t stand Pepsi but loves Diet Coke. Jack won’t accept any pork & beans other than the Van Camp variety. Andre is a major fan of the Red Sox and has nothing but venom for the Yankees.

People have their brand loyalties. Applied to the modern nation-state, it’s called “patriotism.”

I observe, though, that with all these open signs of brand loyalty, fewer and fewer people are willing to claim a denominational or sectarian loyalty. It’s like they are ashamed to even hint that one franchise of religion has their respect over all others, for fear of being considered exclusionary or divisive.

Seems weak to me.