Showing posts from August, 2012

Hot Button Week Four - "Saving Grace" or "Is There A True Religion?"

This is the fourth and final week of the most challenging sermon series I have ever preached.  It seems fitting that we would end it with a sermon on a grace-filled response to the issue of True Religion.

I discovered a couple of years ago to my amusement, and slight dismay, that there is actually a clothing company called "True Religion."  This is an ironic fact, considering how Consumerism and Materialism have become neo-religions in and of themselves complete with temples, (malls), vestments (fashion/clothes), priests (designers/marketers), missionaries (stars/artists) and adherents (consumers).

That, my friends, is an entirely different sort of sermon.

What I am proposing today, however, is that our culture is at an existential crossroads when it comes religion itself.  In our increasingly connected and diverse society, it is impossible to ignore our neighbors and co-workers who might practice a different faith than our own.  This collision of theology and practice in…

How Is Your Church Doing? Fellowship Of Presbyterians Tools

One of the great tools that the Fellowship of Presbyterians is providing to churches and pastors is the Narrative On The Health Of Mission And Ministry.

The foundation of this document was used by the Presbyterian Church in various settings until the 1920's to evaluate members, and fell into disuse because of various questions that were culturally bound.

If a church is an official member of the Fellowship of Presbyterians it's part of the covenant it has with the Fellowship to complete the Narrative each year for peer-to-peer review with the congregations they are together with in a mission affinity group.

I think it's a good tool that could be adopted by any church in any denomination.  I commend the questions to you:

1. How has the Holy Spirit been evident in your congregation in the past year; through conversions, growth in the fruit of the Spirit, or other transformational experiences that make disciples of Jesus Christ? 
2. How has your congregation extended itself …

Fellowship of Presbyterians Day Two: Non Manufactured Unity

So yesterday I hung out with over a thousand Presbyterians for nearly thirteen hours, and not once did we argue about:

1. Politically charged and divisive denominational statements.
2. Motions and amendments.
3. Definitions of Marriage.
4. Ordination Standards.
5. The Authority of Scripture.
6.  Whether Confessions should be ignored/changed.

Instead we worshipped, we fellowshipped, we networked and we got to discuss things like:

1. Missions
2. Evangelism
3. How to Evaluate the Spiritual Health of our Churches
4. The Centrality of Christ
5. The Need for Holiness in all aspects of life (not just in sexuality)
6. Accountability in Ministry
7. The Vital Role of Confessions in the Church.

The sort of unity that exists here at this Gathering is not the kind that you have to manufacture.  It's not the kind that has to have polite statements or well thought out and committee approved prayers to be read in order for everyone to feel somewhat better about the nasty things they have thought…

Fellowship of Presbyterians Summer Gathering - Day One Thoughts

The Summer Gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians and the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians officially began in Atlanta this evening at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

First, I have to say that Peachtree is probably the biggest Presbyterian church I have ever seen in my life.  The main campus takes up almost a full city block, with a gymnasium, family life center, offices, main sanctuary and a chapel that dwarfs my own church.  The main campus is connected by a tunnel that goes underneath the street to a second campus with a parking garage and a huge worship center and full service cafe.  There are an unbelievable number of  community activities, missions, ministries and events happening through this massive, vibrant church

It's also one of the many congregations  leaving the Presbyterian Church USA, a number that is growing rapidly by the moment.

I met a pastor tonight who told me that his large church is shrinking rapidly, and that they are experiencing a budge…

What Happened To That Song That I Used To Know?

Sometimes there's a song that is a song for the moment.

A song that has that right mix of quirky music and infectious lyrics that invades your skull and stays there like that old roommate you had when you were in college, the one that never paid rent and occupied your couch watching SportsCenter and Jerry Springer for a whole semester, while you were trying to write that paper on Herman Melville's Billy Budd for that weird professor who thought that every truly American story about "men and fish" had gay undertones.

Sometimes there's a song.  And I'm talking about Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" here, that gets played on the radio roughly three hundred times an hour, and somehow you can't shut it off when it's playing no matter how much you think you want to.  Instead, you find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs in the car, making up the lyrics that you can't understand as if you know exactly what they are.


Hot Buttons: Week Three "Being Human" A Sermon on Sexuality

In the first installment of the sermon series that I am currently preaching, entitled "Hot Button: Grace-Filled Responses To the Things That Divide Us," I preached on Abortion.

I was fairly certain that it was the most difficult and challenging sermon that I had ever preached.

Until this one.

The official title of this sermon is: "Being Human: A Grace-Filled Response to Issues of Sexuality."  I should have renamed it: "What the (Bleep) was I Thinking?"   Seriously.  Who preaches on sexuality?  Willingly.

Christians usually don't talk about these issues on Sunday morning---or at all.  Unless, of course, they are condemning someone for sexual sin or protesting too much over their proclivity of choice so that no one will ever wonder whether they themselves are sinning up a storm.

We need to talk about sexuality, though.  And we need to do it in church regardless of how difficult it is to do so.  You see, if we can't learn to find grace-filled re…

Hot Buttons - Week Two: "God is Green"

This week I'll be continuing the sermon series entitled, "Hot Button: Grace Filled Responses to the Things That Divide Us."  The premise behind this sermon series was to actually talk about some of the more difficult and divisive issues in our culture, and to do it through a Biblical lens, with a whole lot of grace.

As I said last week, I need a lot of work in this area, just as much as anyone else I suppose.  I am also aware that not everything I say will be received with the same grace within which I am hopefully offering it.

Herein lies the dilemma for most preachers:  Say what God has laid on your heart to say, and surrender the outcome, or keep sticking your finger in the air to test the winds of disquiet that might be blowing from that one person who probably doesn't like you anyway and will take half of what you said out of context, and misrepresent it.

So, to all those preachers who are tired of walking around like a human weather vane I have this to say:…

Hot Buttons Week One: "Choosing Life: A Grace-Filled Response To Abortion"

When I announced that I would be preaching a sermon series on some culturally relevant issues that divide us, a few people who I know and trust asked me if I had gone mad.

Admittedly, preachers usually don't preach on issues like Abortion, True Religion, the Environment and Sexuality unless they are fairly certain about the outcomes of their sermons.  To put this another way, they will only preach on these kinds of things when they know that virtually everyone (or at least the biggest donors) in the congregation will agree with what they have to say.

Some call this "preaching to the choir."

The trouble is, choirs are typically full of people with differing views on these and many other issues.  And you don't want to make the choir mad.  Trust me.

"Why would you willingly preach on this stuff?" someone asked me recently.

"Because I feel like I am supposed to," I replied.

"Better you than me," they said.

So why is it that we all sort o…