Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Note to all:

I am moving to wordpress.com


Thursday, January 04, 2007


There were tears in her eyes. She had come to our medical mission the past two times with her son who had a bad cough. She related that the man she lived with had kicked her and their son out. What a mess. The boy’s father had come with them that night because he didn’t believe that his son really did have the onset of asthma.

The boy has a bright smile and loves to talk. We have talked a lot these past two Wednesday nights. He thinks the world of his father and you could tell that his presence meant a lot to him.

What a broken world we live in. It is in these moments that you can see the need for redemption and yet from a very practical stand point what do you do?

These are the kind of things that come at you when you are willing to insert yourself into the world. Nothing clean or neat or inspiring, just real life and real brokenness and a real need for redemption.

I figured something out though last night. We had some people who have left who didn’t like how I handled situations. They wanted big prayers and flowery pronouncements. They wanted to feel like we cared. They wanted invitations that were powerful and moving delivered from a safe distance. Let’s talk about our problems but let’s certainly not get too involved because involved is messy.

I figured out why they didn’t like me last night as I listened to this women’s story. I don’t have flowery answers or moving responses. I have a practical streak a mile wide that says what can we do to really help with redemption in these peoples lives. NO placebo of experience but real hope.

You see I have a real disdain for invitations. Maybe it was the week long gospel meeting that became the three day gospel meeting where the preacher had Just As I Am repeated until someone was bludgeoned into response.

I remember several years ago before our first child was born going forward to ask for prayers as a father. I remember the faces in the crowed as I began the approach during the invitation song. You could see the questions in their eyes. “What has Darin done?” “This is going to be interesting.”

I remember the change in the atmosphere when the minister informed the church that I had just asked for prayers on our sons impeding birth. I remember people telling me I would do great, I had nothing to worry about but not one I’m praying for you. The invitation was the time to mark, gawk and wonder.

It was in this moment that I new that redemption is not an event or a moment but a process that requires a rolled up sleeve, involvement and commitment. This relationship is a mess a no flowery prayer is going to change that. No pat on the back and a Jesus loves you will prepare this boy for what lies ahead.

I thought about the woman who was caught in adultery who Jesus sent away with a simple "Go and sin no more." There is a lot more to that story then what is recorded. A lot more too every story. It is easy to see Jesus send that woman away but the story was told to show Jesus willingness to forgive not to show a ministry style, or so I think. How about you?

No, that woman was going to need some support and encouragement and a willingness to be community. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


What do your trappings say? We rang in the New Year with one more step away from ‘typical’ church trappings. We have never had a pulpit and we have been using a nice stand. We rang in the New Year with the removal of the stand. The stand is now a small table that allows for my notes and Bible. We will add an area rug as soon as I find the right color. We have no pews, no ties and now no stand.

What do you think of trappings? I wonder what impact if any this will have. We are a church that has always been willing to do things differently so I doubt if it will matter much but I wonder what message it will send.

It has been an interesting experience living in the Bible belt these past few years. People seem to place a lot of stock in trappings. I had a woman who visited say that she guessed it was okay to laugh during church. If she doesn’t like to laugh she certainly came to the wrong place. It seemed that the experience wasn’t churchy enough for her. For her church should look like church if you know what I mean.

This is hard for me because I think church should look less like church if you know what I mean. As a child raised going to church I wanted nothing to do with the experience. I spent years living in the world before I discovered it was a relationship my Maker desired. As a minister why would I want to recreate something that seemed so pointless, so drab, boring and lifeless? What I find interesting is the number of people who come and because they don’t experience church as they see church want nothing to do with it and even question its validity.

How fascinating. Maybe someone can explain. Do you realize that a way of doing church has in many peoples mind become church? How sad and ironic that one expression of how a church functions is actually viewed as being what the church is.

The big question in my head is will this always be how it is? Are there people disenfranchised with church, meaning that brand of experience, that might find our experience more meaningful or not? If there are how do you let them know that your church experience is unlike the picture of church in their head?

It would seem the only way is to get to know people. Get to know people who you wouldn’t normally get to know. The nicely dressed churchgoer isn’t really interested in rocking that boat but who wants to attract people who simply want the carpet changed and kids ministry tailored to their liking?

All I can say is that in 2007 I will learn more about what it means to be an unchurch or boutique church as I like to call it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Present

The call came as we sat down for dinner. I had decided to take my wife out to eat dinner. We don’t get out by ourselves that often and I thought it would be nice to surprise her before the Christmas rush and family came to town.

We had just sat down and ordered when the phone rang. Now I don’t know about you but there is a time to answer the phone and a time to ignore it. As a guy I am not very good at knowing when but I felt that to be responsible I needed to at least see who was calling. Maybe it was the sitter. I hate getting sitters but my wife loves when I make the effort. I don’t know what it is but scheduling a sitter just doesn’t sit well with my football watching persona.

Anyway, I looked at the phone and saw that it wasn’t the sitter but someone from our fellowship. I had to decide at that moment do I risk ruining this date or do I take the call. Again as a guy I usually choose wrong but I decided I should take the call. You see, I will call her Judy, rarely calls and I had not seen her for a few weeks. She comes sporadically, here and there. We have helped her out with some dental work in the past and tried to be with her through some different situations.

As I headed outside the restaurant to take the call Judy informed me that she had checked herself into rehab. She needed someone to pray with her before going in. She had poured the last bottle of vodka down the drain and she was gathering her things. We prayed and talked and I encouraged her.

We have talked since and she has dried out and is moving into the phase of treatment where they talk about how she will live without her long relied on crutch.

It is a Christmas I wouldn’t have imagined several years ago, a Christmas where greater gifts are given than a new video game or clothes or perfume. The gift is redemption. A Christmas with a woman starting down the road to recovering her life.

I was reading in the first chapter of Mark the next day and noticed something I had never seen. Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit but what I struck me was their location. They are in a synagogue. Jesus has spoken and the text says that a man with an unclean spirit amongst them interrupted the service. The man with the unclean spirit was in the synagogue. As I contemplated that I thanked God that this story was repeated in our place, maybe not as dramatic but the same.

I give thanks to God this Christmas that I am in a place that welcomes those with demons.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Worship Service

They were waiting at the door. They began to arrive around 4:30, some as early as 3:00. The line began to snake away from the locked doors as everyone waited for the doors to open. The doors don’t open until 5:30 so they had some time to wait.
When the doors finally opened the people filed in. They did so in a nice and orderly fashion, no one pushed or shoved. The man at the door who let them in said hello to all who entered. Many of the faces were familiar, they had been here before.

As the crowed filed into the sanctuary they began to congregate in the back. You see this is where we have our sign in. People let us know whether they need to see the doctor or just receive refills on their medication.

On the first Wednesday night of each month our sanctuary is turned into a waiting room. Our tables become a place for people to sign in and kids to color. Our parking lot welcomes the Good Samaritan mobile clinic, a doctor’s office on wheels. Worship has begun.

This past Wednesday I was struck with the fact that this is the most uplifting worship service I ever attend. I experience God more richly than at my favorite Third Day concert. No contemporary song reflects such a powerful movement of the Spirit. So many people touched in the name of Jesus for His glory. So many people prayed with, so many opportunities to talk about salvation.

No two Medical Mission nights are the same. You never know what God is going to do in this place as we become the hands and feet of Jesus, as we share our lives with others.

This is why I considered it pure joy this past Sunday as one of those individuals, I will call her Patty, came and joined us for worship. Patty informed us that she had been very far from God. She said she wanted to come back to Christ. I love it when a wonderful worship experience, our Medical Mission, leads to an even more wonderful worship experience.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Working through it with your kids

I often times have the opportunity to help people and yet at times I forget to invite others to participate. This Christmas season we have a couple of opportunities to help some people. In the past I probably would have just asked my wife and given to those in need but, and I am embarrassed to admit this, we have not talked about it with our kids.

This year we will sit down as a family and decide what is best. For those of you who already do this, thanks for telling me.
Bible Class and Boredom

I must confess to hating Bible Class. As a part of my job I often am asked to teach. At certain points in my life I actually enjoyed this but after several years of teaching adults I really have become cynical and jaded.

To me they often seem more like a time to tell everyone what we already know, boy aren’t we smart. A time to ask the most minuscule questions or to point out the oddest facts. Yes the Magi, they were Magi not Wise men you know, came to a house not a stable, but should we spend the entire class discussing this fact? They seemed to be a time to talk about things we had no intention of doing or changing.

Maybe you know what I mean. It is good when God reminds me that this may not necessarily be so. We have been doing a study entitled Flesh vs. Spirit. We have spent the past several weeks looking at the battle that rages between what our flesh wants and what the Spirit brings.

We had ended by looking at what Paul tells us comes from our flesh and what comes from the Spirit. At the end of class I was approached by a gentleman that I will call Jack. Jack has been coming the past 6 months to worship with us at New Heights. Originally he came because of his girlfriend but when she broke up he decided to stick around.

Now this means a lot because Jack has a rough past. He hasn’t gathered with a church since he was a boy. His opinion of Christians isn’t particularly a high one. He has met too many who didn’t seem to practice what they preached.

He not only began to come with his girlfriend but he started attending class. This past week he approached me afterwards with a question.

He said, “Let me see if I understand this.” He paused as if he wanted to make sure he got this right, “You seem to be saying that if we love God and we appreciate what he has done for us, then we are going to love others and this is the way we love.”

He had another pause before he finished, “Am I hearing this right?”

For all of the times I thought I was wasting it, for all the moments I think we are just talking to hear our own voice, I will remember that day. My friend Jack had no idea that was what it was about, that the idea of Christianity is to love God and love people. Do we hear the irony of this fact? That a person can grow up and have some church experience and yet not know that this is the point.

I think sometimes we have complicated Christianity to a point of confusion. Which way is the right way, which belief is true. What facts must I know to be saved. Jack reminded me that there are a lot of people who don’t understand Christ because they don’t understand church. What makes me sad is that this is our fault.

May we be people who understand what it is all about because there are too many Jack’s in this world.

Friday, December 08, 2006

If you have not followed this story I recommend that you do.

Professor Jack