Monday, February 19, 2007

Bill of Rights

I was talking with a friend recently and the subject was along these lines. If you don't follow sports much, bear with me and I will make some sort of attempt at a relevant point eventually. John Amaechi, a former NBA player, announces in his autobiography that he is gay. In a related matter, Tim Hardaway, in an inteview that turned into an ESPN story , tells everybody that he hates gay people. (Ipromise that a point is on the way). Now the whole world is up in arms because Hardaway should be killed or beaten with clubs or some such thing. But this all takes a turn when people start to defend him. Here's my problem - the rationale used to defend Hardaway is many cases is essentially this -"nobody should be upset with him because he's just exercising his right to free speech". Now you could replace Hardaway with the Dixie Chicks or 100 other people and the argument is the same. I can't stand that argument because it's dumb on many levels. That's not how the 1st amendment works. It's freedom of speech, not freedom from repercussions, but far too many people don't understand that distinction and misuse what is rightfully theirs. This isn't an isolated incident. As a citizen it is your responsibility to be aware of your rights and how far they extend, a responsibility many people take lightly or completely ignore. What I'm wrestling with now is what does all this mean for me as a Christian? I have another citizenship, but what are the rights that accompany a citizen of heaven? To put it more bluntly, what can I count on God for? I don't mean that in a mean-spirited or sacreligious manner. I know I can count on my government to allow me to buy a gun, not go in my house without probable cause, allow me to vote, keep France from invading the country, etc. What are the guarantees of Christianity? Maybe instead of what can I count on God for I should say what can I expect from God? I know my earthly Bill of Rights, but what does my spiritual bill of rights look like? Or does God resist any effort to be defined like that? I wonder what you think.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

By the Numbers

I was reading George Barna's latest book (which I recommend highly) and he was citing statistics that characterize the American church today. Check this out...

  • 8 out of 10 believers do not feel they have entered the presence of God or experienced a genuine connection with him in their last worship service. 5 out of 10 extend that period to the past year.
  • 1 out of every 6 believers have a relationship that provides spiritual accountability
  • Fewer than 1 out of 10 believers give 10% of their income. (so a tithe of church members tithe)
  • At any given time, a majority of believers do not have a specific person in mind for whose salvation they are praying.
  • The typical churched believer will die without leading one person to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
  • When asked how they want to be known, fewer than 1 in 10 believers mentions a description that reflects their relationship with God.

Let me sum up. There are 77 million people in this country that identify themselves as born again Christians. Of those 77 million, about 10-20% actually put it into practice on a regular basis. Why is the church becoming so irrelevant?

Please don't think that I'm saying "Why can't church people be more like me?" because nothing could be further from the truth. I think we could probably do better with fewer people like me, but that's probably a whole other post. I think I trend toward the majority. When you read this next part, you'll probably think "Aha! That's his problem" In light of what I've heard over the last couple of days, you'll think this next sentence is ridiculous so just read it quickly and move on. As I was watching The Sopranos, something was said that really speaks to this issue. Don't think I'm advocating watching Tony Soprano for spiritual guidance, I'm pretty sure it was one time deal. The gist is this...the wife is talking to the priest and she's confessing. She stops in mid-confession and tells the priest it's all a sham and her life is a lie. Then she starts over and her confession begins with "I've forsaken what is right for what is easy" Is it really just that simple and we try to couch it in spiritual terms? It's just easier to go through the motions than to be an actual disciple of Jesus. And we live in a society that is more than willing to grease the skids and let us slide along, not challenging our appearance of spirituality as long as we mind our business. I'm not blaming society for the way I am, I just saying that it's not in anybody's interest to make sure I'm genuine. So we go through our rituals and say and do all the right things and wonder what's happened. Would Jesus be affiliated with the Christians if he were on the scene today? Would we look like him at all? Or would Jesus look around and quote Isaiah 29:13 to us too? I'm pretty sure he would to me more often then I'd like to admit.
Prov 14:12, 16:25

Thursday, February 1, 2007


I had planned on doing something else in this space today, but this troubled me and I can't let it go...
What role does spiritual gifting play in a Christian's life? And more importantly, what role should it play? I'm not saying I'm opposed to spiritual gifts, so please bear with me on this. I think we might, especially in the Pentecostal tradition, place too much emphasis on them. I'm getting ready to start baseball tryouts and a bunch of kids aren't going to make the team. It's just logistics. I have 40+ kids trying out and I can't realistically carry more than 16. Somebody has to not make it. This is based in large part to their physical gifts. There are kids who are less gifted that will make the team because of work ethic (either they have a great one or a more talented kid has a poor one). When it's over, it's a combination of gifting and talent that carries the day. I think we have a tendency to view our Christian lives through the same lens. We accomplish things because that is our area of gifting or we commit ourselves to some thing and work at it. In the choir there are people blessed with a wonderful singing voice and others who try really hard and various mixtures of those two extremes.
I don't necessarily think that's the way it's supposed to work. We play up spiritual gifts so much that many people won't do anything that isn't their "gift" or won't venture into anything at all because they are unsure of their "gift". Now, I know going in that there are also people that simply use those two cases to disguise their inactivity in church terms. I'm just wondering if maybe spiritual gifts is a more advanced concept than we consider. We find a new convert and immediately start talking up how to identify their gifts. Shouldn't that come much later? It feels like it's being treated more like trying out for a team. More dangerously, it's a built in excuse. We keep relying on the Holy Spirit to do everything. If any part of the Trinity is initiating whatever needs to be done and we are the tools to accomplish this work, what responsibilities do we have? Any thoughts?