Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on using the generic term "God"

To read the long version (read: better/richer/deeper/far more compelling) click here Otherwise, enjoy!

In my endless pursuit of pondering about how to be effective in communicating the message, I've realized that when I speak about God [using the generic term God], many people's eyes sort of glaze over. Not like an actual glazed doughnut, but more like the person who is on the 117th time watching a Scrubs episode. It's made me realize that having a conversation about God [using the generic name God] is rather boring. [Hear me out on this.]

Perhaps its just me, or 21st century culture, but God [using the generic name God] doesn't have much street cred. I mean I work with students, and while I'm teaching to students I see a glaze come over their eyes when I begin to talk about God [using the generic name God]. Yet I can't fault them, cause I (let's be honest) you do too. I mean God [using the generic term God] isn't really that interesting.

Honestly, I think that makes perfect sense. First of all, when we talk about God [using the generic name God], which God are we really talking about; we do live in a society with many views about God. God [using the term God], is a very open ended and very generic way to talk about the divine. When I talk about God, any old religion could assume that I'm referring to their god-figure. (This is where we often confuse the whole conversation between Islam and Christianity.)

I guess I've realized that I live in a world where everybody has a take on God. Its not like we live in a world of polytheists (people with multiple Gods) and we're revealing to the world there is one God. We're living in a world of people who either believe in 1 God or are ok with "not knowing and not caring." To talk about God just ends up in sounding like "blah, blah, blah, blah." God is too mainstream, too undefined, too generic to actually be interesting to listen to.

This, I think, is not as big a problem for us as Christians as it may appear, because just speaking about God is not really how it worked in the Bible. God [using the generic term God] actually has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus. As Christians when we refer to God [using the generic term God], should spend most of our time talking about Jesus. [I mean after all we're called Christians not Godians.]

If the term God is generic, able to be used by anybody referring to multiple different things, perhaps speaking about Jesus would be better. While the name Jesus has actually become a mainstream, generic name at least it is referring to someone and something specific. The only thing is that Jesus has a story. Jesus actually said something. Jesus challenges us to think differently, he creates tension. Jesus causes us to rethink, revalue, & re-prioritize our lives.

We can talk about God [using the generic term God], and not really commit to something. We can talk about God [using the generic term God], and not challenge ourselves to see the world differently. We can use the name God [using the generic term God], and not offend anybody around us. God[using the generic term God] is safe.

So I guess, perhaps we need to stop talking about God [using the generic term God], and begin talking about Jesus. Maybe that's the first step in helping people remove the glaze from their eyes.

What do you think?

Friday, September 18, 2009

How the "Block M" and the "Script Ohio" relate to Organizations

I grew up a Michigan fan (that's Meechigan for those Bob Ufer fans). I was taught Ohio State is from the devil, everything about Ohio is 2nd rate compared to my beautiful home state. Little did I realize how similiar these two places are; in many ways. We're both Midwestern and have a similiar feel, which I began to notice when I moved to Kentucky: Ohio does feel like Michigan. They're both heavy on the manufacturing front. And both major football programs were based on power.

You see for years and years and years, football has been about power, strength, and sheer domination. We'd get the biggest, strongest men we could find, and then ram the ball down the field. It didn't matter how fast you were, we were going to beat you with our size and power. This has been the philosophy at both Michigan and Ohio State for decades. The two teams were really mirror images of each other. Like it or not, Michigan is like Ohio State (just, ;), we've done it better). This has been successful for years and years and years, and recently as Michigan has won a National Championship in '97 and Ohio State in '02. But the game is changing.

The game has become about speed. The mentality is not to use power and strength and move the ball down the field, it has become to spread the other team thin, isolate a highly skilled player against somebody that is slower and less skilled them them, and then get the the ball in a place where they may be able to take advantage of their speed and quickness. Power and strength has been replaced with speed and adaptibility.

Recently, I was reading in a journal on my favorite sports blog that one of the iconic Michigan coaches Bo Schembeckler, was 5-15 in bowl games. The author of this piece wondered if this wasn't a product of the power game. You see Bo was the biggest and baddest bully in his neighborhood. He for sure will dominate local kids, but what would happen when be began to meet the bully's from other neighborhoods? No longer was his power as big an advantage, and he lost the majority of his bowl games as a result. We have seen the same result recently with Ohio State's mindset; they're good in their conference games (still overpowering the little guys) but awful in the Bowl games (playing the other bullies). I think he has a point.

Michigan has, in the past couple of years, changed its mindset. No longer does it play the game based upon sheer brut strength and power, but has changed its focus to the speed and adaptible mindset of 21st century football. (Ohio State has not, they're still big, strong, and losing big games to top-ranked teams)

This pattern is not isolated to football. The mindset of business, politics, and churches has always been about power and overwhelming the opponent. This played out in Wal-Mart leveraged itself into having the most buying power; politicians bought the most ad revenue for a market; churches looked to build the best buildings with the best programs; etc.,etc.,etc. It is about power. But recently, we've discovered that power isn't as effective as it used to be. We're seeing online sales go through the roof, leaving companies like Wal-Mart struggling to catch up. One of Obama's biggest strategic advantages was that he dominated the internet, a relatively cheap way of marketing himself; in the process cutting out the need for an advantage he might have (or not have) on the traditional media markets. Churches with huge buildings are finding that just having a building and programs is not what the younger crowd is looking for; the power of the mega-church is meaningless to a 20-something.

These organizations are realizing that speed and adaptability are what's important to running a successful organization. In my field - the church - we're realizing that just having a cool youth room, cool programs, and a cool youth pastor are not enough to bring disicples in; perhaps they never were. Perhaps, like Michigan and Ohio State, we were just the biggest, best, and had the brighest lights in town and thought that if we did that we'd be able to draw kids to Jesus. Regardless, we need something more now. We must learn to adapt to student culture, we must learn to be relational, we must learn to go to the students; this mindset requires speed and adaptibility, as teen culture and mindsets are very quickly changing. In the church, it doesn't only include youth ministry, our entire culture is changing and the church as a whole must become more reliant on speed and adaptibality.

As we move further into the 21st century, we're going to see those who follow the traditional model focusing on power fall to the wayside. In the same way, we'll see those who rely on speed and adaptibility thrive!

And I still think that Ohio is a four letter word. GO BLUE!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christian Rhetoric:

[Rhetoric: dictionary: verbal communication; discource]
(aka: talking)

Christians are to be different than the world around us. We have a different set of values, beliefs, and priorities than those who are not Christians; it's what marks us as different from everybody else. How do you know somebody is a Christian? Well you should be able to tell they're different by their actions [Galatians 5.22-26]. It should be evident in every level of their life-we're the ones who live with the Holy Spirit guiding our lives.

This mean that even the very WAY that we speak - our rhetoric - should be DIFFERENT. The very way that we communicate to people around us should be influenced by the Spirit of God that is present inside our hearts. It is not ok for a Christian to talk like everybody else.

Now what does it mean for a Christian to speak like a Christian? Well, I think a great place to start is the above mentioned passage of Scripture -- Galatians 5.22-26, the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So a Christian, when they speak, should be reflecting these attributes; these fruit of the Spirit.

The question we should be asking ourselves: "If a Christian, when they speak, is not revealing the Fruit of the Spirit, is the Spirit in them?" or perhaps we should ask,"If a Christian, when speaking, is not showing these Fruit of the Spirit, are they speaking like a Christian?" Tough questions, but I think important ones to ask ourselves...

I have seen too many Christians who have taken the Gospel message - a message of LOVE & HOPE - and not present a message that is neither of loving nor hopeful. If the rhetoric we use to communicate the Gospel isn't loving, then perhaps we're not presenting the Gospel message!

If we're not speaking without showing the Fruit of the Spirit, then perhaps we need the Fruit of the Spirit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Great Quote:

Lord, let the thick skin that covers me not be a hindrance to you. Pass through it. My eyes, my hands, my mouth are yours. This sad lady in front of me: here is my mouth for you to smile at her ... This smug young man, so dull, so hard: here is my heart, that you may love him, more strongly than he has ever been loved before.

- Madeleine DelbrĂȘl,
Missionary and activist (1904-1964)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Social Networking:

Social networking can be a powerful tool for those who are a.) working in groups b.) those who are in leadership, working with people. I don't understand why people in those situations wouldn't do everything they can to impliment Facebook, Twitter, and or blogs. They're simple to use, do not require a large amount of time, and the payoff is much higher than the cost - it seems like a no brainer.

I was involved in a group for about 9 months during the past year. As part of our group interaction, we used Twitter to help build solid friendships with one another. The point is that when using a social networking site, its to suppliment relationships built in ... well reality; not the foundation for a relationship.

One weekend a part of our team when on a trip to another city. While in-route one of his children threw-up in their van. This happened on a Thursday, and when it happened, he posted a tweet concerning what happened. Now, when we saw this friend on the next Monday, we had insight into what had happened to him over the weekend. We knew him just a little better, it helped us to understand his situation a little better.

Now, as far as the potential for connection, it only makes sense that a group or a leader would attempt to use technology in order to create a better sense of community amongst their organization. Sadly, when I talk with people in leadership positions, or people who work with groups, they are simply not interested in using this technology.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Being Method Transparant: "He is Risen"

Last weekend, I stopped opening the service at New Carlisle Wesleyan with the traditional "Good Morning." This is not because Good Morning is a bad way to begin a church service, but more because "Good Morning" isn't necessarily a Christian greeting. Its a greeting you could hear anywhere; school, an office, a street corner, or a restaurant. Its not a bad thing, it just not explicitly Christian.

Instead of saying, "Good Morning," I've begun using the ancient Christian refrain, "He is Risen!" & "He is Risen Indeed!" This is a very Christian back and forth describing the reality of the resurrection. Christ is indeed risen from the grave!

We do this because, as Christians, we believe that Christ has been raised from the dead, and because of this the very nature of reality has changed. Thus, the resurrection of Christ is the most important event in history. It is for this reason - and no other reason - that we gather.

Our services are celebrations of the resurrection. Coming together to remember the resurrection, to retell the story, and to ask ourselves if there are better ways of living out the resurrection in our every day life.


Monday Morning Highlight:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Enough already:

Today I was at a roundtable talkback session for the district, when it happened. We had a break and I was walking around in the hallway when a pastor, Oliver Dongell, from Plymouth Wesleyan walked by me and asked the question. You know the one that I'm doomed to hear the rest of my life. The one that at first it was kinda funny and now...well you know.

He asked me, "Do you know you look like Glenn Beck?"

Its kind of sad, because in my life, I am doing everything I can to be intentional aggressivly non-partisan. I don't think that politics solves the world's problems (more creates them). I am of the persuasion, that the only solution to the problems of the world (from healthcare to terrorists) is the way of Jesus; the Kingdom of Heaven.

And to answer your question...Yes, I know I look like Glenn Beck.

Not So Nice Notre Dame Video:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Awesome Picture:

Michigan Nose Tackle Mr. Mike Martin:

note the ginormous arm...

HT --> MGoBlog

Great Quote:

We must pursue peaceful end through peaceful means.
~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Monday, September 07, 2009

WANTED: Thinkers

We need people who want to think. Thinking is important, yet often very hard to do. You might say, "Dan...I'm just not a thinker." To that I say, "Liar! You're a thinker! I believe you have it in you to be a thinker."

When I was growing up, there were people who could rattle off hundreds of stats about their favorite baseball player or team, yet they would do poorly in their schoolwork. Why is that? Well not because they're dumb...they're not dumb, they just aren't thinking about school; they're thinking about how crazy the game was the night before. It's about the energy you put into thinking!

As a church (in general, not just at my church) we need people who will take up the mantle of thinking. We have a rich tradition of thinkers leading the way. They have led in philosophy, art, and culture. The church has been at the center of bring peace and love to places that are torn apart by hatred and violence. The church has always been the place where the great thinkers have hung out!

The church, now more than ever, is lacking people who are willing to be in the process of engaging the movement between the WORD and the WORLD. We're in desperate need of people who look to live in the tension between the Kingdom of God being present and the Kingdom of God that is on the way.

Will you join us? Will you embrace your role as a thinker?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Personal Thoughts:

I consistently come back to the Isaiah chapter 1. I'll spend a few months without thinking about it, but eventually my thoughts wander back to its words. They trouble me, they cause me to deeply think about who I am, what I think, and what I communicate about God. Needless to say, this part of the Bible challenges me greatly.

Pretty much the passage says:

  1. Your worship of me is worthless. In fact, just stop it. Stop what you're doing cause it's meaningless, worthless, and disgusting to me. [Is 1v1-16a]
  2. Learn to do right. Seek justice. Help the widow and the orphan. [Is 1v16b-17]
So basically, God is telling his people to stop doing what he has commanded them. They their sacrifies, prayers, and festivals are all meaning less. Whoa! Their whole religion is summed up in these actions. So pretty much, because they are failing to seek justice - to help the widow and orphan or to encourage the oppressed/rebuke the opppressor - their religion is meangingless. OUCH!

This is implying that the people of that day are not seeking justice, not helping the widow or the orphan, they're not encouraging the oppressed/rebuking the oppressor. God is angry! He is not happy with them at all. This causes me to ask the question --> am I seeking justice? or am I ok with the injustice that is happening all around me. Perhaps I'm ignorant of is there injustice around me? If so: where is it? what is it? how am I a part of it?

For me, this also implies that to God, unless we're seeking justice, he sees our religion as worthless. It doesn't matter what I believe if I'm not helping the widow and orphan or to encouraging the oppressed/rebuke the oppressor. Which means I need to check that in my life.

I live in a world where I struggle with this daily. I'm aware of injustice around me - I read the tags on my shirt - and yet I struggle to do anything about it. [read: pragmatically I'm apathetic towards this issue] So what can I do about it.

What can I do to seek justice. What can I do to encourage the oppressed. Seriously, what do you think?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Quite Random Picture of the Week:

I found this on my computer...I blame Steph.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sabbath pt3

What many people fail to realize is that in the Jewish law, Sabbath does not just refer to a 7 day work week, but to a 7 year period, and a 7x7 year period. [Leviticus]These Sabbath years were literally to be a Sabbath that lasts for an entire year! That’s 365 days of no work, which is pretty intense!

Every 7 years the whole nation would not work. This brings into question who will provide for them. The truth of the matter is that even though they work hard, their hard work does not cause the fields to produce food – God does. It is God who provides our daily bread, and the Sabbath is a visual reminder of that fact.

There is also another part to Sabbath that this goes to point out. Its not about getting rich, its not about moving up the totem pole of important people in the world. Taking a year off every few years kinda puts a damper on that idea. This idea of a Sabbath year is shouting at the Israelites, that their mindset should be different than the people around them. They’re the people who rely on God to provide, and not themselves. God has them do live this out by taking 1 out of 7 years and (in all reality) wasting them. And that’s not the crazy part.

Every 49 years there was supposed to be a year unlike any other! It was a Year of Jubilee! Check this out. In the year of Jubilee, all debts are canceled. All land that was sold in order to make ends meet was returned to its family, and all indentured slaves (people who enslaved themselves to pay of bills) were released from their bondage. So literally, everything goes back to zero.

Now of course this meant that most likely a field sold 5 years before the Jubilee was worth much less than it would have been worth 35 years prior, but still the point is still the same. All debt was to be forgiven, all land returned, and all slaves freed at the end of the 50 period; regardless of their value. How subversive, how radical, how completely different to the way we think business should be done.

Wealth in the ancient world – and today at some level – comes from what one owns. Some people are endowed with large tracts of land, and others have nothing. Some people are born into affluence, others are born into poverty, and the difference between the two is growing everyday. This happens because the rich have the ability to leverage their possessions into getting more, and the poor – continually struggling to make ends meet – are stuck spinning their wheels in an attempt to just keep their heads above water.

The Year of Jubilee was a time when God commanded the rich to give back to the poor. All debts were canceled. All land sold to help a family survive, was returned, and all slaves were freed! It is God's way of helping the rich and the poor not become too divide. Its like the master plan in Fight Club, just minus the blowing up of the buildings. God is leveling the playing field.

This is powerful. Linked to Sabbath is the reminder that the rich shouldn't be so concerned with getting rich, that they leave their friends behind who don't have as much wealth as they do. Perhaps God is calling us to do the same.

What do you think?