Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I Don't Tell People How to Vote As a Pastor


Why I Don’t Tell People How to Vote

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Matt 22:21)

Different groups of Christians have different histories, many of them beautiful. Most scholars believe that Baptists began as part of the English Separatist movement. In reaction to the state churches of Europe, Baptists began from earliest times as a countercultural movement. One of the uniqueness of Baptists at that time was that they believed in the importance of having a personal relationship with Christ, and of faith being a personal choice. Many churches in Europe had their churches under control of their government. When Baptists started congregations that were not sanctioned by the governments, they experienced persecution from government powers. During this time the Baptist minister John Bunyan was thrown in prison, and wrote “Pilgrims Progress” from his jail cell.

When the opportunity came to come to the new world, Baptists came as well. Many colonies also started their own state churches, and persecuted Baptists for their unique beliefs as well. One of the people persecuted was Roger Williams. Williams, in response to this persecution, started the Rhode Island colony. The Rhode Island colony established a colony with a policy that would later be labeled “the separation of church and state”. This policy, first manifest in a government in Rhode Island, was central to Baptist belief from their inception.

One of the reasons it is wise to have a separation of church and state is so that the government will not interfere in the life of the church. We should all have the freedom to worship the way we want, and join the churches we want.

The other reason the separation of church and state is wise is that it helps churches be focused on the things that they should be focused on. Churches work best when we focus on proclaiming the good news of Christ, training disciples to love and serve Christ in their everyday lives, and serving their communities and world in the name of Jesus. They tend to become compromised when they focus on being politically powerful instead of spiritually influential. When we get our loyalties to political power and political policies enmeshed with our Christian faith, it becomes easy to mistake our loyalties to a political philosophy for fidelity to our faith.

Jesus knew this when people tried to trap him with a political question. They tried to set a trap by asking him if he would pay taxes to the Roman government, or be loyal to the political opposition to Roman rule and not pay taxes. He opted out of their false dichotomy by saying “give to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God’s what is God’s.” Jesus was not going to make himself a slave to any political party or group.

I think we should vote. I know that some of my most strongly held beliefs have political implications, and I will not surrender those beliefs just because they have political implications. Just because I believe in a keeping politics out of church does not mean that things that I teach and preach will not have political implications.

At the same time, as I watch the political process in our country, and different processes around the world, I see that worldly power is often gained by manipulating religious sentiment. Both Republicans and Democrats try to convince us that God is on their side. Both Democrats and Republicans then go on to have ungodly policies based on their covetousness for more money, power, and fame. Around the world, terrorists throw themselves into the World Trade Center for religious reasons, Rwandan tribal groups have killed each other believe they believed God was on their side, and Serbs and Croats set up extermination camps claiming to do God’s will.

I think whenever we mash together political activism and Christian discipleship we always have find problems will follow. And, it always true faith that ends up the loser when it is compromised with anything, especially political partisanship and political action. It is for that reason in our church we do not tell people what political party to vote for, or what candidates we endorse. Instead, we will attempt to faithfully proclaim the word of God, trusting it to enlighten our path.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review of THE STRATEGICALLY SMALL CHURCH by Brandon J. O'Brien


Half of all churches run under 75 a week in attendance. The "small church" is the norm. Yet, over and over again, we see that the large mega-church is held up as THE standard of what the church is supposed to be. This leaves many small churches feeling inferior.

Brandon J. O'Brien tries to boost the self-esteem of the small church in THE STRATEGICALY SMALL CHURCH. O'Brien tries to teach that the small church has strategic advantages in reaching and ministering to people that a larger church does not have. THE STRATEGICALLY SMALL CHURCH tries to encourage the small church to celebrate and build on their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.

Throughout the book, O'Brien identifies several key strengths that a small church has. A small church has more intimate knowlege of each of its members, and a more intimate access of the pastor to the church and vise versa. When someone is ill, everyone knows it. When a group of 30-100 people worship with each other every week, they know their strengths and their weaknesses, they can tell just by the way they are walking that something might be bothering them.

A smaller church can be more nimble and adaptable in its programming and its ministries. A quick change in plans is easier when you have 50 people than when you have 5000. If the community needs to move quickly to address a need, all that is needed is a few phone calls.

In a smaller church, authenticity is not simply easier, it is essential. Much of young adult and outreach ministry is focusing on "authenticity". In a small church, you are more valued for who you are than the image that you project. Sermons are valued as much for whether they come from your heart as they are for how you spin your words together.

A smaller church is able to do ministry in a more "life on life" manner. They are able to equip leaders through mentoring. A person with a passion for ministry is more easily equipped and enabled to do a ministry in a small church structure than in a large one. Intergenerational relationships and partnerships are more easily formed when everybody doesn't split up in the parking lot every Sunday to go to their separate programs.

O'Brien's encouragements are helpful. His observations are adept. He argues that churches, like people, should not compare themselves to everyone else. Instead, they should embrace their unique gifts and their unique opportunities in their context, and build the kingdom in concert with the unique gifts God gave them.

Much wisdom and help can be found for the member and pastor of the small church in THE STRATEGICALLY SMALL CHURCH. I would love to see my minister group read this, as well as my congregational leadership team.


This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers in return for an honest review.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review for Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr



The year is 1840 and Ellie Kilmer is in a desperate situation. After years of caring for her parents, she has become a spinster that has to rely on unwelcoming relatives for support. She is long past the marrying age, and is not attractive. Her desire for love and family are beyond her reach, and her relatives obviously see her as an unwelcome duty.



Arrangements are made for Ellie to become a housekeeper for a widower and his young boys. The widower, named Jackson, is also desperate. After his embarrassing marriage he wants nothing to do with any woman, much less a homely spinster. But he does offer an unusual contract for Ellie that could help both their situations.



This story seemed like it would be predictable, and in some ways it is. However, there are many twists in the plot and the author does a great job in developing the main characters so that I wanted to keep reading. There are good life-lessons and it was enjoyable reading this book.


This review was written by guest blogger Patricia Walker

A complimentary copy of this novel was given by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review of this book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trending Thoughts, Fads, and Pet Peeves

Inspired by Eric Lundy's likes and dislikes, here are some of my personal fads and pet peeves in my life right now:

Fads

Baby swaddlers---They are like magic in putting babies to sleep
Mac and Cheese--I had burned out on this food for a decade, but it is making a comeback
Fantasy Football--My first year. I did not think my interest in football could be elevated. It has been.
Bright neon green--my new favorite color. Seahawks green. Karis green.
Fall--got to enjoy all three weeks of it we have here in Fowler
Reebok--I like the way the Reebok shirts i have fit and feel
Twitter--slowly figuring it out....still like facebook better
Abingdon Books Fiction--my fave publisher of Christian fiction so far
Sunday night football--Its the new Monday night football
Oregon Ducks/Lee Corso commerical--so funny
Baby Clothes shopping--who knew looking at onesies could be so fun?
Naps--taken two naps for over an hour in the last two days
Biscuits and Gravy--love it!
Jack's Big Music show & Backyardigans--the best of Nickjr. television
Mountain West Conference in football--the most underrated conference in college football
Pac 10 and Big 10 conference expansion--looking forward to going to Boulder for a Ducks game, and watching Nebraska play in the same conference as Michigan and Ohio State.

Pet Peeves
Huggies diapers--occasionally leaky with poor odor control
Ohio St. Buckeyes--always overrated in the most overrated conference in football
My Mountain Dew addiction--can't seem to shake it
baby button up sleeper pajamas--too many buttons to do and undo to check and clean diaper
sponanaeity--the longer I am a parent of an infant, the more I like structure and plans

Friday, October 01, 2010

Parenting Posts: Lessons from Further Along the Learning Curve

The last couple of weeks have caused me to think about certain things about parenting an infant. Most of these thoughts are unrelated:



Fantasy Island



Both Jennifer and I feel a little isolated where we live. We are so far from our family members in California, Texas, Oregon, and Michigan. Sometimes this is a blessing. Sometimes it is a curse. Fowler is also a well-established small town. Which means in some ways it is hard to "break-into", so we feel isolated in that way as well. However, we have found some supportive friends here, and our family has visited extensively since around Thanksgiving of last year.



One of the things I have learned as family come in from out of town and friends visit from both in-state and in-town is that most people come to visit to realize a fantasy of child care. At first this was hard for me to understand, because I have no fantasies about caring for an infant. However, I am noticing many people do. They come to our home to create or recreate a maternal fantasy island.



(If you are one of these people, don't feel bad. I am not mocking you or upset. I am just pleased with myself for making this observation and had to share.)



You may ask, "Clint, what are these maternal fantasies?"



There are all sorts of dreams women try to fulfill with the baby. For instance, one family member insisted in holding our child's mouth as close to her breast as possible, and pull her in so it looked like she was breast feeding the baby. Almost every woman has the hope that the baby will fall asleep in their arms and Karis and the visitor can take a nap together. Almost always, Karis obliges. Some people come with plans to take Karis for a walk. Others to change her. A few others choose to stand, throw her over their shoulder, and rock their bodies back and forth as they hold her. Some almost always put socks on our baby. Part of Jennifer's fantasy is to do as much to raise a barefoot, flower-girl like her as possible. Almost all women and some men who come to visit have been fantasizing for weeks or months on what their time with Bably Karis is going to be like, and they do everything they can to make their dreams come true.



Problem Solving.

I know I will sound to much like a guy with this, but one of the things that is most frustrating, but also most enjoyable about being the parent of an infant is the opportunity to problem solve.

For instance, our daughter has been ill off and on this week. At one point she was not sleeping. Then, I had an insight. Would I, if I was suffering with the flu, want to rock back and forth in a swing that was larger than I was? My answer was that I would not. I put her in her bouncer for 5 minutes and she was sawing logs. I enjoyed solving that problem. I felt pretty smart.

Opportunities come like this all the time. In many ways I am able to test out a few theories here and there about how Karis works. I test my theories about my baby, and then I learn more about her. I enjoy that.

Modesty and Child Care

As I have mentioned, Karis was ill this week. After that, our day care worker was ill. Thus, I spent three days with her at home alone for the whole day. Jennifer also had some early appointments on some of those days, which meant that I really could not shower before she left.

As a new parent, I have found that I can go many days without a shower while watching Karis. However, the lack of showing makes me a little stinky, and I feel like I am not being professional enough since I am also working at home.

My wife told me several times that I could take the baby into the bathroom while I shower. I felt uncomfortable about this for months. I don't want my child to see me naked. I don't really want anyone to see me naked. I try to cover myself infront of household pets for goodness sake, much less infants.

This week I desprately needed a shower. I took the baby into the bathroom, but I found a creative solution to my issues. There is a little chunk of space behind the shower that is generally empty. I placed her in this spot, facing the wall, so that she could not see me without my clothes off. She fussed a little bit, but I believe a little fussiness is better than our child being scarred with subconscious memories of her naked father standing over her.

Does anyone else feel need to be modest around their babies or pets?
Will anyone admit to their fantasy island visits with little babies?
Does anyone else enjoy the problem solving part of parenting?
Let me know, I would love to hear!