Friday, October 16, 2009

Zero Tolerance for Functionally Illiterate Congressmen

Speaking of "Zero-Tolerance," if it's such a good thing for catching those subversive Boy Scouts and their confounded camp tools, why not for Congressmen who don't read bills?

By the way, the little-known and only recently discovered Federalist Papers, Part 2 reveals that many of the Framers had a solution for awful Congressmen who keep getting voted in by their districts: once a year each State could exercise an Interstate Veto and fire a Senator or Reprentative from any other State.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zero Tolerance Policy Saves School from Spork

Citizens should take comfort to know that the increased efforts of law enforcement to protect society from dangerous elements has resulted in the capture of two would-be criminals, Matthew Whalen and Zachary Christie.

In Lansinburg, New York, Whalen, a high school student, was prevented from “surviving” when a two-inch survival knife was confiscated from his locked car on school grounds. Such weapons have been used to cut twine and open envelopes in the past. Whalen hid his lawless intent behind a veneer of respectability, having joined the “Boy Scouts,” obtaining the rank of “Eagle Scout,” and going so far as to save a relative using CPR he learned there.

In Newark, Delaware, officials uncovered the plot of Zachary Christie, a grade school “Cub Scout,” to eat his lunch with a camping tool. These alleged “camping tools” include such dangerous implements as a fork, a spoon, and a butter knife, which when placed in cups in the cafeteria lunch line pose no threat, but when combined in one utensil and wielded by a trained subversive such as Christie threaten the peaceable enjoyment of lunch everywhere.

One cannot help but notice the common theme in these recent law enforcement successes. Both suspects are members of the “Boy Scouts,” a subversive organization engaging in such anti-social and lawless behavior as “Pledging Allegiance,” praying, selling popcorn, and “camping” – a thinly-veiled and poorly hidden training ground for survival after they have succeeded in overthrowing the government and lawful society.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that these ruffians have also come into contact with homeschoolers, engaged in hunting, shopped at Wal-Mart, and read the Constitution of the United States.

Sleep safe, America.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Church Health: When NOT to spend $90k on an organ

The vast majority of churches in the United States have them. Most church members wouldn’t know how to operate one. You risk your life if you leave your cup of coffee on top of them. They are emblazoned with the nameplate of the benefactor who donated them. It takes several brutish men to change their location.

No, I am NOT talking about the media center copy machine.

There was a time when an organ was considered against good taste, at best, and an instrument of the devil, at worst, especially when used in the church (gasp!) in which case the devil himself was attempting to sabotage the saints with the sort of frivolous diversion that characterized the theaters from whence they came.

Now, we say that about drum sets.

Perennial debates about how to spend resources in the church abound. Some things must be paid: salaries, insurance, licenses, mortgages. Other things fall within the discretion and wisdom of the church: how much to contribute to the Cooperative Program (for Southern Baptists), how much to give to local missions, how much to provide in local benevolence, and so forth.

Whether to spend $90,000 for repairs to an organ that is as old as the church is, contrary to sentiment, optional. That is, having an organ is not necessary for the ministry of the church.

Some will contend that the organ is like the furnace or the roof and must be maintained in order to be good stewards of the church’s physical plant. Yet an organ is merely a musical instrument, and if the furnace has outlived its usefulness and would cost more to repair than it’s worth, the church would consider buying a new HVAC instead.

Some will content that the people expect the church to have an organ and need it for worship. Perhaps that is why God broke the organ in the first place.

The decision to have an organ, or to fix one that’s broken, is certainly an individual church’s to make. But the church should consider other ways that $90,000 could be used to further God’s kingdom. For that money, the church could easily support two or three foreign missionaries for a year. It could purchase thousands of Gideon bibles, hundreds of copies of the Jesus film, or support many children in poverty-stricken areas of the world through organizations such as Compassion International.

Ninety-thousand dollars to hear wind blow through a bunch of pipes, or to hear the wind of the gospel of salvation blow through unreached areas of the world? It’s really not much of a choice.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Sermon is Not a Music Video

In Part 1 I began a discussion for those called upon to listen to sermons. Here we will review some basics to distinguish sermons from other contemporary forms of communication.


I know. This comparison may be lost on those to whom music video is just as anachronistic as “butter churn” or Vitalis. But the medium of communication inaugurated by the music video shaped entertainment and limited the collective attention span in a mighty way. We should not expect a sermon to last only 3 ½ to 5 minutes or have great special effects, heavy make-up, pyrotechnics, or teased hair. The preacher should not enter the pulpit through the mist and smoke created by a fog machine.

Some say that the modern audience is no longer able to focus on an average-length sermon. But the content of a proper sermon is infinitely more valuable than a music video, an episode of Law & Order, or even the three-hour finale of The Apprentice. If we can sit through those, we can pay attention to a 30-, 45-, or (whoa!) even hour-long sermon about matters of eternal consequence.


In the world of constant, rapid change, blogging is old news. It’s also sort of like navels: everybody’s got one. They can also be anonymous, untrue, and vicious. Not the sort of thing with which to compare sermons.

But sometimes our temptation is to treat sermons the same way. The preacher might use the (anonymous) material of another preacher or throw assertions out without foundation or let the proverbial comment stream go wild until – after 732 posts – the thread is finally exhausted because the people are, too, and no one remembers what set the whole thing off.


A prchr cnt rdc t msg 2 its strppd cmpnts & xpct 2 b bff 4vr w/ t cngrtn.


But, if it were:
10:17 a.m. – Walking to the pulpit.
10:18 a.m. – opening the Bible. Turn to James 1:16-18.
10:19 a.m. – What good is God?
10:24 a.m. – Sorry, been in the bathroom (swine flu).
10:26 a.m. – Walking stage left and gesticulating: Stand firm in trials.
10:45 a.m. – Battery went dead; had to recharge
10:52 a.m. – Out of cell range for a while…
11:04 a.m. – Genuflecting: Pray with me.

A sermon is not a book, an owner’s manual, or a “Idiot’s Guide” to whatever. It is the proclamation of the word of God to the people of God through the man of God whom He has called and equipped for that purpose.

So, dmnd gd srmns that prclm Gd’s wrd. BFF, lol, CU ltr.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Preachers or Managers? What are Search Committees Looking For?

Search committees are charged with the significant responsibility of locating a church’s next pastor. And it isn’t as if at the conclusion of the committee’s first meeting the Holy Spirit drops on the conference table the resume of the man the church will eventually call. Countless hours are spent poring over resumes, listening to sermons, talking with references.

It is, to be sure, a huge job.

But do search committees make things harder on themselves than they need to be?

There is an old saw that when polled regarding what it wants in the new pastor, a congregation decides that the ideal man will have a Ph.D., a wife and three kids, 15 years of senior pastor experience, and still be in his 30s. And if the search committee honors this request it might as well be searching for a polka-dotted unicorn.

One search committee chairman spoke with me regarding the progress the committee was making. They had interviewed a few candidates, who each had been deemed inappropriate because what the church really needed was a man “with experience handling a staff.”

I recalled that this church had started its search process about six months prior, and that, to my knowledge, all had not come to a grinding halt without a senior pastor. The doors were not chained shut, the power had not been turned off, God had not withdrawn the church’s lamp stand from its proper place. In fact, the church had been managing to worship for those months with good teaching and leadership from other staff ministers and guest preachers.

Who, I thought to myself, had been ‘handling the staff’ in all these months?

Many churches will go six months, or twelve, or even a couple of years before locating and calling their new pastor. The business affairs of the church – and to a large degree even the ministry function of the church – continues without interruption during this time. Yet many will, just like the chairman I spoke with, require that their new pastor be a good ‘manager.’

It does not occur to many churches looking for new pastors that what they are missing without senior pastoral leadership is not ‘management’, but proclamation.

There is only one man in a congregation charged with the responsibility to proclaim God’s word to God’s people – the preacher. God usually blesses many in a congregation with management skill, organizational ability, and administration gifts. When a church focuses on whether a pastor can ‘manage,’ rather than on whether he can preach, they may end up with a harmonious and efficient staff, but one that surrounds an anemic pulpit.

Pastors – even young ones – can learn people skills on the fly. They usually don’t learn how to preach.