November 24, 2013

Time for a Schism?

On Friday, 22 Nov 2013, Tony Jones posted an essay titled "It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church." A couple of years ago, I wrote a post calling for schism, but removed it to try and be more reconciling with those with which I disagree. I commented in support of Tony's idea on his and another blog, and was met with a vehemence against that position that did nothing more than prove to me that it's a good idea to withdraw from fellowship with those who are against the equality of women in the church.

November 21, 2013


Over my lifetime, I've had a lot of reasons to deal with the topic of forgiveness. I finally think I have some idea of what it's about these days, and I'm getting much better at it that I once was.

I still see a lot of people with what I think are misguided ideas about what forgiveness is for, and a lot of people who are struggling with these ideas while desperately needing to bring the healing of forgiveness into their own hearts. We really need to move into a better understanding of forgiveness so that we can do our own healing and help others along in the process so we can more fully live a life of love as Christ would have us live.

November 18, 2013

What if the Talent is Love?

I've heard the Parable of the Talents explained in several ways over the years, and they have either seemed somewhat incomplete or require a lot more inference than I think is needed. Over the past several days, some personal experiences have led me to an interpretation that seems pretty accurate to me.

14"For [it is] just like a man [about] to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15"To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16"Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17"In the same manner the one who [had received] the two [talents] gained two more. 18"But he who received the one [talent] went away, and dug [a hole] in the ground and hid his master's money. 19"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20"The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' 21"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22"Also the one who [had received] the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' 23"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no [seed]. 25And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' 26"But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no [seed]. 27Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my [money] back with interest. 28Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' 29"For to everyone who has, [more] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30"Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What kind of comparison do we get when we change the talents (money) to love (agape)?

November 12, 2013


It's not unusual or wrong to feel like this in our spiritual lives. Cracked open, drained of life, left on the ground. Those who we wold call spiritual giants have felt this way. I felt that way a long time, and still do at times.

Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes, it just seemed to happen.

But feeling empty doesn't mean we really are empty.

What if we don't properly recognize what it feels like to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

November 11, 2013

Hard Questions: Sin - What is it Exactly?

This doesn't seem like a hard question, at least not for fundamentalists and literalists, but it's a hard question that a lot of us feel needs to be discussed with a mind towards progress and unity.

We tend to think of sinning as a sort of overarching wickedness or evil, acts done maliciously to another. The word translated as 'sin' in the Bible actually means 'missing the mark'. That leaves a whole lot of room for almost anything to be a sin. It also leaves us with a need for a code by which to judge ourselves and our actions, so that we can know if we're sinning. And when we look at it that way, what happens often is that grace and love get pushed aside for legalism.

The idea that all sins are sins against God is easy enough to back up with Scripture, but what does it mean exactly to sin against God. Might we have been looking at it wrong? Might we do better to think about it in another way? Have we sinned against God and our fellow man by not looking at it a different way, and by holding some Scripture as unchangeable commands when they shouldn't be?

November 10, 2013

Fitting In

My friend Les Ferguson Jr. wrote a great post a couple of days ago about the feeling of not fitting in a church community anymore. If you're not familiar with Les' story, click around his blog for a bit to get the full ramifications. Short version is, his special needs son was molested by an old man from the church, said old man came back and killed his son and wife once charged, then church family wanted him to hurry up and get over it so he could come back and minister to them again. So, yeah, Les is a man who knows all to painfully the feeling of not being allowed to fit in. I could write all sorts of stuff about that, but the relevant point here is that Les needed more time to heal that they wished to allow, he's no longer their preacher, and he's healed to the point of regaining his passion again.

But's he's long gone as that congregation's evangelist, and understandably is wanting to have a ministry again.

November 5, 2013

Hard Conversations About the Future of the church of Christ

I've always attended church at congregations connected to the old Stone-Campbell Restoration movement. Earlier this year, I returned to a church of Christ (coC) congregation, feeling encouraged by the more open attitude I encountered there, and thinking that this might be a place where I could be a useful contributor if thoughts and ideas. I still have those hopes, but it seems that this, and many other coC congregations are gong to have to ask some very difficult questions of themselves, if they wish to continue as churches holding to the basic ideals of the Restoration movement.

I've heard it asked if a church has to ditch the coC name in order to grow in numbers and outreach effectiveness. In other parts of the country it may be different, but in SouthEast Texas, I'd have have to say that it's nearly impossible to overcome the stigma that has been brought upon the coC name. People have long memories concerning churches and their attitudes, and historically, the coC name hasn't been associated with love and hospitality in these parts. To this day, you can drive less than a half-hour to a nearby suburb and see a church of Christ congregation that has messages on its sign that would fit in perfectly with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist crowd.

This same congregation publishes a newsletter that is "for those who love truth and hate error" as it says on their masthead. You can find just about mainstream Baptist pastor that will loudly condemn the tone and tactics of Westboro, but for some reason, coC preachers won't confront this church and its leaders until they're subject to an attack from them.

And that is a big reason that people in my area don't really care about what any church of Christ says or does. It's the same way across a lot of East Texas, and I would imagine other places, too. When one church of Christ condemns "fags" (yes, they do use that word on a regular basis) on their sign, and the rest of us hide behind the garbage of "each congregation is independent, so we can't say anything about them", why would anyone care to come and see if another one is actually different in its attitudes?

The legalism that has characterized the coC at large over the past half-century is bad enough, but when it grows into outright and self-admitted hate, and we don't confront it as Christians, then we've lost our credibility in the community. There are some people in the coC that are working to change that reputation, and give good passionate reasons why they stay in the coC for that reason. ("Change Agents" has been an insult used by the hard-liners in the coC for a very long time) And if you're in an area that is either dominated by, or has a great lack of coC congregations, then it's an easier job to make a different reputation for your congregation or the coC at large. But, when you're in a suburban area like mine, and there are at least a dozen different (mostly < 200 members) congregations, and one is spewing bile, then it's extremely difficult to get out a message of Christ's love and grace when we don't come out strongly against hatred and bigotry.

The big problem with coming out against a hardline church that insults people is that you're just stepping back into their game of debating tricks and "hating error". Time spent speaking out against those folks is time wasted that could be used to proclaim Christ and His love.  Time wasted that could be spent living out His vision of love and grace.

Hardliners defend their words and actions with the old "speaking the truth in love" cliche. Why do I call it a cliche? Because when it's used in that way, that's all it is. "Speaking the truth in love" requires that one loves first. Only then can you understand any truth. If you wish to claim that it give you license to be degrading and insulting to people that have a different opinion, then you understand neither love nor truth.

The sad thing is that this blog post, and my thoughts will go almost completely ignored by people in the coC. You see, I don't have a string of letters behind my name, or years spent in a pulpit, I'm just an average guy with an average mind, and very different lines of thought from most Christians, so very few people have any interest in what I have to say.

So what do you think? Am I just an unreasonable whiner? Should I just shut up and go along with business as usual? Should I stay and try to work to bring positive change? Or should I just walk away from institutional churches and simply try to live as best I can? Heck, should I even bother to keep spending time writing? I'd love to hear some opinions.