Tuesday, November 25, 2008

never just one

If you asked me who taught me how to speak English, how would I answer that? I could tell you that it started with my parents. Then it was my elementary school teachers who taught me the basics of grammar. It was my high school teachers who taught me SAT vocabulary words and how to write correctly. It was my college professors who taught me how to write big papers and how to make speeches. And it was my friends all along the way that shaped my slang, pronunciation and dialect.

There has been a long line of people who have influenced the way I speak the English language. It would be really difficult to try to nail down just one person who "taught" me English. And so it is with our spiritual lives.

Often Christians are told stories of "evangelism" where one person "leads" another person to believe in Christ. The end of the story is usually a prayer of some kind. But these stories are like watching a 30 second clip of a 3 hour movie. You might get the climax of the movie in those 30 seconds, but it isn't the whole story.

The truth is that there is almost never a time where it is just one person who leads someone to Christ. Usually there is a whole lineage of people who took part in doing little things to shape an individual's spirituality. There are people praying in the background that we may have never known about. There are Sunday School teachers from our childhood, crazy extended family members who are all about Jesus, and co-workers that exhibit a quiet yet powerful faith. There are little influences and big influences that all lead up to us finally giving our life fully to Christ.

But the story doesn't even end there. There is usually a host of new people who then pick up the baton and help shape us in the process of discipleship and spiritual growth. There were prophets who came before Christ and apostles who came after Him. In the same way, we have people who influence us in the direction of Christ before we believe and those who shape our life after we believe. And hopefully there are people who are there with us during both parts of our spiritual journey.

But for too long Christians have believed in the myth of the "evangelist," as if we are supposed to be a lone ranger leading people to Jesus. This is not how it has ever been, nor how it will ever be. The transformation of lives will happen in community, by community. Our job is just to be a link in the chain as we help our friends take that next step toward Christ.

We can't take credit for what happened before we got there and we can't take credit for what happens after we leave. In the end, God gets the credit for all that He does to orchestrate these great clouds of witnesses which end up changing people's lives. For us, it is an honor just to play a small part in God's big plan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

bipartisan economics doesn't work

The failing U.S. car industry is a good example of why bipartisan economics doesn't work. An economic philosophy must be played out in full or not at all. When a country establishes part of one economic philosophy combined with part of a different economic philosophy, businesses find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Let me give an example. The Detroit car companies find themselves stuck between two economic philosophies. Republicans don't want government run health care. So health care is the responsibility of the companies where people work. The car companies that Detroit competes against are located in countries where there is universal health care. So that is an expense that the competitors don't have to deal with.

Democrats believe strongly in unions. So unions have hiked up wages and benefits beyond what workers are actually worth. So Detroit car companies have to pay their work force a lot more than the foreign car competitors. Toyota workers, for instance, are paid well but do not have the bloated salaries and benefits that GM and Ford workers do. But if GM or Ford cuts salaries or benefits, they are in danger of losing millions when workers go on strike. This hurts a U.S. car company's ability to compete globally.

What seems to be the problem is this mix of Republican and Democratic economic philosophy. Our car companies could compete and treat workers well if government provided universal health care and unions stayed intact. Conversely, our car companies could compete and treat workers well if companies still provided health care but unions were abolished. But as it is, our U.S. companies get caught between two competing economic philosophies, neither of which will work if done halfway.

As a country we need to decide if our economy will function under a Democratic economic philosophy or a Republican one. Trying to switch back and forth every 4 to 8 years damages a U.S. company's ability to compete globally. And when our companies can't compete globally, our whole economy is undermined.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

stealing glances

Having a job where you are in the public eye can be weird sometimes. There are many challenges to being a public leader of an organization. These challenges are especially unique in the church.

Many such dangers are like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sometimes people put you an a pedestal. Getting people's admiration is great. But being on a pedestal is also damaging. People put you up there only to see you fall. Inevitably you will end up not meeting up to someone's illegitimate expectations and then they will take it out on you. As you come crashing down, they think they are the one that got hurt, never realizing that by putting you on a pedestal, they were the beginning of the problem.

Besides the dangers of the pedestal, there are the dangers of the piercing gaze. One thing you can be sure about is that when you are in a public, visible position of leadership, many eyes will turn your way. You will get piercing eyes of many kinds.

Some will be judgmental eyes. They will watch your every move waiting for you to fail. These eyes will always see the worst in you and assume your motives are always bad.

Others will be eyes of attraction. You will find attractive people of the opposite sex stealing glances in your direction. Some will do this because they easily get crushes on people in the spotlight. This is why guys in bands tend to get girls.

Others will be enamored with the status of your leadership position. Your elevated "status" is attractive to them. And still others will just simply be attracted to you physically. Social scientists tell us that proximity increases attraction. So it follows that the more you are up in front of people, the more physically attractive you become. Just sheer exposure can increase attractiveness.

These various forms of "eyes of attraction" are particularly dangerous for public leaders. It's no mistake that we see many public leaders fall into sexual sin. Visible leaders, in the church as much as anywhere else, have to deal with a sea full of eyes turned in their direction. Sometimes this temptation can be a lot for a ego to handle.

Often the visible leader gets feedback from a mixture of people who either think too lowly of them or people who think too highly of them. Their critics are often way too hard on them and their admirers are often way too complimentary. This is why those who are leaders in the public eye need people who are close enough to them to tell them the truth.

They need to know when they are doing well and when they are screwing up. But they need this advice from a person to has a balanced view of them. They need to hear from someone who really knows them best. This is a key factor in a public leader's ability to find balance amidst the myriad of eyes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Palin not knowing about Africa was a hoax

This just shows you how messed up the media really is. They broadcasted a story that a McCain aide was saying that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent. Of course everyone believed it and all the 24 hour news outlets reported it. But yet again, they never stopped to check the legitimacy of the sources. This is shoddy reporting in all its glory.

The article below uncovers the truth. It was written by Richard Perez-Pena from the New York Times.

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.

Read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

ban on gay marriage

Californians voted to ban gay marriage in their state last Tuesday. Arizona and Florida did the same. The difference in California is that gay and lesbian rights activists are taking it to the streets in protest. They see the ban as taking away their civil rights. But does it?

The ban on gay marriage preserves the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Marriage provides for some tax, heath insurance, hospital and parental rights. So the thinking is that if you eliminate the ability to get married, then you limit gay and lesbian rights.

But there seems to be another way that would provide gay and lesbian rights while not changing the definition of marriage. "Civil unions" could provide equal rights to gay and lesbian couples while avoiding the damaging effects of changing the definition of marriage.

If you begin to try to change the definition of marriage, you open Pandora's Box. Soon after changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, those who are in polygamist relationships will want to be included as well. They will soon demand that the definition of marriage should change to include multiple people . You can see where this goes.

Marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman. Humanity continually tries to corrupt this. It seems that the corruption of marriage began with husbands being abusive. The ease and normalcy of divorce was the next step in the degrading of marriage. The rampant use of pornography and various other forms of sexual addiction is a third corruption. And now the desire to wholly change the definition of marriage is the most recent attack. This will not be the end of the assault on marriage.

I believe that our gay and lesbian friends should have equal rights, but also that the definition of marriage should be protected. Civil unions seem to be the logical solution.

Friday, November 07, 2008

minorities are majority

When we look out into the world, we see people of all different skin colors. But those who consider themselves "white" or "Caucasian" need to understand that they are the minority. Those of us who are of Anglo-European descent really only occupy parts of Russian, Europe, former British colonies (ie. South Africa, Australia), Canada and the U.S. But even in these places, people of mixed races are more and more the norm.

"White people" are a global minority. The rest of the world is typically a darker shade of "brown" or "yellow." So if we have churches that are only "white," we need to understand that we are becoming more and more irrelevant to our country and the world.

This is also why the world is excited about the U.S. electing President Obama. When they look at Obama, they see more of themselves in him than they have in any of our previous presidents. His skin isn't caucasian. He is biracial. The hue of Obama's skin is more like the rest of the world. It also reflects the changing face of America.

We call Obama a "minority," but he is not. He is only a minority when it comes to the U.S. or Europe. But to the rest of the world, he is the majority. While we ultimately hope that people can look past skin color, Obama's biracial ethnicity is a real asset globally.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear Mr. President-elect...

Could we all agree to pray for our new President regardless of whether we agree with his policies? I hope we can. Here is a thought-provoking statement put out by Sojourners. It is both a commitment to pray for the President-elect and a promise to keep him accountable.

Dear Mr. President-elect Obama:

I want personally to offer you my prayers as you embark on the enormous challenge of leading our country in a time of great crisis and crossroads. While our ultimate hope is our faith in God, we also have high hopes for your administration.

I am one member of a growing movement of Christians and people of faith who support a broad moral agenda that includes a deep concern for poverty, peacemaking, a consistent ethic of life, and care for creation. During the campaign, you said that, if elected, you would face powerful special interests trying to block change. You said you would need a citizen movement to support and push you.

Today, I am pledging to be part of that movement. It will be a movement that will both pray for you and hold you accountable to the things you promised. So I urge you to give high priority to:

- Overcome poverty, both here in our rich nation and globally. Your efforts to resolve the economic crisis must include those at the bottom, the poorest among us. You pledged during the campaign to mobilize the nation to cut domestic poverty in half in ten years and to implement the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half.

- Find better ways than war to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world. It is time to end the war in Iraq and emphasize diplomacy over military action in resolving problems in Iran and Afghanistan. We need better and smarter foreign policy that is more consistent with our best national values.

- Promote a consistent ethic of life that addresses all threats to life and dignity. We must end genocide in Darfur, the use of torture, and the death penalty. I urge you to pursue common ground policies which can dramatically reduce abortions in America, and help bring us together on this divisive issue.

- Reverse the effects of climate change on God’s creation. We must learn a new way of living in America to end our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. We need a spiritual commitment to stewardship and national policies that promote safe, clean, and renewable energy. You spoke of job creation and economic renewal with a new “green economy.”
We need your presidential leadership for this type of societal transformation, but I promise also to do my part.

I will pray for you as you assume the awesome responsibility of leading our nation. To be the best president you can be, you will need both the support and the push of the faith community. I pledge to help build the movement that will keep your administration accountable and faithful.


I like that Sojourners wants to pray for Obama as well as keep him accountable for his actions. I also like that Jim Wallis begins this statement by acknowledging that our ultimate hope is in God and not in a political administration. Maybe you too could join in both praying for Obama and keeping him accountable to having God-honoring political priorities.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Our generation needs to interact with information before we can absorb it. Have you noticed what news outlets are doing these days? They all have blogs. They all have news hours where you can get on Twitter or Facebook and comment on the news in real time. Even ESPN is now doing polls where you can interact with the stories.

It seems that we are bombarded with so much information in this "information age," that we have developed built in filters. Our filters are best at repelling information that is unsolicited. The filters are also strong when it comes to information that communicates "at" us rather than "with" us.

This is why we crave interactivity. We need to interact with information before we can absorb it. We need to express our opinion, ask questions, and dialog. If we are given the space to do this, then our ears open up to the truth of what was said. This is why Link Groups have the potential to develop lasting spiritual growth. Is there a way to expand this sort of Link Group-like interactivity throughout our community? Well, we believe there is.

In light of our changing culture and ever evolving ways of absorbing information, Horizon Church of Towson will embark on two new interactive experiments. First, on our website, we have created a space for a simple poll. Leadership will be able to ask general questions to the church as a whole and people will be able to respond by answering the poll question. This interactive feedback will hopefully help people engage more in the direction and decisions of the church.

The second interactive experiment will happen on Sunday mornings. We will add to our normal Sunday morning experience a time of interaction. After the sermon and music, we will open the floor for a time of asking the communicator questions.

In order to keep the flow and answer as many questions as possible, we will use text messaging as our primary source of interaction. The congregation will text questions to a designated phone throughout the service and whoever delivered the message that morning will field those questions.

This coming Sunday will be our first experience with this experiment. Our hope is that increasing the level of interactivity will increase the absorbency of the messages on Sunday.