I'm a dreamer. I love to sit around and think about the future. I get excited thinking about what things will be like five years from now, ten years from now, or thirty years from now. As the light at the end of the seminary tunnel begins to get bigger, I get a lot more chances to dream. Each resume I send out provides more fodder for bigger dreams. Each church that responds, weighing out the implications of taking a chance on a young whipper-snapper, provides me with more and more opportunities to think about my future - and the future of the church.

I've always been fascinated by people who dreamed big dreams. Some of my favorite books are the biographies of men and women from various points in history who moved forward with dreams that nobody else thought were possible. Those are my kind of people - the ones who dreamed big, and who had the courage to put feet on their dreams. I want to be like those people...

One of the buzz words today is the word "vision." People who dream big dreams and put feet on those dreams are called "visionaries."

But I think that "vision" is something of a misnomer for what these people do. "Vision" implies someone who can see into the future. We get the idea that "visionary" people have an ability to forecast everything that would happen in the world, and to create ideas that would be on the cutting edge of those events - modern-day prophets, who can see the unforseeable and act accordingly.

As I study the great "visionaries" of today and of history, I find that these people are most often not people who have a clear picture of the future in their mind. Instead, I find that the majority of the people we call "visionaries" are more astute in history and current-events than the future. Rather than attempting to guess what a culture will look like in fifty years, they concentrate on the things that never change and plan to adapt.

I'm not even going to try to tell you what the culture will look like when I've been a pastor for fifty years. But what I can tell you is that in fifty years, the gospel will be the only hope of the world. In fifty years, people will still be hurting, and will still have a desperate need for meaningful community. In fifty years there will still be a struggle between sin and grace, and believers will still need to be challenged to live in accordance with their identity in Christ.

Some things never change. And my forecast of the future is this: the ones who will hold the keys to the future are the ones who understand the timeless truths of the past and plan to adapt their language and methods accordingly.

First Baptist Dallas - Biased?

Check out this article from the Dallas Morning News about the latest controversy at First Baptist Church Dallas.

Apparently a young lady, Ms. Freda Brown, was employed as a preschool teacher at First Baptist Dallas. Employed, that is, until she got pregnant outside of marriage.

At that point, the human resource director at First Baptist met with her and told her that premarital sex was not in keeping with the standards expected of employees at First Baptist, and that she would need to commit to remaining abstinent if she wanted to keep her job. Some time later she was approached by a group of employees at First Baptist who reiterated the character requirement and asked Ms. Brown several questions that she deemed "inappropriate." Finally, Ms. Brown was relieved of her position with pay and insurance until the baby is born.

Now she's claiming to have been discriminated against because of her gender and pregnancy and is taking the church to court, suing for wages and damages.

Pardon me while I stand back and applaud the administration at First Baptist Church Dallas.

Not only does this discipline seem to have been executed thoroughly biblically (first one-on-one, then with a group, finally publicly), the church bent over backward to treat this woman with consideration and grace.

I can't get over how the church went the extra mile to minister to this lady. She could have been fired as soon as the pregnancy test turned to a plus - not because of the pregnancy, but because of the conduct that led to the pregnancy. But even after she was fired, the church made sure the baby who had nothing to do with this would be provided for, and even gave Ms. Brown the time and resources to find a new position. This church balanced the demand for integrity with grace and love in a very difficult situation.

What's On?

I've been pedal to the metal trying to finish up a huge Hebrew paper on the book of Ruth. I just hit "print," and realized that someone bet me lunch I wouldn't post three times to my blog this week after I promised I was back. Never one to back down from a challenge, here you go:

One of Kari and my favorite things to do together is to relax on the couch and watch TV. Since we don't get to do a lot of relaxing, and certainly don't get to relax on a routine schedule, the invention of the DVR has saved our marriage. Okay, not really, but it's a great invention that everyone needs in their home. We set it to record all the events we want to be sure not to miss, and it records them for us - even when they change nights without warning. Then, we fast-forward through the commercials and watch an hour-long show in about 45 minutes. (We don't like to waste time when we're relaxing!)

We're die-hard 24 fans. During the season, our schedules revolve around making sure we have time to watch 24 on the night it's on. In fact, it's the only show we feel like we have to watch on the night a new episode comes out because everyone and their dog is talking about it the next day. We've been known to stay up much later than normal so that we can be sure to catch a new episode of 24.

But 24 isn't on until January, so we have to have other shows to fill our time. Here's what's on in the Freeland house right now:

1. Six Degrees - This one's new this year. So far, it's a pretty good drama about six people who have random connections to each other. The story line keeps bringing them closer together, so I assume at some point they're all going to meet. It doesn't hurt that Erika Christensen is a very "likeable" character, and Kari says the same for Jay Hernandez.

2. The Nine - The jury is still out on this show. A group of nine people get stuck in a bank during a bank robbery. The relationship that they form sticks with them even after they're let out of a hostage situation. I think I would like this show better if it took place during the hostage situation. I could use a little less of the romance and a little more of the action. As it is, from episode to episode the show reveals more about what happened inside the bank to help forge the relationships these nine people now share.

3. Grey's Anatomy - I watch this show because I'm a good husband, and for no other reason. Grey's Anatomy is like a hybrid between ER and Days of Our Lives. Kari loves it, and I tolerate it. That's about the best I can say. I do question the believability of an entire hospital staff sleeping with one another, and none of them ever contracts a STD. You'd think doctors would be a little more careful about their promiscuity. But I guess that adds to the drama of the show. I'm not a big fan.

4. The Office - Kari watches this show because she's a good wife, and for no other reason. Actually, I think she secretly likes it because she always protests when I watch it without her. This is the only show on television, past or present with the exception of Seinfeld of which I can watch reruns alone in my house and still laugh hysterically. If you've ever worked in an office environment of any kind, you'll see the people you used to work with in these characters. (Is it a coincidence that Drew and Dwight start with the same letter? I think not.)

5. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - This show strikes a perfect balance for Kari and I. She loves it because of the ooey gooey story lines and the cool home accessories that Ty Pennington and crew picks out for needy families. I love it because it gets me excited about ministry. Why should secular TV networks be doing a better job of identifying needs and serving the community than the church? We can do that.

And a note for Tim Stevens who looooves NBC's Studio 60. Man, I've tried and tried to find something to like about this show, even trying it again after your recommendations, but I just can't do it. I'm a huge Matthew Perry fan, but even he isn't enough to carry the show. Maybe those of you who love this show are seeing something I'm missing. If so, I'd love to hear your perspective.

Public Debate

"Years ago when it came time for public debate, we said 'I'm right, and your position is not as good.' We don't know how to debate that way anymore. Today when we debate, we insinuate 'I'm right, and you're stupid and evil.'" - Mark Davis

Blogs are amazing things. When I first started blogging almost two years ago, it was because I thought it would be a great place for me to hone my writing skills, test-drive some ideas in the public marketplace, network with some people who were doing things on the cutting-edge of ministry, and respond to some of the things that are important to me. I made two mistakes when I started:

The first mistake I made was to include my real name. isn't very incognito. I'm not one to go around googling my name, but if I were, I would notice that my blog is one of the first things to show up on a google search for "Chris Freeland." So, any perspective ministry that might consider me as their future pastor will likely stumble across this blog as they search the web to make sure my name hasn't shown up in any news articles (particularly on the arrest pages).

The second mistake I made was to reference Pyromaniac (my infamous uncle) in one of my original posts. He blogrolled me, blogspotted me, and all the sudden instead of seeing 10 or 15 visitors on my blog every day, I started seeing 90 or 100 on some days.

That's intimidating. Particularly when you read some of the people who comment on Pyromaniacs on a regular basis. Some of these guys (and their homeschooling wives) have nothing better to do than nitpick words and throw rocks at each other. I've searched high and low for a job that would allow me the free-time to spend hours perusing blogs of people I don't like just for the sheer joy of catching them on a point I disagree with and using my stellar debate skills to run them into the ground... but I don't have that kind of time.

And I'm not sure that's a very God-honoring use of the blogosphere.

Now, this is by no means a defense of the Pyromaniac - he can defend himself, and he's certainly not innocent of this kind of thing (by his own admission). Lord knows I don't agree with everything Phil has ever posted. But there's a right way and wrong way to enter discussions with people in a public arena even such as the blogosphere, and that's where the quote above comes in.

There are issues that must be discussed by Christians. There are ideas that must be vigorously debated among Christians. But in those discussions, motive is everything. It is one thing to say "I am right, and your thought is not as good as mine." It's something completely different to say "I am right, and you're stupid and evil."

Ideas are not identity, but we don't separate the two very well.

When we mistake ideas for identity, we show our ignorance of the issues. (How's that for alliteration?) Instead of stopping long enough to understand the person presenting an issue contrary to ours, it's too easy to cast dispersion on their character as if to say "you can't trust this person's character - why should you listen to their ideas?" That's not fair fighting.

The Lordship debate is a great example that I've been on both sides of at various points in my life. But the issue isn't ever going to be resolved because neither side can stop calling the other side names long enough to understand the other person's actual perspective. News Flash: Everyone on the lordship side isn’t a rabid “fruit inspector” who spends his life looking for reasons why the sinners around him must not “really” be saved. And everyone on the no-lordship/free grace side isn’t an antinomian or a Bob Wilkin/Zane Hodges groupie.

Another example of this is the current controversy at Bellevue Baptist Church - the former church of the pastoral giant Adrian Rogers. They're enmeshed in a church controversy that seems destined for a church split. One of the members of a faction who opposes the elders has chosen to start a blog in order to chronicle his point of view. In poor taste, he chose to publish an email correspondence between himself and one of the church staff members. Check it out and see how long it takes for the debate to turn from ideas to identity - by my count, one paragraph by each party involved.

I fail to see how either example in any way reflects the biblical mandate to speak the truth in love, or to lovingly show another his faults in hopes that you might restore your brother. Frankly, we as Christians so busy proving someone else wrong that we fail to demonstrate one iota of good Christian conduct in our dealings. We don't care about the discussion of ideas - if we assassinate individuals, we won't have to worry about their ideas anyway.

Shame on us.

For the weekend...

It should be a busy weekend to top off a busy week. Kari and I spent the last couple of days at the home of some friends who traveled to Israel with us in June. They've got 4 kids ranging in age from 17 to 6, and Kari and I got to house/kid sit while the parents were in Chicago. It was fun to be a soccer dad for a couple of nights, but I'm not sure it could be sustained for a long period of time. The days began at 5am and ended at 11:30pm. Fortunately, these were great kids, or Kari and I might be questioning the Proverb that says "children are a blessing from the Lord."

Tonight, Drew Leaver (my boss) will be preaching at Fellowship North. Drew always does a great job, which is surprising because he always gets tossed the topics that the senior pastor doesn't want to handle. We're in the middle of a series on 1 Corinthians, and Drew "just happened" to draw Chapter 5 - the passage on church discipline. He'll do a great job though, but if not, at least people will be informed enough not to talk bad about him behind his back.

On Sunday, I'll be preaching at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho. FBCA is the original Fellowship Bible Church where Gene Getz began his ministry as a pastor in the seventies. The church is a lot different now from when Gene was there, but it will still be fun to preach in front of live people who aren't seminary students and professors. If you're in the area, it would be fun to meet you. For service times and directions, check out Fellowship Arapaho's website.

Next week, I'll be back with a post that was provoked by my favorite radio talk show host in the world, Mark Davis. He does a local radio show in Dallas, but does a two-hour national show that you can hear on the Sirius ABC talk channel among other places. Here's the paraphrased quote - I'll relate it back to my life next week, "Years ago when it came time for public debate, we said 'I'm right, and your position is not as good.' We don't know how to debate that way anymore. Today when we debate, we insinuate 'I'm right, and you're stupid and evil.'"

Have a great weekend.

Quote Me

We are ministers but for a short time. At any moment the Master may summon us into silence or call us to the temple above. Make all of your messages count for eternity. Speak now only what you can look back on with comfort when you speak no more. Speak as a dying man to dying men."

- Robert Murray McShane

Where am I?

No, I haven't given up on the blog altogether. I have given up on ever thinking I'm going to be a super blogger who records new, engaging, thoughtful material every day - or even every other day for that matter.

You know those classes in college or graduate school where the professor thinks his or her class is the only important class you'll ever take at that institution and proves it by piling a load of work on you? I've got two of those this semester, and they're eating my lunch. On top of that, things are pretty busy at the church (I just finished putting a major project to rest, and have picked up another project to take its place), and I'm beginning to start thinking about what I'm going to do when I graduate in May of next year. With all of those things combined, I was lucky to have time for a shower this morning, much less a blog entry.

I promise to be better (but not a lot better). I think I'm about over the hump, and have a lot of things to blog about, but am just now getting to the point that I can come up for air. Look for some more from me in the next few days and weeks.