Grass Hippies

Dallas Seminary is the weirdest conglomeration of people I've ever seen in my life. Check that - you get a pretty ecclectic mix at the Oklahoma State Fair, but next to that has to be Dallas Seminary. And wherever you have lots of weird people, you end up with some pretty bizzarre cliques.

Dallas Seminary has a few of the groups of people you would expect to see on the campus of a theologically conservative evangelical seminary. The "Hebrew Junkies," and "Greek Junkies" can be spotted pretty easily. They usually have a fist full of vocabulary flash cards, a pocket protector with various colored pens to help them color code their translations, and are loaded down with two or three dictionaries that they never seem to put down.

The "Missions Freaks" are a little harder to spot. Your best bet to spot them is in the parking lot, as they get out of their car that is emblazoned with "Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation or BUST" bumper stickers. On occasion, you get the random white guy walking around campus in a native African robe... that's a dead giveaway.

My favorite group of people on campus are the "Grass Hippies." (I named them myself) These are the seminary flower children of the twenty-first century. They congregate in the grass in front of the library on almost every occasion.

The seminary has a dress code that seems to fly in the face of the Grass Hippie mojo. You won't find these guys wearing their business-casual attire on campus - not if it interferes with flip-flops and jeans. They seem to buck all the authority of the school, insisting it's legalistic.

The other day, I heard one of them griping about the school's "no-alcohol" policy. It's designed to preserve the reputation of the seminary. This guy was bragging that he drinks a beer every week just in spite.

Today, the temperature has dropped in Dallas. When I drove home from campus, it was 29 degrees. The freezing rain is pelting the campus. But when I walked out of the library to go home, there were two Grass Hippies sitting on the grass, a blanket spread on the ground, and an umbrella protecting them from rain. Flip flops, blue jeans, and a winter parka that must have been imported from Siberia.

The statement they make is pretty obvious. "We're going to do what we want to do when we want to do it because we can."

Never mind that these are the people who will be leading churches in the near future. These are the people who are the product of the church of the past twenty years - the product of a church who consistently put rules ahead of relationship. Don't smoke - you'll go to hell. God won't love you if you have sex before marriage. Show up to church on Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, and for Monday night visitation. If you don't, God won't love you as much as those who do.

We've prescribed right behaviors using the wrong motivation. As a result we've taught our kids to distrust any rules or guidelines we present because we've abused them so poorly in the past.

I spent my first couple of years despising the Grass Hippies because they are so overt in their challenge to the guidelines the seminary has put in place. Now, I just feel sorry for them. They feel as though the only way to challenge rules they don't agree with is to obey them just to the point that they won't get kicked out. Where will that attitude land them in five or ten years? Furthermore, how will it change the landscape of the church when these guys start leading their own congregations?

I guess we'll see. But I'm not liking the looks of it.

Katrina Fallout

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A church that wanted to do something special for Hurricane Katrina victims gave a $75,000 house, free and clear, to a couple who said they were left homeless by the storm. But the couple turned around and sold the place without ever moving in, and went back to New Orleans."Take it up with God," an unrepentant Joshua Thompson told a TV reporter after it was learned that he and the woman he identified as his wife had flipped the home for $88,000.

Church members said they feel their generosity was abused by scam artists. They are no longer even sure that the couple were left homeless by Katrina or that they were a couple at all."They came in humble like they really needed a new start, and our hearts went out to them," said Jean Phillips, a real estate agent and member of the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ. "They actually begged for the home."

The church was also shocked by an ungrateful interview the couple gave with WHBQ-TV in Memphis."I really don't like this area," said Delores Thompson. "I really didn't, and I didn't know anybody, so that's why I didn't move in and I sold it."Thompson, reached at a New Orleans phone number by The Associated Press on Tuesday, thanked the church for its generosity but said she saw nothing wrong in selling the three-bedroom, two-bath house."Do I have any legal problems? What do you mean? The house was given to me," she said. "I have the paperwork and everything."She refused further comment and hung up.

The church had decided that it would do something special for one Katrina-displaced family, in addition to its other efforts to help evacuees. The church set up a committee to find the right family and conducted several dozen interviews.Delores Thompson, who did most of the talking for her family, told the committee that she had lost her job as a nurse and that her husband had lost an import-export business in New Orleans, committee member Joy Covington said.The committee also heard how the family had lost its home and most of its possessions and how the children, a 14-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy, were eager to get back in school.

The family said it wanted to resettle in Memphis.After the church settled on Thompson, real estate agent Phillips helped her pick out the house she wanted, and it was bought in Thompson's name. She took possession in February and sold it in September. Property transfer records for the resale list her as unmarried; the papers from the original sale list her as married."I feel like it was a sham or a ripoff," Covington said.

The church hasn't discussed legal action, but the members are upset because the house could have gone to a more needy family, Covington said.

Thompson claimed she and her family were living in an apartment supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but did not invite Phillips over during the house search."She didn't want me coming over there," Phillips said. "She'd say, `I'll meet you.'"Covington's husband, Edward, said the family had been listed by FEMA as displaced. But he said the church took Thompson's word for it that their house was destroyed.


This past weekend I got the privilege of preaching in Houston at Creekside Bible Church. We looked at Psalm 136, and talked thanksgiving as worship.

I love Psalm 136 because it is one of the Old Testament Psalms that was sung by the Israelites to remind themselves of God's work in their lives. This song imparticular reminded them of who God is, what God has made, what God has done, and what God has given.

I'm particularly fascinated by the middle of the Psalm that describes the salvation history of Israel. The Psalmist reminds the Israelites of God's salvation from the hands of the Egyptians following the Passover. Then he reminds them of their salvation across the Red Sea. Following that, he reminds them of their salvation during their time in the desert. All those times were magnificent times of God's salvation in Israel's life for which the Psalmist reminds them that they should "Give thanks" (v. 1).

The Israelites were thankful to escape from the hands of the Egyptians... for about thirty minutes. Then, if you remember, they began to gripe to Moses, asking "weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Have you brought us out here so we will die in the desert?" Then the Lord provided a way across the Red Sea by parting the water, and the Israelites were thankful... for a few hours. Then they began to get hungry and began to complain. So God gave them Wonder Bread from heaven to eat along with quail that He provided, and they were thankful... for a few weeks until they got tired of quail and manna casserole and wanted some water to go with it.

Israel had a history of seeing God show up in their lives and soon forgetting all about it. And the Psalmist points out that their griping was a poor reflection on God's character. What God has done is a reflection of who He is. But sometimes we need a reminder.

This Thanksgiving, as you go around the table and share all the things you're thankful for, remember that Thanksgiving is about more than just what God has done in our lives - it's about who He is.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.

Water Baptism - What's the picture?

You may remember some months ago when I posted about the controversy over baptism among Oklahoma Southern Baptists. The situation surrounding that post was a nasty fight about whether or not baptism should be required for membership within a local church.

Perhaps the only good that came out of that spat for me was that it caused me to hone in on exactly what I believe should be essential for membership within a local church, and exactly what the Scriptures say about the purpose for baptism.

As a part of that thinking, I've been looking through the Scriptures at the various references to baptism, and have come up with a question: What exactly is baptism supposed to picture?

The answer I gave for many years was that baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the traditional stance of the Baptist church and of most of the Bible churches with whom I'm familiar. This view is based first on the fact that it makes sense to us. Water baptism (by immersion) is a good picture of someone dying, being placed in the ground, and rising out of the grave. Secondly, the view that water baptism is a picture of Christ's death and resurrection is based on the fact that Romans 6 describes baptism along with the death and resurrection of Christ.

However, I'm not sure this was what the first church would have had in mind when they were dunked. The picture of death and resurrection might be clear to us today, but would it have been as clear to a person in the first century? Jesus was buried in a cave, not in a hole in the ground. The burial practices for most people in ancient Israel was not anything like what we picture today. As a result, I'm not sure that the image would have been quite as potent to a first century Christian as it is to us today.

With regard to Romans 6, I think we ought to reexamine the passage. Romans 6:3-4 says

"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (6:3-4).

If Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, we need to reexamine our theology of salvation. Because if Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, the only way to "live a new life" is to be water baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. This passage isn't talking about water baptism at all. In fact, as my father-in-law has said, "Romans 6 doesn't hold any water. There's no water in Romans 6."

Furthermore, people were water baptized long before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What did that baptism picture? Add to that that Jesus was baptized. Was Jesus identifying Himself with His own death and resurrection? That seems like a little bit of a stretch.

I've thought of a couple of possibilities for what baptism might picture other than the death and resurrection of Christ. First, it could be a picture of cleansing. This would have been clear to the first century Christians - most of Jewish origin - who might have seen it as a reference to the priest's ceremonial bathing to demonstrate his cleanliness before God.

It might also be possible that baptism was just supposed to demonstrate a person's identification with Christ. You might know that the Greek word "baptizo" literally meant "to dip." A person who worked with cloth might "baptize" her cloth in die so that a white piece of cloth would be identified as blue. Maybe baptism was simply intended to demonstrate identification in the sense that we're identifying ourselves with Christ Himself and nothing more.

I'm not sure I know the answer. What I do know is that baptism is commanded of Christ-followers. I do know that it seems to be important to Jesus (Matthew 28:18) and to the apostles who began the early church.

So I'm opening up the table for you. What do you think? What's the picture intended by baptism?


Okay, I did a dumb thing. In my last post (an article I pasted from a newspaper because I was too busy to post a real entry, but wanted to keep some amount of consistency in the blog) I promised "my own thoughts" in a few days. That was before I actually stopped to consider that any thoughts on the issue of homosexuality are explosive - much less "my own thoughts." But, when you make a promise, you have to keep it.

It seems you can't go very far in today's Christian circles before you're asked your opinion on the topic of homosexuality. Homosexuality has become the "abortion of the 90s." But it's a much different issue than abortion, and than almost any other moral issue the Church has had to answer in the past several centuries. It's certainly not my intent to give a complete solution to the discussion, but I do have some random thoughts about the issue that I don't hear a lot.

1. Before we can address the question of homosexuality in the church, we have to first understand that from a gay person's perspective, the issue is of identity, not behavior. Before we can talk about behavior, we have to address identity.

2. No one has ever gone to hell for being gay.

3. Attraction is completely different than action. It is one thing to be attracted to something and something completely different to act on that attraction.

4. Simple attraction is a moral neutral. People are attracted to people and things all the time, both for good and for bad.

5. Most gay people I know tell me they would not choose same-sex attraction if they got their choice.

6. Genetic predisposition does not condone a behavior in God's eyes. We're all predisposed to do things God doesn't condone.

7. You cannot hope to have an intelligent discussion without a discussion that assumes both sides' unintelligence about the other side.

8. "God Hates Fags" is not a Christian apologetic.

9. Sex outside of a God-ordained marriage will always be sex outside of a God-ordained marriage.

10. I'm a hypocrite if I enter a discussion about someone else's sin issue without making a regular honest attempt to deal with my own.

Interesting Article

From the Denver Post. I'll post some of my thoughts in the next couple of days:

Prominent evangelical Ted Haggard's murky admissions of sin following allegations of an affair with a male prostitute have reignited a volatile argument over the roots of homosexuality - a debate where religion, politics and science collide.

Haggard, who has said he isn't gay, was fired this month from New Life Church in Colorado Springs and now faces what church officials call a "restoration process" that will include a clinical exploration of his sexuality.

Details of that process remain vague. But evangelical leaders who will shepherd Haggard through his ordeal do so amid questions about how evangelicals balance emerging research and their religious beliefs.

Although the nature versus nurture debate - biology versus psycho-social factors - has simmered for years, most recent research has pointed toward sexual orientation being hard-wired into humans, at least to some degree, said Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, who studies sexual orientation development.
That finding holds for men more than women, who may be more "flexible" in developing sexual orientation, he added.

"The pendulum is probably pushed at least a little toward the biological end of things," Bogaert said. "Certainly some argue that psycho-social processes play a role. But for guys, it looks as if it's determined very early in life, and that determination is probably influenced strongly by biology."

Americans have gradually changed their thinking on the origins of sexual orientation over the past 30 years.

Steve Smith, 43, of Denver once enrolled in Exodus International to try to overcome his attraction to men. Initially consumed by guilt because of his fundamentalist Christian background, Smith said he eventually rejected the idea that he could change and accepted who he really is. (Post / RJ Sangosti)a 1977 Gallup poll, only 13 percent thought people were "born with" homosexuality, while 56 percent attributed it to "upbringing or environment."

Those numbers shifted in opposite directions until this year, for the first time, the "born with" responses surpassed "upbringing" 42 percent to 37 percent.

Eleven percent think it's a little of both - a figure that hasn't changed much over the decades.
Alan Chambers, president of Orlando-based Exodus International, which advocates "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ," describes more accepting attitudes in his movement toward the role genetics may play.

Exodus' stance is that homosexuality is "multicausal," Chambers said. One side of the debate is guilty of saying it's only genetics, and the other side is guilty of saying homosexuality can "go away" with prayer and reading the Bible, he said. Chambers said biological and developmental factors play a role.

"Whatever the root cause, people make a choice," Chambers said. "Not about their feelings, but about what they do with those feelings based on convictions and not on science."

Debating change
Steve Smith, a 43-year-old Denver massage therapist, said he first experienced same-sex attractions shortly after puberty, acted on them in college and - owing to his fundamentalist Christian background - felt overwhelmed by guilt.

Soon afterward, Smith enrolled in an Exodus International program with other young adult men who lived in a nondescript house near San Antonio.

People who feel same-sex attractions lacked healthy relationships as children, Smith said he was told, so living together like a family for a year would create nonsexual bonds and "delete" their homosexual thoughts.

Although the program "offered a lot of camaraderie and connection," he said he came to reject its premise.

Ultimately, Smith said he found clarity about his identity lying alone in bed at night.
"You know who you really are in those quiet moments," Smith said. "I knew then that nothing had changed in me fundamentally except my behavior."

Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family also has championed the belief that gays can change. The ministry has staged one-day "Love Won Out" conferences nationwide, often accompanied by protest and publicity. Ministry officials declined interview requests for this story.

Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), coined the phrase "reparative therapy," a controversial treatment that claims to help people change their sexual orientation.

NARTH holds that biological, psychological and social factors shape sexual identity at an early age for most people - but it places greater emphasis on family, peer and social influences. The group doesn't see homosexuality as "normal and a part of human design" or unchangeable.
Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, conducted a study often cited by NARTH as evidence that gays and lesbians can change. But he bristles at how reparative therapy proponents gloss over his further determination that in the general population, such change is rare.

"The Christian right never mentions that conclusion," he said. "I find their whole agenda obnoxious. They want to humiliate gays and deprive them of civil rights."

"Therapy" draws fire
Major professional groups decades ago rejected the concept of homosexuality as a "mental disorder" - that change dates back to 1973 - and have more recently published their opposition to reparative therapy.

The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all have issued statements recognizing concern for the harm such treatment can cause patients.

Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who holds "counter-conferences" to the "Love Won Out" gatherings, disagrees with the notion that there's no harm in trying to change sexual orientation.

He echoes many researchers who say there are no solid, peer-reviewed studies showing reparative therapy works and no accepted standards of practice.

"They're not invited to give lectures in medical schools, they're just marketing these ideas to the public," Drescher said. "They like to create in the public's mind the false impression that there's a controversy you need to know about."

Not that there isn't lively discussion exploring the origins of sexual orientation.

For example, Cornell University psychology professor Daryl Bem's "Exotic Becomes Erotic" hypothesis melds nature and nurture. He embraces research showing a genetic element at work but submits that genes simply code for "temperament" that can lead a child to be either gender- conforming - as in boys acting like boys - or nonconforming.

For the nonconforming boy who identifies more closely with girls, other boys become the "exotic." And as that boy moves into adolescence, the exotic becomes erotic - and the object of sexual desire.

Reparative therapy proponents have cited Bem's work to support their own - something Bem challenges as a politically driven agenda.

"I don't think my theory, even though there's room for experiences, gives any strategy for changing a gay child to a straight child," he said.

At the same time, he notes that politics tinges all sides of the scientific debate. "People start with attitudes," he said, "and then figure which theory they like."

Open to change
Warren Throckmorton, psychology professor at Grove City College in western Pennsylvania, disagrees with some of the tenets of reparative therapy. But while he firmly asserts that he's not a reparative therapist, he doesn't discount those who claim to have been transformed.

"For people of the evangelical persuasion, they believe that the core of their being is about their relationship with God," Throckmorton said. "If they're truly being who they are, for them that means bringing their sexual feelings into alignment with their religious beliefs."
And that, he added, could be the next step for Haggard.

"It appears he's struggled with his feelings secretively," Throckmorton said. "And now he has the opportunity, if he can be completely candid with some counselor or adviser, to sort out how he wants to live and what boundaries to place in his life."

But some in the gay community worry about repercussions of the Haggard scandal.
"I am concerned he will go through this restoration process and come out the other end a confirmed heterosexual and become a poster child for the illegitimate process of reparative therapy," said Michael Brewer, public policy director for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado.

From its Denver offices, the Christian ministry Where Grace Abounds offers support groups, counseling and other resources for people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Director Mary Heathman, poring over Haggard's two-page apology read at New Life Church last week, was struck by one thing in particular. Haggard wrote about seeking assistance "in a variety of ways" to his struggles, with none working. Then he admitted that when he stopped communicating about it, the "darkness" increased.

"That's the key point right there," she said. "Transparency for any problem is the beginning of the solution. As (Alcoholics Anonymous) says, we are only as sick as our secrets."

Why We Serve

One of the neat things about the staff dynamic at Fellowship is the desire for the staff to continue to grow together. As a result, once a month our staff engages in a discussion around a book that the staff is reading together. This quarter, the book we've been reading is "He Has Made Me Glad" by Ben Patterson. It's a book about the importance of choosing to be joyful - something commanded by Scripture.

Early in the book, Patterson writes of his own experience, "One year I didn't want to go back to work after my vacation. I was burdened with the problems of the church and depressed over struggles in my family. But I gritted my teeth, pointed the car toward home and went back grimly determined to be obedient to God and do my job. This attitude continued for two weeks. Then one night in a prayer meeting the Lord spoke to me. The words were harsh, but the tone was tender. He said, "I don't need this from you, Ben. If you can't serve me joyfully, don't call it service. You dishonor me with your ingratitude. Change your attitude or get another job."

Right now, I'm overseeing a new opportunity at Fellowship in which each person at the church will be encouraged to read through the New Testament in a year. In addition to reading one chapter from the New Testament, we've invited almost 300 of our leaders to write a short devotional over one of those chapters. So, five days a week, each member will be encouraged to read a chapter from the New Testament as well as a devotional written by someone else in the church body. It's an exciting time.

As I began receiving responses from the leaders we invited to write, the contrast between responses was amazing. For some, the opportunity to serve was met with joy. They were excited about the opportunity to be used, and ecstatic about how God might use this opportunity to bring the church together for something incredible.

Others responded positively, but with the excitement of someone who had just been asked to scrub the public toilets before summer camp. "Yeah, I'll serve... if you can't find someone else."

I wonder how many of us cop that same "if you're going to twist my arm" mentality with God on a regular basis. How many of us enter our own ministries every day because we feel like we have to?

What would happen if we all realized that God could find someone else to do what He has called us to do? He could find someone else and equip them to do the job "better" than we could do it. But He didn't. He chose us. We get to serve the Creator of the universe. We should serve with gratitude and joy, or as Patterson said, get a different gig altogether.

Divorce Parties?

Bachlorette parties and bridal showers are so lame. Shanna Moakler threw herself a big, fat divorce party in the über-chic nightclub, Light, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this weekend.

“I’ve been to past friends’ divorce parties so I’m not the first person [to have one],” Moakler told People magazine. “I’m not groundbreaking or anything. I’m really doing it for myself to have closure and celebrate being single again and start a new chapter in my life.”

In celebrating the split from her “Meet the Barkers” co-star/husband Travis Barker (who hooked up with Paris Hilton, who then got clocked in the face by Moakler), Moakler did shots with her girlfriends and had a specially made divorce cake featuring a knife-wielding bride figurine on top, with a trail of blood leading to a groom sprawled at the bottom. Yummy!

“I don’t have any regrets about doing it. I am who I am and I make my own decisions. I totally respect people’s opinions. I never thought I would be getting a divorce. I never thought I’d be here,” the “Dancing with the Stars” reject said. “At the end of the day, this isn’t the worst thing in my life. People go through it every day. I respect people’s opinions, but this is my opinion. This is how I’m showing the world that divorce is OK. It doesn’t have to be the end of your life.”

Hey, a divorce party beats a pity party any day

Seeking and Hiring - the good, bad and ugly

This May, (barring any unforseen snafus) I'll be walking across the stage of a large church, accepting a diploma from Dallas Theological Seminary, and saying "goodbye" to more than 20 years of formal education. It's an exciting time in the Freeland household - full of praying, planning, studying, and sending out resumes.

I've been on both sides of the hiring process. Twice I've been the person preparing and mailing out resumes to prospective ministries. Twice I've been the person reviewing resumes in hopes of hiring a person to fill a ministry vacancy. Both sides are tough, and both sides demand a realization that no matter which side of the hiring process you're on, Christian decency demands a ministry-oriented and sensitive heart.

You see, candidating for churches is a lot like dating. You want to find a place where you're compatible or a candidate that will be compatible with your ministry - and doing so means an element of vulnerability. That vulnerability starts with the resume. Sending a resume is like asking a girl out. The chances are, you've looked over the profile, like what you see, and think there's at least a chance that the two of you could be compatible.

You would be amazed at the cover letters and resumes I've received from well-educated men who look like they put together their resume in five minutes, and spilled their breakfast on it on the way to the post office. The resume is your first and only opportunity to make a good impression with a church. God created spell-check for a reason.

From the other perspective, you'd be amazed at how many times I've sent carefully prepared cover letters and resumes to churches to be completely blown off. In fact, the majority of guys I talk to who have applied for ministry positions report similar results to mine - for every ten resumes you send out, you can expect that you will hear precisely nothing from eight of those churches. That's pretty sad. At least when I was in college and was turned down for a date, most girls had the decency to tell me so.

In contrast, I received the nicest note from a search committee the other day. It was hand written on church stationary and said, "Thanks for taking the time to apply to be our next senior pastor. We will be accepting resumes until November 5th, after which you can expect communication from us either way. Please continue to pray for us as we seek God's man for this church." I sincerely hope something works out there, because that's the kind of ministry I want to be a part of.

They say that breaking up is hard to do. They're right. When you have to face the music that a church doesn't think you're a good fit for the opportunity you've built up in your mind, it's hard. It's particularly hard when that news comes as a form letter that doesn't even have your name spelled correctly. Or, when the letter only says "Dear Mr. Freeland, We have decided to seek other candidates in our search for a senior pastor. Sincerely, Pastor Search committee." When I was in high school, I had a girl break up with me on my answering machine. She had more tact than some of the letters churches send out to candidates who are not good fits for their ministry.
I received a "break up letter" a few years ago from a church that read, "Dear Mr. Freeland, We have reviewed your resume and prayerfully decided that your level of experience is not a good fit for the position we are seeking to fill. Please know that our search committee prayed for you by name tonight and asked that God would provide you with a position that will be an excellent mutual fit. Thank you for your interest in ______ Church." They let me down easily, told me the grounds for their decision, and did it in an extremely edifying way. Much better than "I think we should see other people."

Search Committees are filled with busy people - people who give up hours out of their week to filter through resumes, contact candidates, and discuss the future of the church, all while trying to stay above water at their "real jobs," and spending time with their families. It's hard to take the time to do the little things, like ensuring that every applicant receives some sort of communication from the church. But the small touches can make the difference between encouraging a candidate in his ministry - even if you don't want to hire him - and discouraging him more than you can imagine.

Similarly, applicants are busy people. Most of them are involved in trying to finish strong where they're currently serving, and are helping families through times of transition. But that's no excuse to demonstrate anything less than excellence and professionalism from your side. If you can't handle stress with professionalism and grace now, why would anyone think you'll be able to when you arrive at a new ministry?

Like I said earlier, finding the right fit for a ministry is a lot like dating. And in both cases, if both sides did a better job at it, perhaps the divorce rate would be much different.

PS - Happy Birthday to my wife. When the dating process works, it works, and I got a good one.

John MacArthur Gettin' Jiggy Wit It

I know many of you who read this blog found it through team pyromaniacs. So, I thought you would appreciate this.

It turns out John MacArthur isn't quite as prim and proper as most of us would like to think. In an attempt to show that he's hip with today's generation, he's recorded a rap.

You can hear it here.

I could be wrong, but I think the scratching and bebopping comes from none other than Mr. Pyromaniac himself. He's probably doing all the percussion with his mouth.

(HT: Monday Morning Insight)

That's not relevant...

Not too long ago I got the opportunity to visit the church where one of my friends is a member. It's always interesting to go to a new church and remember what it's like to be a guest.

As I got out of my car, he met me in the parking lot. I had my ultra-thin NIV in hand (I try not to bring out my fat NASB around people who don't know me very well... it freaks them out), and he told me, "Oh, you won't need that."

Uh oh.

"If (emphasis mine) we talk about the Bible they'll put it on the screen."

This particular Sunday, the subject of the pastor's sermon was "Would Jesus Use MySpace?"

I should have guessed from our encounter in the parking lot.

Now, there's not a very good way to bring this kind of thing up with your friend - particularly when your friend is a newer believer who lives in a different city, and who is really excited about the new church he's going to because it "meets my needs."

So at lunch, I casually mentioned something about how different his church was from mine, and how fun it was for me to get to see where he was attending. "Different?" he said, "How?"


"Well, the church I go to talks about the Bible a lot. In fact, we believe that if this God is as great as we say He is, we probably ought to tell people what He says."

"Oh yeah," he replied. "Well, our church just really focuses on being culturally relevant."

That just kills me. "Would Jesus Use Myspace" is not cultural relevance. In fact, it's about as far away from being truly relevant as possible.

Somewhere along the way we've decided that "cultural relevance" means talking about "cultural things." It doesn't. Cultural relevance means taking the things that are timeless, and talking about them in a way that today's culture can understand, relate to, and apply.

The church needs to take a message that is relevant, and show a fallen culture how it applies to them. Instead, a lot of churches are using the platform of the church as a rant on cultural issues in the name of cultural relevance. As a result, they're prostituting the platform and using it to say things that aren't timeless, don't meet the real needs of the culture, and thus aren't important or relevant at all.