Happy Birthday P

I'll turn in the final paper of my seminary career this Friday. It's been a long hard four years (okay, five years), but we're finally here.

Over the past several months people have asked me several times about the thing I've loved most about Dallas Seminary. It's hard to answer that question because I've truly enjoyed so many aspects of my time here. But this morning in chapel we celebrated one of the things that makes Dallas Seminary truly great.

This semester on Wednesdays and Fridays I've routinely shown up for my 1:00 class about fifteen minutes early, but I'm never the first to arrive. Dr. P. beats me to class every single day. There he sits, alone in the room, for who knows how long.

Dr. P. turned 92 years old today.

Dr. P. is Dr. Dwight Pentecost. He's been teaching seminary classes for longer than my parents have been alive. He has been walking with Christ for longer than my grandparents have been alive. He "retired" several years ago, but teaches every semester. When he retired, he told Dallas Seminary he would continue to teach, but wouldn't take a paycheck. The accreditation service disagreed, so every semester Dr. P. goes to the business office and picks up his salary - a nice, crisp, one dollar bill. And then he pins it up on the wall in his apartment to spite the people who demand he be paid for what he does.

Because Dr. P. is one of the giants of dispensationalism - the system of theology that DTS is known for - many people throughout time have disagreed with his perspective. But nobody can deny that Jesus Christ oozes out of this man. And every Wednesday and Friday, Dr. P. opens his Bible and begins to teach about the life of Christ. He doesn't just know the text... he knows the Savior.

The opportunity to be surrounded every day by men who, like Dr. P. have dedicated their entire life to walking with Jesus Christ and teaching others to do the same is a one of the privileges I'll truly miss when I pull out of the parking lot for the last time. They've made me who I am. I stand on their shoulders. And I hope in seventy years to have an ounce of the impact in the lives of others that they have had in my life.

Happy birthday Dr. P.

The Blasphemy Challenge

Lisa put me on to this thing the other day, and just now I saw it posted elsewhere too. It's called "The Blasphemy Challenge" and offers a chance for young people all over the world to upload video that is promised to "damn your soul to hell." It even contains instructions:

It's simple. You record a short message damning yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then the Rational Response Squad will send you a free The God Who Wasn't There DVD. It's that easy.

You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: "I deny the Holy Spirit."

Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here. Of course, how likely is it that there actually is a sky God who has a son who will take you to Heaven if you don't insult a ghost? Isn't it just as likely that there is a sky god who has a son who will take you to Heaven only if you do insult a ghost? Sure, we just made up that scheme, but it is as equally supported by evidence as the first one.

All we're saying is, you're taking chances either way. So why not get a free DVD?

A couple of things here:

1. Watching a couple of these videos made my stomach turn almost as bad as watching the video of the Virginia Tech killer's tirade. Some of these kids have obviously been damaged by "Christians" in the past, and abused by churches who haven't taught these kids well.

2. If you are going to develop a campaign for kids to "irrevocably send their soul to hell," you probably ought to do a little research into exactly what you're talking about. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not saying "I deny the Holy Spirit exists." In fact, the Pharisees in question never said such words. Their sin was the sin of attributing the works of Christ on the earth to the work of Satan rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. And their sin was the last straw in their formal rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

3. I've seen the movie "The God Who Was Not There" that is sent out to every kid who sells his soul online, and my guess is subsequent releases of the movie will be titled "The Logic That Was Not There." Although the documentary is well-received by unknowing viewers who watch it with a preconceived attitude against Christianity, anyone with half a brain who takes the time to think through the movie's claims will notice logical fallacy after logical fallacy in addition to blatant lies which are reported as fact.

4. The bad news for these kids is really good news. They're not in actuality more powerful than the love of God. And one of these days, YouTube will start publishing videos of these kids who recognize that Christianity can't be defined by the heinous behavior of Christians. And someone, somewhere will point them to the Gospel.

Music Style

As a former music pastor at two churches, I've done a lot of thinking about music style. I'm not sure I know anything about it, but I have sure done a lot of thinking!

No doubt you've heard or been involved in some of the controversy regarding music choice and music style. I know I have... I was born and bred for that conversation.

I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church complete with hymnals, choir robes, piano and organ. In college, I became the worship leader of a church that straddled the fence between traditional and contemporary music. I led music from a keyboard, and occasionally a guitar. We had a choir, but they only sang on "special occasions" (translation: the Sundays we knew nobody would be at church). They weren't bad or anything - they just didn't fit the style of the church. But they were faithful people who loved what they did, and showed up regularly to practice. So we encouraged them as best we could.

Following college, I moved to a church who wanted help moving from very traditional to semi-contemporary. They had virtually zero young people, and gambled by hiring a young kid to transition the music ministry, hoping it would attract more young people.

It didn't. And I'm convinced that that kind of strategy doesn't work. (Of course, I didn't tell them that... I needed the paycheck).

The only people who you will "attract" to your church simply by changing the music are the people who are already churched and disgruntled with their own church for their particular music style. You'll get consumers who show up to church to be served - to have it their way. And as soon as it isn't their way anymore, they'll move along to the church down the street. Those aren't the people you want to be a part of your church.

We change our music style around as an evangelism tool. We reason that if we sound more like the music a fallen world culture is listening to, they'll want to come join us and we can introduce them to Jesus. But that logic is flawed. If they've already got their style of music in secular society, why would they want to come to your church for it?

People are not attracted to your church because of the music. People are attracted to your church because of the people in your church who know them and invite them. If your church members are serious about building relationships with the lost, and live contagious Christian lives, people will want to meet their Savior not hear their music.

People will flock to your church because they see something they need in the lives of believers. And when they get there, they won't care whether you have two guitars and drums or a piano and an organ... as long as you can point them to Jesus.

Today, Kari and I worship at Fellowship Bible Church North. Our music could best be described as "Contemporary meets Gospel meets Funk meets Jazz meets Soul meets Rock meets Hip-Hop." And people are pouring out of the woodwork. Seventy-five percent or more of the people who join our church for the first time are either previously unchurched or just coming back to church after decades away. But it isn't because of the music... it's because the people in the church are devoted to evangelism and outreach in their community. People are attracted to the Savior, not the drums.

Blatant Rip Offs

Yesterday evening I was watching "The Office" and saw the McDonalds commercials advertising the new Southern Chicken Sandwich... Breaded chicken, pickles, and a bun. The sandwich is obviously a blatant rip-off of the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich.

It was a good commercial. It made me hungry. So we went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner.

I'm not an advertising guru, but it would seem if you're going to blatantly rip off another person's idea, you might want to be a little more creative so that you don't end up simply advertising for your competition.

Cool idea

Apparently I was a little hard on search committees in my next to last post. So today, I'll tip the scales back in the other direction.

In the post on pastors' salaries, I mentioned the questionnaires that churches send prospective pastors, and how different they can be. And aside from asking a variety of questions, they tend to vary dramatically in length. They are a necessary part of the candidating process, because it's the easiest way to get a feel for the guy who wants to be your pastor, and to diagnose "big issues" before you develop any kind of connection with him at all.

From the candidate's perspective, it's kind of a daunting thing to have five or ten questionnaires on your desk that need to be returned in a timely fashion, because virtually none of the questionnaires asks simple "yes" or "no" questions. They take a lot of time and thought, and can be particularly daunting when the candidate doesn't feel he has any real chance of being hired at the church in question.

Several months ago, I filled out a one-hundred question questionnaire for a church, emailed it back to them, and recieved a reply within five minutes stating that they didn't agree with my answer to question #97, and wouldn't be considering me further. That can put a bad taste in your mouth for filling out long questionnaires... you wonder which question is #97 for the next church.

Today, I received a questionnaire from a church who is looking for a pastor to lead a new church plant. As I glanced through it, I saw that there were 89 questions on the survey, and immediately began to sense God's calling to a different church. And then, on the back page, was taped a Starbucks gift card and a hand-written note saying, "Chris, the first cup of coffee is on us. Thanks for taking the time to complete this."

It took five dollars, and less than five minutes to make me feel valued, and as though the search team appreciated the time it would take me to answer their questions. It really is the little things. Great work search team!

What's in a Name?

It's a great time to be on staff at Fellowship Bible Church North. If you hadn't heard, FBCN is right smack dab in the middle of a huge relocation project. We're moving a 5000 member church a mile and a half north of its current location. The church is currently landlocked, and can't add on the needed childrens and youth facilities it needs to continue to provide a safe and inviting place for people to connect to God. So, we're packing up and moving north.

We're literally replanting the church, but the new church will have about 5000 members.

As a part of planting any church, it is important to have discussions about values (what things will be most important to our church), vision (what things should our church accomplish), and strategy (how are we going to accomplish the vision). And every church plant has to decide on a name.

Fellowship Bible Church North started as a plant from Fellowship Bible Church in Richardson Texas somewhere around 25 years ago. The pastor, Gene Getz, was the founder of the "Fellowship Bible Church" movement - a movement of churches that emphasized freedom in form, but steadfastness in function. To put it another way, Gene believed that the church must remain steadfast in the things that are commanded for the church to do (i.e. to "make disciples). But he believed that the church had tremendous freedom in how that function actually played out in the worship service.

And the movement took off. To date, there are hundreds of "Fellowship Bible Churches" all over the globe.

A couple of years ago, when it became apparent that Fellowship Bible Church North would soon outgrow its facilities, the elders decided to purchase a piece of land a mile and a half north of our current location. About that same time, literally across the street, a different "Fellowship Church" built a satellite campus for its church. Fellowship Bible Church North and Fellowship Church would be next door neighbors.

That presented a branding problem for Fellowship Bible Church North (the other guys got their building up first, and get a lot more media attention). And although we plan to have a great relationship with the neighbors, the challenges are pretty obvious. Tell your friend you go to "Fellowshp" at 75 and Legacy, and they're likely to get a surprise when they show up on Sunday morning.

So our Fellowship had a problem on its hands. We knew we needed a name change, but what do you change? If you take out the word "Fellowship," it could be thought that the church was separating itself from its history, and most importantly, dishonoring Gene Getz. If you take out the word "Bible," it could be thought that you don't teach the Bible anymore. If you take out the word "Church," nobody knows what you do or how you're a different organization from the Lion's club. So the elders were left with "North," and that didn't look good on stationary.

So, two weeks ago, the elders and strategic team announced that Fellowship Bible Church North, when replant is complete, will be known as "Chase Oaks Church - a Fellowship Bible Church." For all intents and purposes, it will be "Chase Oaks Church," which is short, memorable, and identifies the location of the church. But when practical, the church will continue to identify and celebrate its history by using the tag line.

It was a cool process to watch the elders struggle through and present to the church. It was a delicate process, and one with the potential to cause some real problems. But thus far, people seem to understand that the answer to the question "What's in a name" is "nothing," and "everything" at the same time. I'll keep you posted.