Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hybels' 4 Leadership Practices

Bill Hybels has taught for years that there are 4 things that every leader should do at all times throughout his or her life. I have known these for a long time and practiced them, but I thought it would be a good reminder to put here.

1. Read everything you can read about leadership.

Hybels says that a leader should always be reading. I do this as much as possible. i am always looking for a good book to pick up. i am one of those people who could go to Barnes and Noble and sped $500 and be bummed that I don't have more time and money to read. Nonetheless, Hybels is right. Reading does so much to get your brain working, it communicates new information, and it helps you remember things better. That is partly the reason I started the reading list on the left. I love sharing the titles and thoughts on books I have recently read. do yourself a favor and always have a book or 2 with you when you travel or whenever. We all know that life surprises us with other being late and what not. those are great times to get a little read time in.

2. Sit under leadership Training and teaching often

There are tons of great leadership training seminars and DVDs that are easy to get and affordable. I am lucky because my church hold this as a value too, so I am able to go to at least 2 major leadership training events every year as well as countless leadership training nights and workshop type things. If you have a local church that values leadership, chances are they have some leadership teachings on DVD or VHS. I encourage you to explore this and grow yourself. There is also tons of good stiff on the internet. If you have not caught on to podcasting yet, you need to. There are great leadership podcasts out there that are designed to stretch and grow you as a leader. Check it out.

3. Surround yourself with leaders who are better than you and ask questions

This is the way I learn best; by asking questions. It is such a great way to process and clarify what is going on. Observe someone and listen to them. then, ask questions and dialogue. This is such a great way learn because it is dynamic, unlike speakers or books. I have always had 2 or 3 people that I greatly respected in my life that I was allowed to ask questions of. Pick the brains of people smarter than you. Most are very willing to help.

4. Lead

The last step is that you need to be leading something. There is no education like experience. We learn best by doing. Whether you need to volunteer to lead the food committee for the 65 and over small group that meets once a month or you are the CEO of a company, you need to be leading inorder to grow. When I was in college, our ministry profs would urge us to get involved in ministry, rather than waiting until we graduated. luckily I made some sacrifices and did that, or I would be sadly latent now. Lead whatever you can to help yourself grow as a leader.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Black and White Issue

I read on Tim Ellsworth's Blog today the following story from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:

Twelve-year-old Joe recently asked Jesus to live in his heart.

Yet the church where Joe accepted his Savior not even two weeks before will no longer allow the biracial boy to enter.

On Aug. 6, during its scheduled Sunday night business meeting, Fellowship Baptist Church in Saltillo voted not to accept blacks within the church. More specifically, the congregation also voted Joe out and said he could not return.

That evening Fellowship Baptist did not just say goodbye to Joe and an entire race of humans. With that decision the church’s pastor, the Rev. John Stevens, resigned, and at least one other family decided not to return to the Baptist Missionary Alliance congregation that averages 30 people.

Of all of the issues a church can have, racism is the scariest. I have never been to Mississippi. Is racism still that abundant there that churches hate blacks, and apparently hate them so much as to expel a recent convert, a 12 year old boy no less, bacause his skin was a different color?

How can a group of people read there Bibles and think this? Even more, how much is racism still present in our own hearts? Let us continue to become more like Jesus and forever continue increasing our "bandwidth" of who we think is included in God's love.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Across the Spectrum, Part 1:The Scripture Debate

I was visiting some students who graduated from our ministry who attend Northwestern University in Orange City Iowa over the weekend and I took some time to check out the Bible section in their bookstore (I am a Bible nerd!). I ended up buying a fascinating book entitled Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy (for sale on the left). Boyd is rather famous and has written ten books, including Letters From a Skeptic. He was also interviewed by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ. Both are from the Twin Cities and teach at Bethel Semenary.

Anyway, as the subtitle suggests, the authors tackle and discuss a number of the "hot" debates and interesting issues that are ubiquitous in Evangelicalism. I assure you that you have thought about many of these issues before. Their point is not to argue, but "to broaden students' minds by helping them empathetically understand a variety of perspectives while training them to think critically for themselves" (pg 6). That, too, is my goal of many of the discussions I lead as a youth pastor as well as the purpose of this blog. Thinking is good! Please don't get nervous at disagreement, but be open and willing to learn and understand both sides better.

What I have decided to do, is post a series of articles on topics from this book. I will summarize each view and offer support for each one, while commenting and offering opinion the whole way. It will take us through nearly all of the "hot" debates in Evangelicalism and give us a lot of fun things to talk about. Here we go! This first one has to do with one's view of scripture.

The Inspiration Debate: Without Error of any Kind vs Infallable in Matters of Faith and Practice

Without Error of any Kind (The Inerrantist View)

This view states that the Bible, in its original manuscripts was perfect in every way, including on issues like science, history, politics, and other and non-religious matters. The Bible is to generally be interpreted literally and all of it, every letter, is important and completely without error, or inerrant.

Biblical Evidence

The Bible certainly seems to teach that it is perfect (Isa 46:8-10, Ps 119:160 etc.). Jesus seemed to hold this view as well, using the phrases "God says..." and "Scripture says..." interchangably. Jesus also insisted that not even one letter would pass away from the law (Matt 5:18).

Supporting Arguments

1. Church Tradition

The Church (universal) over the years has typically assumed and held to the belief that the Bible is without error of any kind. Augustine and John Calvin certainly believed this, as did Martin Luther, who went as far as to say "Scripture cannot err." This has been the popular view throughout history.

2. A Logical Argument

The Logical argument goes as follows:

a. God is perfect and thus cannot err.
b. Scripture is God-breathed (inspired).
c. What God breathes retains his perfect character.
d. Scripture cannot err.

The argument makes sense logically. The only question is, are all of the premises valid?

3. An Argument from Epistemology (How do we know what we know?)

If we do not accept the Bible as inerrant, than the decision as to what is correct in the Bible and what is not is up to us, making us the ruling powers and not God. Who are we to decide what is and is not relevant and correct in God's Word?

4. A Historical Argument

"The Bible tells us that the heart is desperately wicked. There is a side of fallen humanity that consistently wants to run away from God. This is why it is so dangerous to deny the inerrency of scripture. We cannot trust our own fallen hearts and minds to decide what is true" (pg 13).

"The denial of inerrency has almost always led to some form of heresy if not total unbelief" i.e. Jahovah's Witnesses etc. (pg 14).

Infallable in Matters of Faith and Practice (The Infallibilist View)

This view states that the Bible is right and accurate on all of the issues that matter and apply to faith (i.e. Salvation, Resurection, the life of Jesus etc.), but may not be accurate in "minor matters of history and science." I would basically say that where the former view insists that every word and letter of scripture must be true, this view would not make that claim and force scripture into such a box.

Biblical Evidence

"An honest examination of Scripture leads to the conclusion that the Bible is thoroughly inspired but also thoroughly human" (pg 17).

The most convincing biblical evidence (in my opinion) can be summed up in 2 points"

1. The writers of Scripture for the most part did not necessarily know they were writing scripture, and therefore inerrency was not their concern. For example, if we try to force a letter of Paul to discuss matters of science, when his agenda is to discuss church polity, we misuse the text to do something it is not intended to do.

2. The biblical authors held a "premodern" view of the world. For example, the Hebrews, as well as all people in the ancient Near East, believed that the sky was "hard as a molten mirror" (Job 37:18), and that it was a dome that seperated waters above from waters below (Genesis 1:7), and that it was held up by pillars (Psalm 75:3, 104:2-3, Job 9:6, 26:11 etc.). We see this language as poetic, but history and archeology show us that this is the way people really understood the world. This is of course not true, and must weigh in on this argument.

Supporting Arguments

1. Church History

Both sides argue that church history is on their side. This camp points to the the time in the 16th century when Galileo was excomunicated for claiming that the sun was the center of the universe, rather than the earth, like the Church believed due to an inerrentist view of scripture. It was quite an emberrassing moment for the church that was brouth about by an inerrantist view.

2. Apologetic and evangelistic advantages

If one claims that the Bible must be inerrant to be inspired, the credability of the Bible hangs in the ability of a person to resolve every error or apparent conflict in the Bible.

3. Bibliolatry

The innerrency view "tends to shift the focus of faith away from Jesus Christ and toward the accuracy of the Bible" (pg 20).

Thoughts and Comments

This debate has been a very divisive one through the years. It seems that this is broken up into the fairly radical conservatives who hold to the Inerrantist view, and every one else who believe the other. I think that the mistake of the Inerrantist camp is that they assume the Infallibilist view is throwing scripture out all together. The Infallibilist still hold scripture as the highest authority in the Christian faith, as that which everything is to be tested against, and as the revelation of God to his people. The Infallibilist are not suggesting by their view that the Bible is a Christian version of Esoph's Fables. If you have ever diologued with an Inerrantist, that seems to be the perception. I hope that this write up has shown that it is not the case.

Personally, I fall into the 2nd camp with the Infallibilist. I am not completely there, but I would guess I'm about 90/10. I think that evidence like that presented in the 2nd point under biblical evidence about the "premodern" view of the world shows well enough that the Bible cannot be considered inerrant. I understand that I may be written off as a pagan liberal for saying that, but I guess that is the price I pay. I think that is a mistake, and it is not doing any good to the body of Christ to fail to dialogue about these issues. Let us continue to sharpen one another,continue to ask questions, and explore and seek the truth.

Friday, August 11, 2006

My "Pet" Peeve

Allow me to rant for a moment on something that I know will make me far less popular with many people. I think that Americans are pet crazy. I look at how many people I know, many of them Christians, that own pets, many pets, and often times treat them like royalty. Allow me to give you some statistics on pets in America.

63% of US households own a pet
45% own more than one
43.5 million US homes own a dog and 37.7 million us homes own a cat
Americans spend $38.4 billion per year on pets
$15 billion on pet food
It cost approximately $1500/year to own a dog and $900/year to own a cat

* All of the above statistics come from theAPPMA Website.

I hope these statistics alarm you. When I was growing up we pretty much always had a dog as a pet. When I was about 5, my family got a dog. Later, when I was about 11, I can remember begging and crying for a dog for my birthday. My mom obliged. I say this to note that I am as much confessing and writing to myself as to anybody else. However, I think there are several alarming issues that need to be pointed out.

1. Many of the "pet lover" people treat their pets like royalty. Consider the following trend in our society:

High-end items to spoil companion animals are must-haves for pet owners that spare no expense to please their furry, feathered and finned best friends. Items include faux mink coats for cold weather outings, feathered French day beds for afternoon naps, designer bird cages, botanical fragrances and to top it all off, a rhinestone tiara!


More and more companies traditionally know for human products are going to the dogs, and cats, and reptiles. Big name companies including like Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks, Origins, Harley Davidson and Old Navy are now offering lines of pet products ranging from dog shampoo, pet attire, and name-brand toys to gourmet treats and food.

As I was driving home today, I saw a bumper sticker that said "My dog is smarter than your Honor Student" and a license plate frame that said "I Love my Dog." when watching game shows where celebrities are playing for charities, the most common trend you will see among charities chosen is that they involve saving animals, rather than stopping abuse or feeding the hungry. It seems that at times that pets are honored and loved over people. This is never said aloud, and no one would ever admit to it, but I have a friend who says that his dad has a better relationship with his 2 dogs than with his son. What message is that sending? Is it ever appropriate to spend money on lavish gifts for a dog or cat? Is that ever not a sin?

2. Second, if our world was in financial order, this would not be such a problem. But it isn't. Last I heard the average person had approximately $6,000 in credit card debt. What percentage of those with credit card debt are pet owners? I'm not suggesting their is a correlation, but if you are dumping money into a pet rather than paying of raging debt, you are not being a good steward of God's resources.

Also, do you realize that 840 million people in the world are malnourished (that is 3 times the population of the US)? 799 million of those are in the developing (third) world. 152 million of those are children under 5. And we spend $15 Billion/year on dog food, food that almost a billion people would find nourishment from were it available. We are letting the children of the world, children that Jesus honored in his ministry, starve so that we can buy our cat a sweater, or a dog a fancier pillow, or our bird a top hat. (All of the above stats come from

3. Lastly, one of the primary reasons I hear cited in defense of owning pets is that pets are good company. Are we that lonely as a society that we need animals to keep us company? Have our social skills diminished to the point of not being able to build meaningful relationships anymore?

Friends, I am not anti-animal, or even anti-pet. In addition, I understand that their are scores of areas of materialism like boats and 3 car garages that I could make similar arguments about (and perhaps I will), but let us focus on this issue for a moment. I am passionate about seeing poverty, AIDS, and hunger end in the world. I feel that pet spoiling is just one area in which we are doing an embarrassing job of being Christlike. Jesus seldom talks about judgment and Hell in his ministry, but the Bible mentions the poor over 2000 times (second only to personal redemption in scripture). When Jesus does mention judgment and Hell in Matthew 25, he connects it with justice, saying,

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

It is as if Jesus is saying that the thing that separates his people from all the others is their view and action towards injustice. And that is really what we are talking about. In the words of Bono (from U2), "This is not a charity issue; it is a justice issue."

So where do we go from here? I understand that one of the huge issues with the hunger problem worldwide is ignorance. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, let us no longer be ignorant nor should we any longer say "I don't know how to help." Here are some organizations that are great and trusted to do the very thing I am advocating. is a campaign dedicated to lobbying the US government to allocate 1% of the US budget to stop poverty, hunger, and AIDS in the world. is a worldwide organization that is dedicated to stopping the causes of poverty in the world. (quoted previously) is another organization dedicated to stopping poverty worldwide.

May we be a people who will stand and fight for justice. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Some Thoughts on Israel and Lebanon

I am back from a long hiatus from blogging, but should be back and regular now.

As you guys know, I post about what I am reading and learning, and seldom post about topics on which I am an expert. Today is no different. There has been recent turmoil in the Middle East (what's new?) and this time it involves Israel, a longtime US ally and a nation many Evangelicals think the US has a duty to support, invading Lebanon, a country pretty much in shambles, because of the kidnapping of some Israeli soldiers.

At this time, I invite you to read the article I read on this. It isn't too long and it is a good synopsis of what is going on as well as an honest opinion of the situation. The article is here and comes from the e-magazine that is highly recommended by Donald Miller called the Burnside Collective. I, too, recommend the site and the article. Here are some quotes from the article before I make some comments.

There are many reasons why I find the particular kind of support that America gives to Israel disturbing; I will discuss two. First, on a yearly basis billions of American taxpayers' of dollars are going to buy weapons that are used to terrorize a refugee population (half of whom are children) that is already marginalized and living in extreme poverty. Second, the effect of our attempt to "build democracy" seems to be having the opposite effect - increasing violence and producing more "terrorists" and suicide-bombers. The hatred of America around the world has never been more acute, and I'm no expert, but I don't think this makes us safer.

Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered -- death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo -- but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.

I have never really known what to make of the whole "support Israel/don't support Israel" debate. I mean it is true that they were God's chosen people, but is that still true? I mean, I don't believe that "Replacement Theology" crap about how the Jews are out and the churh is in, because I think Paul makes it clear in Romans that this idea is bogus. But, it is certainly true that it is no longer soley about the Jews and about Israel. Even if it was, supporting terrorism and the slaughtering of children is not a very Christlike mission. I have to say that I agree with Penny in the article; that we have pretty blindly supported and are continuing to support Israel despite their wrong actions.

This is a pretty hot issue, and one that I think many people don't know where they stand. I think it is hard not to condemn these actions if you are a Christian and you take an honest look at the situation. As Penny mentioned, Lebanon certainly started the war, but that does not justify a terrorist regime as an answer.

Please converse with me about this topic. I am still processing and searching for truth myself. Thanks for your time.