A Eulogy

For those who don't know, Sports Action (a favorite Sunday pastime of many Oregonians) has been canceled by the Oregon Lottery. This cancellation was in part to appease the NCAA and to help bring the March Madness Tourny to Portland in 2009. While this is great news for me (I rarely play Sports Action but I live for March Madness) some feel they are losing a great friend.

Here is a poem written by recent Northwest transplant from Florida, Erik Morton

'ode to sports action' (a eulogy) 

Oh Sports Action I love to bet,

And hope for winnings that I never get

It's always a sure thing, a "lock" if you will

But at the end of the weekend my wallet needs a fill


I have bet with my mind, my soul, and my heart

But now that your are dying I'm afraid that we must part

Rusty still owes me money and Brian still thinks he's won

And now Sundays just got bad and clearly not as fun


I still can't believe it's over and in a week you will be dead

No more over-under, fumbles lost, completions or the "spread"

No more hopes for one more interception with less than a minute to go

No more sacks—no total points my god it hurts me so


When I think of all the times we spent I feel they were the best

Especially when I was 10 beers in–alone at the Owl's Nest

So here's to you for one more week it fills my heart with sadness

But I guess you had to kill yourself so Jesse could have March Madness

Erik, I am sorry to hear about your loss. Our hearts and prayers will be with you during this difficult time. I know it's hard to imagine skipping church without your close friend by your side, but in time you will find that there are other things to do on a Sunday morning…like breakfast.

-The Morton's

Why Teen Pregnancy is Good

A reader sends in this article from the National Review Online that shares why teenage pregnancy is a good thing.  The essential argument is that younger parents are better than older parents, and so we should encourage teens to marry young and have children at a young age.

Clip:

But teen pregnancy, in itself, is not such a bad thing. By the age of 18, a young woman’s body is well prepared for childbearing. Young men are equally qualified to do their part. Both may have better success at the enterprise than they would in later years, as some health risks—Cesarean section and Down syndrome, for example— increase with passing years.

Teen pregnancy is not the problem *Unwed* teen pregnancy is the problem. It’s childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won’t have to fight biology for a decade or more.

The article leaves out all the negative statatistics that come with early childbirth, such as poverty. And it also forgets to mention that the chance of divorce is significantly higher if you marry young. But eh, it's still an interesting claim.

God is Love

Since today is All-Gay Monday. Here's a story about Ted Haggard's "special friend", Mike Jones, who visited Haggard's megachurch yesterday. 

Jones describes the experience: 

They were all congenial," he said. "None of them expressed anger, and many expressed gratitude for what they said was 'exposing the deception.' "

Associate Pastor Rob Brendle saw Jones in the foyer.

"I told Mike, 'I don't want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,' " Brendle said.

"The church's response to him was overwhelmingly warm," he said. "One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love people the world sets up to be your enemies."

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

Pastor Wendell Smith Blogs the War

Pastor Wendell Smith recently wrote a blog post defending President Bush's decision to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq. 

I am not exactly sure what he is trying to say other than, "Hey Bush. I support you and I'm starting a church right next to your home, so maybe we could get together sometime and talk about how you're such a great President and I'm such a great Pastor." It seems to ramble.

However, he does make this rather compelling statement:

While there are plenty of fears, concerns and even vicious criticisms of this new step by President Bush, we can nevertheless appreciate that he has a plan. With no plan or the over-simplistic approach of “just get out,” most thinking people and discerning leaders realize that Iraq would probably collapse into chaos and end up worse than her beginning. Even Jesus says that when an evil spirit is cast out, it attempts to return with seven other spirits more evil than itself, and finding the house swept and clean enters back into a man and the end will be worse than before. There must be a strategy to replace what has been eliminated.

And while I oppose escalating the war, let me quote a Christian pro-life Republican from Nebraska named Chuck Hagel, who yesterday made this statement to his colleagues on the Senate Floor regarding Bush's Plan to increase the troops:

I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives…. We'd better be damned sure what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more lives into that grinder…. and I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide any more, none of us."

Wendell Smith is in for a long two years, if his plans to succeed in DC are based on supporting this increasingly unpopular War.

Burnout

D-Mack sends in this thought (I'm sure it is out of his concern for the volunteers at CBC and out of his desire to NOT see them burnt out.) I have changed some of the names in this story to protect…well… myself actually. Enjoy.

Burnout at CBC:

What are some characteristics of an abusive pastor that can easily lead to burnout in its staff and volunteer base?
Here are a few ideas from the excellent booklet, Abusive Leadership by Malcolm Webber, Ph.D. (available at: www.livingfaithbooks.com)

An abusive pastor “relates to coworkers from an ‘I’m superior – you’re inferior’ attitude.”  p. 26

An abusive pastor “manipulates organizational resources for personal gain. [He] denies followers their share of opportunities and rewards.” p. 26

An abusive pastor “has a low opinion of coworkers and is very critical of others’ mistakes.” p. 26

An abusive pastor “controls through unilateral decisions.” p. 26

An abusive pastor “points to errors.”  p. 26

An abusive pastor “pushes and drives.”  p. 26

An abusive pastor “lectures.” p. 27

An abusive pastor “talks at people.”  p. 27

An abusive pastor “triggers insecurity using fear to achieve compliance.” p. 27

An abusive pastor “avoids working by ‘dumping’ tasks and responsibilities on others.” p. 27

An abusive pastor “wants no constructive criticism, seeing it as a challenge.” p. 27

An abusive pastor “takes credit for all accomplishments.”  p. 27

An abusive pastor “openly attacks and makes examples of those who have ‘betrayed’ him or left the organization in ‘disloyalty.’”  p. 27

An abusive pastor “pushes people to burnout while reaping the rewards of their efforts.” p. 27

Re: ‘Personal gain,’ ‘denying others,’ ‘pushing,’ ‘driving,’ ‘dumping’  ‘burnout,’ and ‘reaping the rewards’:
A good friend of mine (and present member of CBC) informed me recently that many of those in CBC's ministry that not only minister at the Rocky Butte campus, but also at the Westside and/or Vancouver campuses, and/or at the conferences are feeling taken advantage of and burned out! Could we safely predict that this is just the beginning of the woes of the “one church in different locations” model?  My guess is a definite yes, especially since CBC is apparently planning on having nine campuses (or, revenue centers!) in total. What will CBC do then when they want to impress the local communities with the best talent they have? Will they burn out their best talent? If they kill the goose, what will happen to its golden eggs?

Honorariums for Staff and Volunteer Base:
Does Hank pay any of his staff or volunteers an honorarium for traveling around and ministering at his growing number of simulcast campuses? If not, why not? Does Hank not expect to be paid an honorarium whenever he goes to a church or conference to preach? Of course he does. So what is the difference between Hank and everyone else – since all ministry involves the investment of much time and talent no matter who does the ministering?

“The church did not pay me a high enough honorarium!”
Several years ago, after Hank came back from ministering at a church east of the Rockies, he told me that he would NEVER go back again to that particular church to minister. When I asked him why, these are the two reasons he gave me:

(1) the driver who picked him up from the airport had driven too dangerously fast – even recklessly – to get Hank over to the church in time for the meeting, and

(2) the church had not paid him a high enough honorarium!  (To be fair, from my best recollections, this was the only time that Hank shared this kind of thing with me. Hopefully, he no longer decides what preaching invitations to accept based on who is the highest bidder!)  

My Challenge to the Staff and Volunteers of CBC:
Maybe it is time that some of the staff and volunteers at CBC, who provide Hank with thousands of hours of free labor every year, mirror Hank’s own words back to him by saying something like this the next time that he asks them to drive to another campus for more ministry:

“We’re sorry, Pastor Hank, we can’t minister for you this time. Just like you decided that you would not preach at that certain church “because they did not paid you a large enough honorarium,” so we have decided that you don’t pay us enough to continue ministering all over the area to promote you and your vision!”  

(If such a statement was ever made to Hank, how do you think that he would respond?)

A Sinner says what?

I am curious what people think the word "sinner" means. It has become clear to me that when people use that word it brings different reactions, so… who is a "sinner" and what does that mean?

dictionary.com lists two similar but slightly different options:

The first from American Heritage Dictionary says a sinner is:

  • one that sins or does wrong; a transgressor

and then Wordnet says a sinner is:

  •  a person who sins (without repenting)

I've always viewed a "sinner" as being any and all who sin, however I think Hungry on the Harbor would say that a "sinner" is without repentance…

It reminds me of a story a friend of mine once told where a pastor of a mega church stood up and asked his congregation to "raise their hand, if they know a sinner". His (and my) instance response was "YOU…ME…ALL OF US. WE all know sinners because we all are sinners"…

What is your take?

The Little Devils

The George Barna web site is a wealth of information about current church trends. In the linked article, Barna writes these conclusions based on surveys conducted in 2006:

"Three out of every four teenagers have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity. Among the most common of those endeavors are using a Ouija board, reading books about witchcraft or Wicca, playing games involving sorcery or witchcraft, having a "professional" do a palm reading or having their fortune told. Conversely, during the past year fewer than three out of every ten churched teenagers had received any teaching from their church about elements of the supernatural."

"Most Americans have a period of time during their teen years when they are actively engaged in a church youth group. However, Barna’s tracking of young people showed that most of them had disengaged from organized religion during their twenties."

When I first moved to Hooterville, I remember seeing grade school children trading Pokemon cards during a worship service and I expressed concern to the minister about it. My concerns were met with indifference as I suspect the minister knew the likely outcome of addressing the issue with parents. The cards were wildly popular and to suggest a child leave them at home, or not play with them at all because of their occultish influence, would be to incite a riot with children and their parents. Instead, the minister had an "ignore it, and it will go away" type of attitude. Pokemon is a fleeting memory now, however, an even darker influence has moved in to fill the void: the Harry Potter series of books and games.

This isn't a Pokemon or Harry Potter rant, rather, it is a lamenting of what Barna observed above – that less than 1 in 4 churched teenagers receives any teaching concerning the supernatural, and, by their 20's, most teens have left organized religion.

In the church I last attended, there was a time I was involved in the 'worship committee' and the subject of youth came up. The church was rigidly traditional, driven by an iron-fisted pastor who was in turn controlled by the 'old money' in the church, who threatened to cut him off if he ever changed from a traditional to contemporary format. In one meeting where the subject of youth came up, the pastor scoffed "I don't care about the youth, they will learn to love tradition just like everyone else." Several of us thought the youth should be surveyed, so I devised a questionaire which was distrubuted by the high school Sunday school teachers. Among the questions were "are you born again" and "have you ever heard from God"?

Now many of the high school kids had completed confirmation and joined the church when they were 14. Several of them marked the survey "NO" for both questions. Reaction to the survey was frenzied – the Sunday school teachers panicked and spent several weeks reciting the 4 spiritual laws, etc., and lead the class in the 'Sinners Prayer' several times, while the family of one teen was so incensed by the survey, they quit the church. After all, they were members of the church and therefore saved; what's this 'born again' stuff all about? And 'hearing from God', isn't that what we pay a minister for?!?

All too often, the institutional church faults people who leave as lacking faith or being back-slidden, etc. The truth however seems to be that the insitutional church fails to present the real Jesus, and often discourages members from seeking God directly and stands in the way of the supernatural (the moving of the Holy Spirit).

If children and teens aren't encouraged to seek the real living Jesus, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit who brings gifts and actively teaches us, is it any wonder they turn to the occult just to experience something spiritual?

Sam