Sunday, May 27, 2007

Signs that your congregation is part of a bigger history

You’ve probably heard it too. Some Christians claim that their congregation doesn’t have a past, that it is only connected to the church of the New Testament and not to any other. If one suggests that the church of Christ stems from the so-called “Restoration Movement,” they resist the idea violently. “Everything we do comes from the Bible and only from the Bible. We are free from human influences.” Don’t talk to them about church history, don’t talk to them about being influenced by culture, don’t suggest that they are doing anything different than what was done in the first century.

For most of us, to not say all, for most of us, it’s just not true. There are clear and obvious signs that what we do stems at least in part from what we’ve learned from others. If your congregation does any of these things, it can’t claim to be free from human influence:
  • If you sing songs that are sung in other congregations, you didn’t get those from the Bible.

  • In the same vein, if you have a song book, you must have gotten it from someone.

  • If you have a song leader, that’s an “innovation”; the New Testament says nothing about that.

  • Does your church meet in a room with seats basically facing forward, looking toward a place where “the speaker” stands?

  • If you’ve got pews, well, that’s a sure sign of outside influence.

  • Do you pass the Lord’s Supper around in trays?

  • How about an invitation song? There’s definitely not one of those in the Bible. Nor is there a “closing prayer.”

  • Dare I point out that having a bound Bible isn’t biblical? Using a Bible in book form, with chapters and verses, is a sure sign of having been influenced by people outside of the biblical writers.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. None of us is free from the past. None of us is free from the influence of our culture.

George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [Yeah, I know… that appears in lots of different forms] Until we admit that we have a past, admit that we’ve been influenced by others, we’re locked into an endless cycle of influence. After a time, we fail to recognize which influences are human and which are divine.

Let’s embrace our past, deal with it, learn from it, and use it to help us recognize what’s Bible and what’s tradition in what we do.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sinners Anonymous

“Hello, my name is Tim. I’m a sinner.”

From what I know of the 12 step programs, I like them. Recognize your helplessness, your need for help from a higher power. Meet with others and admit your need. Share readings and advice to help overcome the problem.

I think that we need to develop a sort of Sinners Anonymous. Too many times we communicate the idea that sinners are the exception, that the “normal members” have no struggle with sins, that sin is the great unmentionable. The best we can do is go forward and admit that we’ve sinned… but be sure that you don’t slip and mention what that sin was!

I need to tell at least three people that I’m a sinner:

(1) God. I need to go to Him and tell Him that I’ve sinned. Yes, He knows it. But our relationship will never be right unless I admit the obvious to Him.

(2) You. You need to know that you aren’t alone in your struggles with sin. You need to know my struggles, so that you can hold me accountable, so that you can share suggestions of how to overcome my weaknesses, so that you can continually challenge me to do better.

(3) Me. I need to be sure that I know that only God’s grace can make me righteous. God tolerates no boasting in His presence, so I need to get rid of all pride. I can’t overcome sin on my own, and I need to admit that.

Have you noticed how many of our prayer requests at church have to do with physical health issues and so few with spiritual health issues? There is no problem as big as sin; why do we pray so often about money problems and job problems, yet ignore the “elephant in the room” that is sin? Let’s talk about sin. Talk about how to overcome it. Talk about the damage it does. Talk about our weaknesses so that our brothers can help. Let’s pray about sin. Together.

Sinners Anonymous Meets Here: Sunday, 10 a.m.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I haven’t particularly used this space for personal stuff. I’ve kind of wanted to maintain a focus on discussions. But I’ve yielded to the pressure. I’ve got a new space on . I’ll post things there from time to time. Be sure and check out the picture of my tree-climbing dog (both dogs in the picture escaped yesterday, but were back in the yard this morning; I almost had a sad post to offer).

One downside: Tumblr doesn’t seem to allow comments. : - (

Friday, May 11, 2007

Plagued by Plagiarism

I was really surprised. Not that somebody would take something I’d written for and repost it. Not even that they would repost it without crediting the source. But to see my article posted under someone else’s name on a church website was shocking to me. (Finding it again on another site was less of a shock; guess I’d gotten used to it).

I’ve heard the stories of preachers sitting in the audience and hearing their own sermons being preached. Or the stories of preachers using others’ stories as if they had actually happened to them. I even know of one preacher who was interviewing for a job and used a sermon by someone else… and the other sermon was on tape in the church library. Oops!

Don’t plagiarize. It’s as simple as that. Go overboard in quoting your sources. Nobody will think the less of you. Preachers, if you say, “I got a lot of these ideas from a sermon I heard,” no one will be upset (though you might not want to do it every week). If the story happened to somebody else, it still has power. Don’t lie. It didn’t happen to you. It happened to them. If you want to put somebody else’s article in your bulletin, go ahead. But credit the source. People will appreciate your bringing that information to their attention. Bloggers, people will value what you have to say even more when you point out where it came from. Teachers, writers, speakers, everyone! Don’t plagiarize.

Now somebody help me down from this soapbox.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Simple Definition of Good and Bad

I doubt this is original, but I can’t tell you where it came from if it’s not. I came up with it without hearing it from someone else, but like the saying goes: “The ancients stole all my best thoughts.” Somebody probably said it first. It’s a simple definition of what is good and what is bad. Here goes:

Good things move us closer to God, closer to heaven.
Bad things move us away from God, move us away from heaven.

That’s how a promotion at work can be bad, while a terminal illness can be good. Success can be bad, failure can be good. I guess the rub of it comes in the fact that we have to look a little harder at things to tell the difference. And sometimes we can’t really know; that’s when we have to trust that God is always working for good.