Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Church at the Pub May 2011

This past Sunday night was yet another “Church at the Pub” evening. If you are not aware of this ministry, you can visit it online at www.churchatthepub.com. I am always amazed at what God is doing with this ministry that make many Christians say “yes! That is what ministry is” and many other Christians say, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!!” Either way it is one of the best ministries from Radiant Fellowship.

This Sunday, I along with 7 other people from the church went in to the pub to enjoy some conversation. Upon entering, the bartender asked me to come over by her. As I did she told me “that guy over there shooting pool is one of the people that benefited from the gas cards you gave out at Christmas.” It was amazing to me that already at the end of May she would remember that single event. I went over to introduce myself to that guy and he was grateful as well.

After taking down two root beers (I know…I shouldn’t binge) many more people began to come into the pub. I met two men that were talking about how their refrigerators at home were empty. Immediately I could have gone into the mode of judgement and wondering what they are doing in a bar than but rather I got to know them. The bartender told me a few things as well about them. I am hoping to raise a couple of hundred dollars to really bless these guys with some groceries. Larry and Scott would really appreciate our help.

As the evening continued one of the ladies from our church broke out a board game and while I was shooting pool with someone I look at the bar and she has most of the patrons wrapped up in this game. AWESOME! Through these conversations the people from Radiant Fellowship were able to talk to them about church and God.

It was almost 11pm and I decided it might be best if I got going since I was there at 8pm. As I said goodbye to one person, the rest of them wanted to shake my hand and say “Bye Bob!!” I literally felt like Norm at Cheers. From one person walking in and saying “HEY! A preacher is here…this is going to be one weird night…me drinking with a preacher.” To another guy saying “you are the coolest preacher in here” lol. To the conversations we had with people and the potential help we can be to others….this ministry continues to grow on me more and more.

If you would like to donate to this ministry, you can do so by going to the website listed above and click on the “paypal” link. You do not need to have a “paypal” account to use this service. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Statler and Waldorf Mentality

Statler and Waldorf…the original grumpy old men. You know who they are…the two old guys that sit up high in the theater making cutting comments during, "The Muppet Show". In fact “The Muppet Show” theme song even has these two old codgers singing “Why do we always come here, I guess we’ll never know. It’s like some kind of torture to have to watch the show.” We laugh at many if not all of their comments throughout these old shows. What amazes me about these two puppets is that every Sunday churches all across the United States have, Statler and Waldorf attending.

It never ceases to amaze me when a person will come into a church only to observe and take notes. As a pastor these are the people I watch very closely. They are easy to tell because they come into church and don’t talk a whole lot. When the service is finished they leave rather quickly and quietly. Now to some this may sum up what a lot of people do. However, what clinches this stereotype are the emails the pastor will get from these that come and go quickly while taking notes. They turn into a, Statler or Waldorf and send probing questions and cutting comments to the pastor. The thing about these people is that you really don’t know what to do with them. On one hand they are people and you are happy they come. On the other hand they are knowingly or unknowingly trying to derail you from this weekly thing we call church.

The world has enough people like this. My suggestion to people like this that really have one goal in life and that is to make a pastors life rough by doing these kind of things. Just go! No the pastor does not want to “have lunch with you” and no the pastor is not going to change the way he is doing things because one person (usually new to the church) is sending emails that are less than flattering on how THEY think a church should be run. Go and be a blessing elsewhere.

A Closer Look at Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son"

Rembrandt's painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is a painting that has gone down in history as one of the most moving in the retelling of this loved bible parable from the bible. It is a story that has great meaning and an ending that is not the greatest (more on that later).

What amazes me is when people use this painting to drive a point in a blog or message they crop it down to where the father is hugging his son. This is all you see usually. The true beauty of this painting lies in the shadows. When you click on the image of this painting (go ahead…click on the image…I will wait) you begin to see something perhaps a little different. Notice in the top left you see a face faded into the background? It is easy to see the three people to the right of the father but look closely at the top left. Some would say that is the brother that is feeling completely bitter by this whole scenario.

Isn’t it something how we tend to dwell on the father and son and don’t give a whole lot of thought to other things going on in this story? I get it that this is a picture of redemption, forgiveness, etc. Perhaps this is a story of many other things as well. Perhaps this is a story that if ever turned into a movie it would be considered a flop because the ending is on the likes of the first “Lord of the Rings” where it just ends abruptly. Many questions are raised here like did the Prodigal son take the reprobate path and end up relapsing? Did the older brother ever find forgiveness towards his brother? Will the father give his son ANOTHER inheritance? Did the family ultimately reconcile? I think this story ends like many situations in our lives…there is no definitive ending…it is what it is and we may never have the answer for what we went through.

Back to the brother…isn’t it something that one of the most important parts about this painting gets cut off? I can relate to the brother sometimes. This is another theme we can pick up from this painting. Have you ever felt like you are left in the shadows while great things are going on all around you? Do you ever feel like life is passing you up and you are just this figure in the background? Well, let me tell you that like the brother…you are still a part of the story and you are still a part of the painting. In fact you are one of the main points of this piece of art and though we don’t know how the story ultimately turned out for the brother in this story…you can show people how your story will play out. Don’t give up on the big picture because just when you don’t think people notice you…guess what? I and many others notice you.

There, But For the Grace of God, Go I?

John Bradford (1510–1555) an English Reformer and martyr best remembered for his utterance "'There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". The words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he saw a criminal on his way to execution. This phrase even though I get it still makes me think a bit. I am quite confident that if, John Bradford said it in this situation that he was truly a humbled man and honestly meant it recognizing him and this other person had their own dealings to continue working through. I wonder if this phrase is used in a more (even though unintentional) rude way these days.

In the Christian bubble people see others that may be less fortunate than themselves or paying a debt back to society for something they have done. More times than not when I am with someone in the car and we see someone carrying a sign on a corner that says, “Will work for food” or something along those lines someone will say, “Well, there, but for the grace of God, go I” and just leaves it at that. Really? That’s it? When we see someone hurting or reaping what they sowed we just say that phrase and move on? Is this a way to say “I am so glad I am not that person" and by somehow repeating that phrase we are exempt from helping?

You see, I understand people may say this phrase in a truly humble way…I get that. What I am wondering about is how many more people are actually saying that phrase in a pious sort of way. They use the phrase to write-off anything that may be foreign to them. This is the Christian cliché they use to excuse them from helping that person at all. I just feel and sense from some that I hear use this phrase that they throw whatever person or situation they see under this phrase and then don’t do anything about it.

The next time we see someone truly working through a difficult time in life financially, socially, etc. How about we go ahead and say that phrase and then truly help that person. The reason? Because what they may be dealing with on one level may be the same thing we are dealing with on a different level. We all need help from each other in life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Salt Lick Christians

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6(NIV)

Is it possible that the church is going the way of the book and music industry? This is what I mean…their was a hay day when the large record labels owned the market. There was even a day that, Simon and Schuster along with other publishing companies owned the book market. These days are changing aren’t they? In an electronic world where you can self-publish writings and music we are finding that the best art out there is found in the independent or underground market. Amazon has just revealed that e-books are now outselling paper books.

I think the same can be said of churches today. People are tired of the church scene run as an industry. They may still align themselves with a denomination or movement which is a great thing. However, they are finding churches and fellowships (that still may align with their ideals) that are just different. They certainly may not be bigger but people are seeing that church run as a ministry and not as an industry or business all about the money or keeping to themselves.

I have one solid reason that I see as a recurring theme in my life and those I enjoy being with as to why people are looking for something more ministry based and organic. It can be summed up in two words: SALT LICK. Let me explain.

When the apostle Paul wrote this verse above he knew that too much of anything is bad. This came out in a conversation I had with someone regarding our church and ministry “Church at the Pub” (www.churchatthepub.com). Somewhere in the institution of church many (not all) have forgotten what it means to season something. If I have someone over and grill some hamburgers I will ask them how they like their burger seasoned. Inevitably they will say with some salt. You see just a little bit of salt can go a long way. When I am in conversation with someone at the pub or in daily doings, “seasoned with salt” may mean sharing briefly my thought on how God may view this or that. Literally just a few words can make a person know where you are coming from on that topic. This displays so much grace when a person does this. Just a few words can get a person thinking verses a 5 or 10 minute dissertation and the occasional ambush lunch.

What would ruin that hamburger? I believe that if the person asked for some salt and I handed it back to them with a salt lick on it…I have done two things. I have completely mangled the burger (bun and all) causing the person to leave it and be grossed out by it thinking I am the worst cook ever. The same can be said of conversations that don’t display grace. A person at the pub may ask for a little advice and instead of seasoning it with salt making it a great conversation…I end up overloading them with teaching upon teaching, thought upon thought, unsolicited opinion upon unsolicited opinion. What happens? That conversation that could have gone so well now is a unappealing pile of garbage and the person will not want anything to do with me again. What could have been a beautiful conversation is now a pile of yuck.

We have a task to show great grace in our conversations with people.