Category: Journey

Rob Bell’s New Story Challenges Evangelicalism’s Party Line

Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived sits at number three today in Amazon’s book sales list.  Love Wins will no doubt hit the New York Times bestseller list this week.  Bell obviously has churned up tremendous interest in the Christian doctrines of heaven and hell, but is that what Bell intended?

If you read Bell’s book as doctrine you are missing the point Rob Bell is making.  In short, Bell is taking on the evangelical establishment.  And while Bell asserts ultimately that Love Wins, it remains to be seen if Rob Bell will.

Continue reading “Rob Bell’s New Story Challenges Evangelicalism’s Party Line”

Rob Bell’s hell book appearing here soon

Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived is already generating tons of controversy. Harper One is sending me a pre-publication copy to review. I also hope to snag an interview with Rob about the book. The book hits the stores on March 29 and I hope to have a review up before that. Until then, watch this promotional video and tell me what you think? Is Bell just teasing us, is he a heretic as some are saying, or is this just good PR for the book? Let me know what you think.

Simplifying my life: so long Twitter

I deactivated my Twitter account today.  I also deleted a couple of blogs, including my oldest, Amicus Dei, but it was time to pull the plug.  I’ll be closing down NewChurchReport.com soon.

Here at Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor, I’ll be focusing on small church life and ministry exclusively.  No more opinions about what Congress ought to do, or how to solve the problem of globalization.  I realized that nobody cares what my opinions are on those issues, and I’m not an expert.  Not that you have to be, but still I’m going to stick with what little I know, which is life and ministry here in my small town at our small church.

I’m simplifying my online life, which is an oxymoron in itself.  I’m still here, and on Facebook.  I’m on Facebook because I get to see my grandchildren, or I’d probably drop that, too.  Has anybody else done something similar?  Why, and did it help or not?

Bruce Feiler, Council of Dads author, speaks about his cancer, his kids and his plan for their future

Bruce Feiler, author of the book, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me, talks about his diagnosis with bone cancer, and of his plan to provide his two daughters with a ‘council of dads’ in case he’s not around for them in the future. This is a great story for Father’s Day or any day. Watch it.

A Decision of the Feet

We often talk about spiritual decisions being either decisions of the heart or of the head, meaning those decisions are either based on feeling or thinking.  But when it comes to the decision to follow Jesus, what we’re really talking about is a decision of the feet.

Matthew 4:18-22 is the account of Jesus calling the first disciples — Peter and Andrew, and James and John — two sets of brothers, two families of fishermen.  Matthew records the action this way —

“As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting  a net into the sea — for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”  — Matthew 4:18-20 NRSV

The same scene repeats itself with James and John, the Sons of Thunder.  “Immediately they left their boat and their father, and followed him.”

Decisions of the heart and head may be internal and individual.  But decisions of the feet are public, obvious, and practical.  When the Bible says, “They followed him” it literally means they not only felt and thought that Jesus was someone special, but their feet decided to go where Jesus went, and they followed him quickly, immediately, and irrevocably.  Decisions of the feet might be what we need more of today.

Bored? You’re Probably Good At What You Do

Do you ever get bored with ministry?  Doing the same stuff, making the same hospital visits, and preaching a sermon or two each week can blur into a kind of sleepwalking routine.  But, have you ever thought of boredom as the shadowside of competence?  By that I mean, if you get bored with what you’re doing occasionally, it could be you’re good at doing it.

Let me explain.  We get bored with the routine, with things that come easy to us, with the lack of challenge or sense of accomplishment.  The “impostor syndrome” is an extreme version of  a self-consciousness about the things we’re good at.  Boredom can be an indication that you’re competent, but no longer challenged by what you’re doing.

Of course, I’m not referring to the kind of boredom that results from lying on the couch watching TV when you should be writing your sermon.  Or the kind of boredom that results from sloth, laziness, depression, or other factors.  No, I’m just talking about the everyday kind of hum-drum of doing the same things over and over, on a kind of auto-pilot because you could do them in your sleep.

So, take hope.  If you’re bored in ministry, that may not be a bad thing.  But, you don’t want to stay bored either.  If the routine has gotten too routine, challenge yourself.  Take a course, write a book, rearrange your weekly schedule, meet some new people, and look at things differently.  Pastoring is as much about faithfulness as it is about vision, achievement and goals.  But, that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring.

Of course, boredom can lead to what psychologists call “acting out.”  I remember a pastor in Nashville who was caught breaking into cars at the local health club.  Or church leaders who act out sexually, or financially.  Sometimes we try to cure boredom with an adrenaline rush just to help us feel we’re alive.  If you want an adrenaline rush, take up sky diving, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by doing something stupid.

Can ministry be boring?  Absolutely.  But when you find yourself going through the motions like a religious robot, do a quick self-intervention and remember:  If you’re bored, you’re probably good at what you do.

Are We Called To Be Technicians or Transformers?

I’m giving this devotional for our DMin seminar on Thursday morning, March 4, 2010 at Fuller Seminary.

In Matthew 14:13-21, we have the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  This is an interesting story for several reasons, but I want us to focus on the disciples response to Jesus.  And, I want us to think about how we do ministry in light of this story.

Of course, the story goes that Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been killed.  He attempted to withdraw to a “solitary place” but the crowds followed him. The Bible says he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.

As the day wore on and was nearing sundown, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place and it’s already late.  Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus response was first, “They don’t need to go away.”

And, secondly, he said, “You give them something to eat.”  In other words, you feed them.

The disciples did a quick inventory, and said, “We have only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.”  Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.”

You know the story from that point on:  Jesus has the crowd seated, he blesses the bread, and then gives it to the disciples to hand out.  They hand it out, everyone eats, and then they take up 12 basketfuls after everyone has eaten and is satisfied.  One basketful for each disciple.  Keep that in mind.

A Personal Story

In the late 1980s I was in my first DMin program here at Fuller.  I was studying Church Growth with Peter Wagner, John Wimber, and Eddie Gibbs.   I was actually very good at  the technique of growing churches.  I had grown a small country church Continue reading “Are We Called To Be Technicians or Transformers?”