Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why Men Hate Church

When this book came out three years ago, I saw it prominently displayed on the front table at Borders near my house. It also got some spark in both 'Christian' and regular mags, papers and even NBC news.

I'm one of those guys who reads books for free in Borders. Took about 45 minutes to get the gist.

I've been meaning to comment on its impact on me as the chief servant in my church. The research and interviews Murrow did for the book helped me clarify simple things to avoid alienating men without meaning to. I want to alienate people for the right reasons, if you know what I mean.

When you scratch plant (start with nobody in a new place) you feel this kind of desperation to keep anybody with a pulse. Any criticism causes a quick reaction. That compulsion/lack of faith led me toward making church more 'woman friendly.' A big one for me was without thinking I was using mostly 'soft' illustrations and stories that got an 'aw' rather than ones that got a grunt and a nod. Another mistake was to assume that if a woman spoke up, it represented what men think too.

A good take away is the observation that if a man doesn't feel like there is opportunity for him to make a difference, he won't stay around. Men want a piece of the action.

So I started connecting with guys directly, started asking them what they thought, talking more directly (bluntly) about life, got a guy to lead us in getting on a Habitat build and started looking for young men to hire as staff.

We aren't a 'church for men' in the sense that I don't dress in camo and ride a motorcycle in the church (like some disturbing videos I've seen), but we are applying some of this insight. And in year five now, we are seeing men very involved in leadership, training and serving. Even seeing some men show up without their wives and bringing them later.

The book is worth the read. Don't agree with all of his solutions. But he notes too many obvious mistakes to avoid.

Murrow's got a website Some good free stuff on there. You can read some of it online at Amazon too.

If you can find it at a Borders, read it for free.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Big Toe Trouble

How important is a toe? I never really started to think about it until mine started to hurt - all the time. So I had surgery on August 1st. It's now (what day is it??) late August and I have only left the house a hand full of times. Because of a toe...

The surgeon removed a worn out knuckle in my right 'Great Toe' as podiatrists like to say. He added a titanium piece called a 'Hemi' (yeah, that's right, I got a Hemi), a $120 screw and what feels like a pound and a half of swelling. I have to keep it elevated. I can't put my right foot on the ground, can't take a shower, walk with crutches, can't get my own food, can't be out for more than an hour or so. Because of a toe...

'How can the hand say to the eye, "I don't need you, I'll get by without you."' Paraphrasing Scripture, it seems to me that the body of Christ, His Church, needs every member and every member healthy and whole.

We really need each other, even if you think you're just a toe. Why is the American church weak and ineffective? Could it be because of a toe?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Latinos: Field White for Harvest

Consider this:

The ministry at Crosspoint that is bearing the most new fruit is hidden from our view on Sunday. Two people in our 'Encuentro' (Encounter) Hispanic Ministry at 2pm each Sunday have come to faith in Christ! Pastor Hector and Cecilia and their girls have had their 3rd meeting and God is bringing in people hungry for the grace of the gospel! Two saved in 3 weeks!

Not many of us know all the ministry the Guzmans are doing:
- They continue to lead worship at our daughter church Emmanuel in Powder Springs Sunday morning 830-12noon
- They also lead worship (and Hector preaches some weeks in Espanol) at Grace Int'l, another church plant in Lawrenceville on Sunday evenings at 5pm
- Each week they volunteer at the Good Samaritan Clinic, a Christian medical/dental clinic for people without insurance.
- And Cecy volunteers in our church office two days a week bringing expertise and help in ways we need.

The reason I'm sending this out today is that they need our prayers and/or financial support. As of today their next support check for living expenses is about 80% short for September 1. Even though their support has been fine since June, this is an urgent opportunity to help.

Their challenges are many as immigrants to the US, raising two bi-cultural girls in public schools, learning a new language in 2 years and seeking first the Kingdom of God with 3 churches and raising/living on support.

You may not realize it but they are living completely by faith that God will provide and are not permitted to work outside of ministry due to visa restrictions. They are legally only permitted to receive funds through our Hispanic Ministry and although there are under the table jobs available, they are committed to obeying our nations laws.

- If you can send or bring in a check, even a small amount each month, it will help them to pay their bills.
- Also, please email Hector and let him know if you will pray and/or give regularly to this important ministry. Every small regular monthly donation makes a difference for their family.
- If you want to bring a Spanish-speaking friend or could assist with picking up some folks, that would be great too. Many folks they meet don't have a car to get to church at 2pm.

Let's be bold and pray for a VERY affordable apartment in Smyrna for the Guzmans!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Arrested for Your Faith?

I'm distracted to pray for someone today and I can't tell you why, exactly. Not in the normal way we in the West ask for prayer requests. But I'm going to ask you to pray for my friend anyway. This is not a game. It is life and death. You'll have to figure it out.

Do you know what country is shaped like this? Starts with I and ends with N. You hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ in this country in the hidden church.

I met some of these brave men and women in that country last year at a clandestine training seminar. I can't say enough how amazing it was and how deeply it struck me - turned upside down my concept of church. I felt like I was with 1st century believers. I can't tell you names because it isn't safe for them to be posted on the Internet.

Why am I distracted? This Wednesday August 20, one of the key leaders of the hidden church was ordered to report to the police. He hasn't been heard from since. He has a wife and two elementary aged children. He is the leader of a network of over 200 underground churches

It's killing me and I hope it isn't killing him. I asked him once, 'Are you prepared to be a martyr?' He looked me right in the eye and said, 'Yes. But I'm not volunteering.'

Pray for the brave men and women in the church in that country.
Then pray for us to be brave and let his chains, like Paul's persuade us to boldly speak the Word of God here (Philippians 1:12ff)

Ed. Aug 28 - News via the underground church is that R called his mother two days after his arrest and told her 'I am fine. Do not worry about me.' and was then disconnected. No word since.
The church in that country and expats are calling for prayer and fasting. I am joining with them.