If you are new to this blog....

Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Friday, August 28, 2009

the kindness of strangers

The Presbyterian Layman read online about the theft of our shepherd statue and the subsequent gift of a kind stranger. They asked me to write an article to tell this encouraging story, and it has been posted here:


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

open auditions for our fall play

From our creative arts director... open to the community for audition/roles:


Sunday, August 30, 3-5 pm at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church

Performances: Saturday & Sunday, November 21 & 22
Rehearsals: Sunday afternoons: September 13 - November 15 & evenings Nov 15-20

Characters Needed:
1 male, 1 female in their 40s
2 males, 2 females older teen/college aged
1 male, 1 female in their 20s-30s
1 male or female in his/her 50s-60s
2 male or female elementary aged children

Premise: Stuck in an airport on Thanksgiving, a couple who are getting divorced (but haven't told their kids yet) learn about what makes a real family from the unlikeliest of characters.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

piper, projection, and pornography

Back at the end of July, Matthew Lee Anderson posted an article on the Mere Orthodoxy blog entitled, "Perfectionism and Death of the Local Church." His article struck a chord with me and, unable to post my comment, I e-mailed him my thoughts. It turned into what I think is an unusual and fruitful reflection on some of the dynamics of "virtual preachers" and the local church. Here are some excerpts from that original post, my comments, and his reply. Please also see his complete original post HERE.

Anderson spun off an article on technology, "virtual church," and an interesting question raised by John Lagrou HERE:

The virtually-connected church now has on-line access to the finest teaching and preaching imaginable, accessible at their convenience, 7 x 24 x 365. Of what value is physically proximate information (e.g., stage-centric pastor) when the average person can now access the best sermons, preaching, teaching, and cross-referenced commentary on-line?
Anderson responds:
...Fundamentally, there is no reason why any local church should continue to listen to Pastor Bob drone on and on when they can get the video of John Piper instead. What’s more, why simply have John Piper when you can alternate with Mark Driscoll? The use of video among multi-site churches (and, full disclosure, I attend one, though not for this reason) destroys any in principle reason why such an ‘all star’ conglomeration of video sermons shouldn’t be employed.

It has been my hypothesis of late that the rapid development and adoption of new technologies is exposing our anemic ecclesiologies and misguided understanding of the role and nature of the proclomation of the Word. Until evangelicals properly articulate why the Church gathers and hear’s the Word of God, and then shapes its churches accordingly, we will continue to be co-opted by technologism.

And that is probably the strongest statement I’ve ever made publicly on the matter.

...John [Lagrou’s rejection of ‘comparatively mediocre religious talk’ is instructive. Most local churches are comparatively mediocre. But they are not ‘talk.’ They, even the least skilled among them, are charged with proclaiming the Word of God, and in no way is that comparable with a lecture or a transmission of information. It is on a different plane, for it is a plane where God speaks through His word.
All of this amounts to a defense of mediocre pastors and the recognition that even in their proclamation they are not alone. It is the duty of the congregation to seek, to listen, to ask the God who speaks to speak through His humble servant’s lips.
I wrote to Matthew:

I am one of those average, local preachers, and I love and appreciate John Piper (and his online teaching), so I definitely understand and am in the middle of what you are describing in the posting.

Here's the somewhat scandalous analogy that came to my mind (yet also seems to support your point, which I agree with): there is an aspect to online preaching replacing local (average) preaching that is almost pornographic. I'm not trying to say that Piper or Desiring God are prostituting his teaching... rather it is the idea of turning to a "perfect preacher" out there rather than submitting to God's Word proclaimed and lived out in the context of the normal, everyday local church. The beauty of marriage to a real, everyday woman is exactly that: the ins and outs of loving and living with an imperfect person. If, more and more, I turn to video preachers, I give up much in terms of community, accountability, and the back/forth of submitting to and growing with a local preacher.

The analogy surely gives out at some point because I do think there is value in listening to Piper, et al. periodically or even frequently, but not as a substitute for a local community of faith and preacher (and I can't think of how that observation parallels marriage). Nonetheless, I think the partial analogy is somewhat helpful.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.
Anderson was kind enough to respond:

...the pornography analogy is, I think, exactly right up to the limitation you point out. One thing JP Moreland has said is that men my age (27) see more images of more beautiful women in a day than a man a hundred years ago would see in a lifetime. The result of that, he points out, is the thought that I can do better. I have personally seen how that thought slowly transforms into I deserve better. As you point, a very similar principle is at work in preaching, and I think it's deeply problematic for all the reasons you mention...

There's one other wrinkle, though, that I would add. One of the things that has bothered me immensely about evangelical culture since I started thinking about it is the frequency with which pastors leave their churches. That is, to me, enormously problematic and indicates just how badly evangelicals think about the role of the pastor. My observation is that most evangelicals don't actually think of their pastors as a member of their own community. They aren't an 'arm' or a 'foot' in the body of Christ, but rather something completely separate that can be dispensed of when things start to go badly. As such, they are easily replaced for better sermon-givers.
I'd be interested in any thoughts or response you readers might have.

Also see this RELATED VIDEO clip from Ed Setzer.

Update: In early 2011, I started seeing this notice at the bottom of the Desiring God (John Piper) RSS feed - let me just note how much I appreciate this!

Please Note: While we encourage you to join us for the sermon, we encourage you even more to give primary attention to the preaching in your local church. In other words, we do not intend for John Piper’s sermon to replace the preaching of the Word from your pastor in your local church.
Link: check out a great post by Dan Phillips at pyromaniacs on this same topic.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

talent challenge: mission benefit concert

Here are some photos from the mission benefit photo tonight at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. See this post for more on the talent challenge.

African Choir

Cathy Youngblood on piano

Ning Zhao, Violinist

Quartet that introduced each country by singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the native language.

Julie Johnson, violinist

A view of about half the sanctuary - it was packed!

Francisco Gross, missionary in Spain for whom the benefit concert was held

John Kaneklides, tenor - sang 8-9 songs from countries around the world and organized this wonderful outreach and mission support event!

a capella goodness

Here's Cathy Youngblood's arrangement of Psalm 118 by Shane Barnard. A small vocal ensemble from Good Shepherd is singing. Will Dolinger and Mike Slade (L-R) are lead vocalists. This was part of worship on July 26, 2009.

the talent challenge

Right before I left (for Sabbatical) at the end of April, I issued the “talent challenge.” Each person present that day received a card with a challenge to use and multiply what they received for God’s Kingdom. I intentionally did not give examples so that people might not be boxed in. I’d like to share with you some of the stories relayed back to me.

Note that this exercise isn't an end in itself, but is meant to be a parable. The point wasn’t to simply double the money and give it back; rather, it was to use it as one would use one’s own money, talent, or time, for the sake of something God is doing in the world - to practice an all-life-as-worship response to God's rich grace. Each of these are wonderful examples and their variety is equally wonderful.

One person planned a missions benefit concert. He used the money he received ($5) to pay for the promotional materials. The concert is to benefit Francisco and Shirley Gross, GSPC-supported missionaries in Spain. In addition to organizing this concert, this person added his own musical talents to the seed money. A love offering will be collected.

Another person, given $5, used the money toward sending a child to summer camp at Good Shepherd preschool. Sometimes you don’t see the fruit of a gift like that, but in this case we heard that the child woke up every morning asking his mom, “Do I have camp today?”

Inspired by the knitting ministry that came from two of our members traveling to Nicaragua, another gift of $20 and some cloth material went to Tiffany Hinton to help her start a sewing ministry. That person also decided to “match the gift” and invested another $20 in Bank of America stock for Good Shepherd. In addition to the matching gift idea, this also was seen as a way to support our local community and economy in a small but representative way.

Another couple received $5. They wrote, “We prayed and pondered what we could do to make it grow for God's kingdom. He gave us the answer via the 5-cents-a-meal offering the congregation participates in each month. We felt a burden for the hunger fund, especially because a number of people have lost and are continuing to lose jobs. We modeled our challenge on the hunger fund offering by deciding that we would increase it and call it "25-cents-a-deed." Every time we do something for someone (other than ourselves or each other), we put 25 cents in the box along with the $5 we were originally given. Whether we are doing something as simple as taking the neighbor's garbage out to the curb or driving a friend to the doctor or visiting someone at home or in a nursing home or taking a meal to someone, etc., we are depositing the 25 cents in the box each time. We are anxious to see how much we will have at the end of July. Funny thing about this, I received a request in the mail to fill out a TV survey ($5 was enclosed for completing it), so I did that, and then I was sent $10 for another very short one. We also deposited that $5 and $10 in our "25 cents a deed box."

Another person shared (very honestly!) the temptation to just spend the money on weekly needs like groceries or gas, but left the money set aside in the envelope. After seeing a notice in the Voice for the youth mission trip fundraiser, she came to the pancake breakfast and car wash. She found the conversation with church friends and youth a great blessing and decided to give the original $5 plus $5 for each youth she met and spoke with that morning. I can only imagine, then, as the youth return and report on their experiences the wonderful feedback of hearing the fruit of this investment!

One person who received $50 responded to a newsletter from GSPC missionaries, Phil and Arleen Blycker. In that newsletter they were looking for donations to purchase a third octave for a set of hand chimes. Because of an interest in music and the wonderful way music can spread the work of the Lord, she donated her talent challenge money to that program. They were seeking $500 and had a promise of $50 so now they only need $400.

One person who received $5 decided to purchase organic green peppers and then plant the seeds. That person shared several setbacks and some of the learning process. He wrote, “I was hoping to demonstrate that with a little personal effort, we can take something we already buy then take the parts we don't use and multiply the return. Sometimes I think children and teenagers feel like they can't do as much because they can't get jobs, drive, etc. So I was hoping to do something that everyone could do and had a measurable return. After all, who doesn't like a plant full of free $2 green peppers they would normally buy anyway? I'm hoping to be able to share a lot of the fruits with people I feel may be having a difficult financial time. I can't say that the concept of seed money wasn't an influence as well. What I’ve learned from my failures are far more valuable lessons than what I've learned from successes.” Even beyond these wonderful lessons, he went on to write, “As you may already be imagining, my involvement in "organic gardening" has already blossomed into experimentation, several new acquaintances in the industry and several ideas that have evolved from the root idea. I think the developments over the next few months will be exciting.

Another person gave $50 to Samaritan’s Purse after looking through one of their catalogues. That amount went to a program to “Train a Believer to Preach the gospel.” She wrote, “It is my belief that by using the funds in this manner, the Gospel can be spread to people throughout the world who will hear God’s Word and learn of His never-ending love for us.” Again, this is one of those examples where we may never see the fruit of the planting, but through trusted ministries like Samaritan’s Purse, a long-time mission of Good Shepherd, we can support God’s work in the world.

Another person shared that she tithed a portion of her $20 gift back to the church and used the rest to sponsor a friend in a fund-raising marathon. Challenging other friends to match her gift, the support level is already over five times her initial gift.

There are more stories to be told! (Some shared with me at the door after church). Bottom line, the message and challenge of this parable is this: God has blessed us richly through His grace! How will you respond?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

free stuff!

Do you like to listen to stuff online, on your iPod, or other mp3 player?

What about reading Christian classics?

You can have both through Christian Audio, a site with Christian audiobooks for download. Each month the site offers a free download. For August, it is Dante's Divine Comedy. Here's the link, with instructions for using the AUG2009 coupon code.


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