Tuesday, July 31, 2007

drinkers needed

A school teacher, an accountant, a goth couple, two church planters and a lesbian walk into a barbecue…and thus began my attempt to befriend the live in lovers next door.

Let me back up.

My neighbours are gay. Not all of them, just the two ladies living (almost) next door. And, like any group that has been cast out by the church, they’ve been on my heart. I like to think that God put them there. So, with that in mind, I’ve been looking for a way to befriend them. This, however, is not a post about lesbians or barbecues (to the disappointment of many of my readers). It’s a post about mission and our understanding and embrace of it.

For weeks I had been trying to plan this barbecue. It’s a delicate balance. I don’t know Emma or Kate very well, and I understood that our conversation could be very awkward if it were just the four of us. Problem was, who could I invite that would understand and embrace the mission of what we were doing? Mind you, the purpose of the barbecue was not to ask this couple where they would spend eternity, but simply to give them a glimpse of Jesus, if only by letting on, in some subtle way, that we were Christians. I’m burdened for the homosexual community. They’ve been cast out by the church yet are as desperate as any of the rest of us to be loved. I want to be about loving them. Still, I didn’t want them to see an agenda in those burgers, even though, in fact, there was one.

As Jamie and I began to discuss the possibilities, we were surprised and saddened at just how few there were. Don’t get me wrong, we know a lot of good people over here. A lot of good people who are truly about the mission. But this was an entirely different beast, and we knew it. Finding that balance of people who were, in fact, deep in their faith, yet who understood that salvation is a process and who, furthermore, weren’t homophobic. We thought and thought. The other problem is that Jamie and I don’t drink and I just knew that this couple would bring wine (they did). In addition to mission minded, grace filled Christians, we also, frankly, needed some people to drink! We didn’t want this couple to feel awkward about their gift.

We thought long and hard about this and finally decided on four people. One is a teacher friend of ours who grew up Anglican. Those people have no problem with alcohol. Her husband, unfortunately, is a Salvationist…so he was no good to us. The other two are a couple of goth friends I met a couple of years ago. He is in a metal band (hallelujah) and she is a youth worker. Their church affiliation is non-denominational and, in addition to being very cool and edgy, they have no problem with alcohol. And thus our barbecue was complete.

Still, I found myself wondering about all the others. What would they do if they knew they hadn’t made the list? If they knew that we were concerned about their ability to relate to and embrace our neighbours. Would they be embarrassed? Angry? Would they disagree with our assessment? Furthermore, would I make their list? Have I presented myself in such a way as to gain their confidence in the mission? Would they choose me to fight in their spiritual fox hole? Who knows? Nobody’s asking.

In the end, the barbecue went well, but only Emma came. Still, I think it was a good start. I had my 80’s playlist on (over five hours worth of music and counting!), grilled up burgers, wings, and lamb, and spent the evening arguing the fact that Genesis were, in fact, a decent little pop band in their day (along with why Billy Idol’s White Wedding should be played at Olyvia’s wedding, the fact that Heart are one of the most underrated bands of that era, and why Korn’s cover of Word Up was a huge mistake.)

Now, how many barbecues does it take to convince somebody that Jesus loves them?

Friday, July 27, 2007

just a brother working it out

I’ve only been invited to IHQ (International Headquarters for the Salvation Army) twice in my life. Once was for a casual lunch, and the other was to lead a youth ministry workshop. The second one took place yesterday.

IHQ now sits in a new building that’s been very well designed. All of the outside walls, and many inside, are glass and, along these walls, are printed scripture in coloured fonts. It’s amazing and, unlike the U.S. Army’s decision to take God out of their motto, is a really non-threatening yet obvious witness to thousands of tourists and citizens who walk by the building every day on their way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge (which it sits at one end of), and office buildings. I was really impressed and particularly liked the fact that, as we sat in a board room all day discussing youth work, we could see everybody walking by and they could see us. As somebody who loves people watching, it was slightly addictive.

One particular guy really caught my attention. He came in and immediately went downstairs to the café where he ordered lunch. It didn’t take too long to realize that the guy had a different sense of reality than the rest of us, that he was playing in his own ballpark, that he was a few tacos short of a platter, and that he was just a bit crazy. In the words of Sinbad, "He was just a brother, working it out."

It was easy to write him off as simply somebody who had dropped in and had no affiliation with the Army whatsoever. After all, a lot of people eat in the café who aren’t in the building to do anything else (it’s actually a very nice café.). It was easy to write him off, that is, until he literally started walking around the building saluting everybody. And I’m talking about the official Army salute. The guy was not only saluting people, but walls, ceilings, mirrors, the bathrooms, you name it.

And before anybody asks, no, his initials were not SC.

young modern

“You’re gonna wait too fat boy, fat boy, wait ‘till tomorrow.”

With those words an Australian grunge band, led by a fifteen year old singer, was launched onto the scene back in 1995. The words were from a song called Tomorrow which was one of several singles from their album entitled Frog Stomp. It wasn’t the greatest album of all time, and there were lots of accusations about these guys being a Pearl Jam copy cat band, but for a band of young teenagers, it was an impressive album. That was twelve years ago and the band was called Silverchair.

Since that time they’ve come out with a few more albums, and their lead singer has done a few side projects as well as dealt with depression, anorexia, and debilitating arthritis. Behind the Music called and want their storyline back (though this one takes even the Behind the Music storyline to new heights).

Anyway, I write all of that to say that the song playing to the right is off their new album called Young Modern. It’s a song called Straight Lines, and I like it. Another good single off this album is Waiting All Day. If you’ve got the means, check it out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

youtube, itube, wealltube

Last night and this morning I watched the Youtube debates. First let me just say that, for the first time, I loved the questions. I was disappointed that nobody asked anything about immigration, but other than that, I thought that the majority of questions were hard hitting and to the point. As far as the candidates, however, who in the world is funding the Mike Gravel campaign??? I mean, wow!

The above video and question was asked of the candidates last night and highlights, for me, one of the fundamental questions facing the church right now. What right do we have to enforce our beliefs on others? The Bible seems to make it clear that, while we’re to hold each other as believers accountable, that we’re not, in fact, to judge those outside the church.

Personally, I see our government’s job as serving and protecting us. If somebody else’s choice isn’t harming me, then what right do I have to tell them that they can’t do it? In the case of homosexuality, I can’t figure out, for the life of me, how their choice is bringing me any harm. Furthermore, if they want to call their relationship a marriage, how does this affect me?

Any light that others could shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

robots in disguise

Well call me a geek but if you haven’t seen Transformers, and you were a fan of the original cartoon and action figures, I highly recommend it. I realize that, for my American friends, this is old news but it isn’t even out in the UK yet, I just happened to get in on this weekend’s preview. Unbelievable! Ten minutes in and I already felt like I had gotten my money’s worth. Now, granted, you’ve seen one shoot ‘em up action film, you seen them all. And, as somebody who believes that every battle scene has already been shot (seriously, when’s the last time you saw a battle scene that was truly original and that inspired you?), I confess to being a little bored over the last half of the film. Still, as somebody who loved the cartoon and spent all of his allowance money on the action figures, it was like going to my first concert to watch that first Transformer transform from a helicopter into a robot. Probably the best and most shocking special effects I’ve seen since Terminator 2 and I can count, on one hand, the number of films I’ve ever noticed the sound affects in before (late Star Wars films, Private Ryan…I’d have to think about the rest), but this was one of them. Amazing!

Friday, July 20, 2007

updating my understanding

In the past I wrote a series of posts entitled A New Kind of Church (pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, . I took a few shots from those posts, mostly from Salvationist friends (you know what they say about defensiveness), but it was never my intention to bash any of the denominations that I covered. In fact, my initial goal was to give credit to those denominations for the spiritual and doctrinal input that they had had on my life. Still, through those posts and through the couple of years that I’ve been blogging, I have taken a few shots at the denomination that I grew up in, and so I write the following as an attempt to be transparent and show the areas where I continue to learn and grow.

One thing that I’ve really come to understand in recent years is that the things that most frustrated me about my childhood church are things that aren’t exclusive to any one denomination. In fact they’re found in most churches. Things like politics, and greed, and an unwillingness to change, absolutely disgust me, and I’ve found them in all denominations. In fact, my Salvationist friends will find some humour in the fact that, among the three reasons Jamie and I gave for deciding to leave the Southern Baptist Church and start work with the Salvation Army, was because we were sick of politics. Haha! Is that the irony of all irony or am I simply understanding Alanis Morissette’s definition of it? Either way, I would like to go on record as saying that I have come to love my childhood denomination again, even if many of the churches throughout the West leave me wanting more.

One of the main reasons for this reawakening in my life, I have to say, is because of a group of SBC missionaries that we’ve encountered while working over here. Missions and church planting have long been the SBC’s strength. As a child, we spent every Wednesday night learning about missions (actually, we spent every Wednesday night playing basketball, but we were SUPPOSED to be learning about missions!). In fact, Jamie went to University on a partial scholarship due in large part to her being involved in that study of missions as a young person (thanks GA’s!) The missionaries we’ve encountered here are here under the sponsorship of the local Salvation Army church that we worship at on Sundays. The UK government requires a missionary to be sponsored by a local church (Jamie and I are here on the same visa) and, as the Baptist church in this country will no longer sponsor SBC missionaries (The SBC is considered waaaaaaaaay too conservative for UK Baptists), our local church has taken up the cause. Because of that, and the fact that there are no SBC churches in this country, we actually have five SBC missionaries that worship with us, are a part of our cell groups, and even volunteer in several of our programmes, and a couple of them volunteer with Jamie and I as well. We’ve not only found these people to be hard workers, and very encouraging and supportive, but they’ve got a massive heart for the lost and, unlike many of the SBC churches and pastors we’ve encountered and worked with over the years, these guys are pretty radical in their approach to evangelism. To be honest with you, that’s probably why they’re missionaries rather than local pastors (although, isn’t a missionary also a pastor???)

The other thing about these guys that have concerned me for my own denomination is their understanding of theology and, in particular, the methods they’ve learned concerning evangelism. In fact, I’m due to meet with one of them this coming month to learn a “new” method for making the gospel clearer to other cultures. As the guy sat and told me about the method, I knew immediately that it was something that would be invaluable to our local ministry.

So I say all of that to say that, while I still challenge the effectiveness of many churches throughout the west, I was wrong in suggestion that this denomination as a whole was ineffective. After all, Jamie and I are a product of it and look at us!


(Incidentally, does every city have a Cheers now???)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

to be or not to be?

The funniest thing happened to Jamie last week. Among the seventy or so students we work with, we have two British kids. One is an English girl, and the other is a Northern Irish Gypsy (a term which, apparently, is not pc over here, but whatever…). Our Irish kid (I mean Northern Irish…you people really need to get over it) has a bit of a temper (go figure) and is this funny little caricature of what most Americans think Irish males are like (and to be fair…). This one, in particular, is very issue laden and manages to wrestle with ADHD and, if he were American, anger management issues but, since he’s not American, is simply identified as a kid who wasn’t raised very well (I tend to lean more towards the British way of thinking on this one). Anyway, in a move that will go down in the annals of our experiences working with kids over the years, the other day a girl in the club really ticked him off. I mean REALLY ticked him off. Normally this would send him into a rage that would invariably end with he and somebody else in a fist fight, but Jamie’s been working with him for about two years, and on this day that work became evident for, instead of lashing out violently at this girl, he simply spun around, looked at Jamie, and shouted “MISS, WILL YOU PLEASE TELL ASIMA TO SHUT THE F*** UP!!!” Jamie thought it was such a funny request that she nearly did ask Asima to shut the f*** up, but thought better of it. Still, he’s moving in the right direction.

(on a side note Mel, you might remember his older sister. she was a part of our clubs when you were around.)

The question of “what is church” is always on my mind. I couldn’t tell you when I started asking that question, but I can tell you when it came to the forefront of every concern I have about the Church. I was working in an advisory role with a church who had recently purchased a roller skating rink to use as part of their ministry in the local community. After about a year, they had 350 young people coming through the doors of that rink each week, with about 50 attending a Bible study in that same rink on Wednesday nights. In the three years that I was involved in advising this ministry, however, this same church hired and fired three separate youth ministers on the basis that they were never able to bridge the gap between the roller skating rink and the Sunday morning congregation of this church. In other words, they could never get those kids who showed up for the Bible study on Wednesday nights, to show up for worship over at the church building on Sunday mornings. This ticked me off to no end because (a) As many churches often do, they were invalidating what was taking place on Wednesday nights. Was this Bible study, somehow, not church? Explain that one to me? In fact, explain to me how the youth worship service at your church isn’t church? (b) Never ever did anybody make the connection that, if young people (or any new people at all, for that matter) weren’t interested in attending their Sunday morning worship service, maybe the way they approached Sunday morning services just wasn’t relevant to that particular community. And (c), why does everybody always suggest that it is the young people who should join the adults for worship, rather than the other way around? I’ve been involved in several churches, and have advised several more, where the youth congregation was the only one that was growing. Seems to me that they’ve earned the right to keep doing things exactly as they’re doing them, and that the adults have lost the right to call their particular service “the main worship service”. I always wondered why the adult congregation of that church didn’t simply start attending the Wednesday evening Bible study? It’s like this church had a half hearted heart for mission, but didn’t have a mind for it at all.

Recently a pastor friend shared that one of the mothers who attended their mom and tots group had decided to have their baby dedicated, but that they wanted to do it during the mom and tots time in the middle of the week. In this mother’s words, “this was her church”. I sat in the midst of a group of pastors, wondering if anybody else had truly just heard the message that was shared. What is church? THE definition doesn’t need to change, but our modern day understanding (and possibly expression of it) does. In this ever changing world that we find ourselves living in, one of the commonalities that I find throughout many parts of the world, and throughout many different cultures, is that people are not finding our traditional expression of church (show up on Sundays) very fulfilling at all. Furthermore, many, many people do not trust “the church” these days and so, while they may be open to more casual conversations and even expressions of church, they just aren’t interested in walking through the doors of many church buildings. And please understand that when I say “casual”, I don’t mean “less committed”. In our current situation, volunteers are beginning to appear from the midst of the very people that we’re ministering to. Bare in mind that we’ve never ever asked these people to volunteer, they’ve just started showing up.

I once was involved in a cell group, made up mostly of life long Christians, but with one girl in it who hadn’t been a Christian her whole life and who spent her weekends as a jazz singer. One night, as we were discussing the idea of “what is church”, she expressed that she felt more loved and embraced at the jazz clubs where she sang, than in the church. This, of course, started up an uproar among the extremely defensive Christians in our group, but it continued the process in my own mind of re-evaluating this idea of church and trying to remember what exactly it meant to “be” church.

Ever go on a mission trip and come back feeling completely liberated and fulfilled? Try “being” church. You might just find that that feeling of liberation and fulfilment don’t have to be just a temporary thing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

thoughts on serving

A friend of mine has posted some really good thoughts on what it means to be a servant. He sucked me in by opening with the statement, "The church is like someone who is in a coma. We know they probably won't recover, but we still get excited when they squeeze our hand", but then he quickly turned it around to challenging me with, "You know you are a servant when you are treated like one and it does not bother you." Ouch!

Anyway, check it out at Questionable Content.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

the little guy...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

latest gadget

This week I discovered a new gadget (actually called a widget) that allows me to update that section in the upper right hand corner of my blog entitled “Mobile Blog”, anytime, using my mobile phone, for the cost of a text. I simply signed up, entered my blog address, entered my mobile number, and now all I have to do is send a simple text (can only be 140 characters long) and it updates that section of my blog within seconds. I don’t even have to have a browser on my phone to do it! I’m loving it. Now all they need to do is find a way to allow me to type longer messages. If you're interested, go to twitter.com and sign up for your own account.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

digging up truth

An expert working at the British Museum has confirmed the existence of an important Biblical figure after deciphering a cuneiform inscription on a small Babylonian clay tablet.

Austrian Assyriologist Dr Michael Jursa made the breakthrough discovery confirming the existence of a Babylonian official mentioned in the Old Testament and connected to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
The clay document is dated to the 10th year of Nebuchadnezzar II (595 BC) and names the official, Nebo-Sarsekim. According to chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah, he was present at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC with Nebuchadnezzar himself.
In 601 BC King Nebuchadnezzar marched to the Egyptian frontier where the Babylonian and Egyptian armies clashed with both sides suffering heavy losses. Over the next few years the struggle between the Babylonians and Egyptians continued and in the course of these campaigns Jerusalem was captured (597 BC).

Nebo-Sarsekim is described in the book of Jeremiah as ‘chief eunuch’ (as the title is now translated, rather than ‘chief officer’). Dr Jursa’s translation of the Babylonian tablet proves that his name was really pronounced as Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, and gives the same title, ‘chief eunuch’, in cuneiform script, thereby confirming the accuracy of the Biblical account.
“Finding something like this tablet, where we see a person mentioned in the Bible making an everyday payment to the temple in Babylon and quoting the exact date is quite extraordinary,” said Dr Jursa, who is Associate Professor at the University of Vienna.

“Cuneiform tablets might all look the same, but sometimes they contain treasure," added Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Musem. "Here a mundane commercial transaction takes its place as a primary witness to one of the turning points in Old Testament history. This is a tablet that deserves to be famous."

(taken from 24 Hour Museum)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

why isn't this working?

If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?

I guess that was the precursor to Timbaland’s new The Way I Are. But I digress.

As an adult, I’ve always worried about two things: (1) Losing my passion. I never want to be one of those people just existing, having given in to those around me and having just accepted that “this is the way it is.” “Nothing can change.” (2) I never want to be that guy in the church fighting change. God please don’t let that happen.

In that vein, one of the things I’ve always wondered is whether or nor my generation of Christians will have the ability to see beyond ourselves. Will we embrace flexibility in our forms of evangelism and discipleship, or will we too get to a point where we find a programme that we believe to be the “be all end all” of church programming. The same things goes with our style of worship.

As a local practitioner and church planter (how did this happen?), I’m getting the opportunity to experiment with many of the popular models of evangelism and discipleship. Cell church, of course, being one of the trendiest of the models (incidentally, the word “cell” takes on a seriously different connotation in a neighbourhood with a high concentration of Muslims…thus we’re not using that word.) And I have to tell you that, in our current setting, I’m just not sure of the effectiveness of the traditional model of cell church. For one thing, cell church meant to bring back the idea of community. But, within a culture that is already very much living in community, I’m not sure that the need exists. Furthermore, they might need something that is just the opposite to balance things out. I’m not suggesting that we go back to having a traditional worship service, but I am suggesting that a more traditional form of community Bible study might be in order.

Now, for those not up to speed on the cell church lingo, you might be wondering what the difference is. I’m with you. To me, cell church is nothing more than a way of breaking down some of the formal barriers of church and allowing people to interact and, therefore, journey (doh!) together. But for many hard core cell churchers, (believe this or not), there is a very formal and structured approach to cell church. And, for those who subscribe to this formality, there is a BIG difference between “cell church” and “small groups”. Some of you are laughing, but it’s true. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Anyway, as I travel around London, checking out what other churches are doing, and as I attempt to put a “model” in place in my own locality, I’m finding that the models suggested out of California and Chicago, might not be entirely relevant among Africans, those from the middle east and parts of Asia, or even more traditional English men and women (who really seem to struggle with intimacy in any form). Young, hip English men and women seem to eat it up, however, as do people from the far East (China and some of its surrounding countries), so I am not suggesting that we throw it out all together. Still, as with any “new” idea, let us keep an open mind. New ideas might have some good guiding principles, but they’ll no doubt need to be tweaked from one location to another.

Btw, I’ve added two great new blogs to my right hand column. Questionable Content and Schmuckfactor. Both good reads. Questionable Content is written by an old childhood friend of mine who, during our childhood, was Pentecostal and who spent most of his life in that church but who recently switched to the Methodist church and is now serving there as a worship minister. I’m watching with much interest (and a big grin on my face) to see how that one works out. : ) The other is an old friend of mine from one of the first churches I ever served in. He and another friend were the ones who introduced me to one of my all time favourite singer/song writers, John Gorka (the legend). Check them both out.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

controlled explosions (there's a joke in there somewhere)

Today I lost a book and I’m bummed about it.

I was trying to get across town (waaaaaaay across town) for a meeting when the conductor came on over the speaker and informed us that there were major delays due to suspicious instances in several other stations (I would later find out that police had conducted a controlled explosion of several fire extinguishers outside a station…???) So, upon finally reaching the next station, I surfaced from the metal tube of stink and began trying to find a bus that could take me to my destination. Now, anybody who’s ever tried to use the bus system in a city knows that, unless you’re familiar with the route, or are near a computer, using the bus system is nearly out of the question. So, after a phone call, questioning several other local pedestrians, and sacrificing a small pigeon to the god of directions, I finally gave up and hopped in a cab. And that, evidently, is when it happened. I lost my book.

Now normally a book loss wouldn’t kill me. I buy books all of the time and was about to purchase several copies of this particular book to pass out to a few friends anyway. Ordering an extra one for myself wouldn’t (and won’t) be that big of a deal. Problem is, I had about twenty pages worth of highlighter in this particular book. Future sermons and, no doubt, blog posts just waiting to be created! And I lost it! And I’m absolutely bummed!

In other news, I was at our youth club yesterday, overseeing the computer suite, when one of our young people (who’s name is Osama, incidentally) made me wonder how it is that young people ever make it through their adolescent years. As often happens, the kids were listening to music and watching videos over the internet. This is always a struggle for me as the kids listen and I sit in the corner shouting near obscenities and trying to explain how, in my day, music was real! This always helps to add about twenty years to my already growing age. Anyway, the music is pumping when suddenly a song comes on that is apparently called “I’m In Love With a Stripper”. Forgive me, I was out of the loop. So, I listen to the lyrics for a minute, and then tell our corner DJ to move on to the next song. As always, this brings a mass of debates. “Why?” they ask, at which point one of our girls says “Because it’s offensive”, to which I agree. So, after some debate, our DJ finally moves on to the next song. About half an hour later, however, the song is being played again. I turn, look at the kid and say, “Didn’t we already have a conversation about that song?” to which he replies, “But sir, this is the remix!”

I just stare at him blankly when luckily, one of his mates starts laughing at the absurdity of his argument.

Remix indeed.

Monday, July 02, 2007

nice gifts, lots of em'

What is your role in the church? Be specific.

As part of my ministry with the Salvation Army, I have the opportunity of visiting churches all over the city of London. The same was true in my last division. Officially my responsibilities cover only Salvation Army churches, but I tend to look in on other churches as well, just to get a general feel of the health of the church as a whole. I’m sorry to say that, in the majority of cases, many of the churches I visit aren’t doing so well. Old, tired, and uninspiring services mixed together with irrelevant programmes don’t tend to be a good formula for vibrancy. It’s easy to blame the dullness on any number of factors but, as an old pastor (Officer) reminded me this weekend, homelessness isn’t the problem, it’s a result of the problem. And I agree.

I’m often guilty of pointing out the obvious; that churches are often very uninspiring these days. What I, and often others, sometimes miss is the “why?” Why is this the case? Why, in a world full of creative people, aren’t we able to put some of those ideas into action? Now some might suggest politics, and certainly that can be a problem, but can I suggest that the biggest reason might simply be that congregations aren’t aware of their spiritual gifts anymore and are therefore, not putting them into practice?

Think about it. How many of you attend a church where the pastor is basically in charge of everything? From preaching, to teaching, to leading worship (even if he simply puts the Sunday morning programme together while somebody else leads the music, he’s the one who’s directing/leading the worship experience), to administration, to maintenance, to pastoring, to leading, to encouraging, to discerning (who does the hiring?), you get the idea. Think about the absurdity of this. 1 Corinthians 12 makes it pretty clear that each of us receives only a handful of the gifts, making it necessary for all of us to work together (as one body) if we want the full New Testament experience. Yet many of us appear to believe that, once somebody is ordained, he or she is bestowed with all of the spiritual gifts. This just isn’t the case. Upon my own ordination, I walked out of the service with only three new gifts; a Bible, an ordination certificate, and a new computer (thanks grandma). Sadly I wasn’t anymore organized, or merciful, nor did I have the gifts of tongues or interpretation (to the dismay of all of my charismatic friends). Seems that ordained ministers are limited to only a handful of gifts as well. No wonder then that, in churches where all of the paperwork is in perfect order, and the bills are paid on time, we often encounter worship services that are less than engaging, or in churches where there seems to be a limitless supply of creativity, the office is a disaster area. Creativity and administration are two gifts that rarely go together (which explains why all of my artist friends are often so flaky). We could also mention here that, in the cases where a creative pastor seems to be leading less than creative services, it’s often a case of having to spend all their time trying to take care of the areas of the church where they’re simply not gifted and, therefore, have to spend extra time accomplishing (like the finances).

Meanwhile there’s the congregation, full of spiritually gifted people who are unaware of their gifts and/or whose gifts are not being engaged. It’s sad what this will do to a person. A person unneeded and unengaged is a person who is unhappy and unfulfilled. I once heard somebody say that, in 80% of the cases of depression that they counsel, the problem is spiritual rather than physical. And can I suggest that the spiritual problem is often one where their spirit is simply in a vegetative state?

Now please don’t sound any alarm bells here. Many of us have been in churches where the opposite has seemingly been true for us personally. Anytime anything needs being done, we’re the ones who are asked to do it. Still, the argument above remains true only with us taking on the role of the one believed to have been bestowed with all of the gifts while the rest of the congregation remains in the vegetative state. It’s just not a healthy way to work or to live.

So what do we do about it? The seemingly easy solution would be for our church leaders (pastors or otherwise) to lead our congregations in discovering what their spiritual gifts are and then to begin a journey of putting all of those spiritual gifts into practice. Sadly though, even many of our church leaders have never really discovered their own spiritual gifts. It seems that in many churches, this basic understanding of how to live our lives and keep the church affective has all but been forgotten. And so I propose an alternative plan; that each of us begins to discover this for ourselves.

On the right side column of this blog is a new section entitled “Spiritual Gifts” and in that section rests two files for downloading. One is a spiritual gifts inventory (the best I’ve ever seen), and the other is a document that will help to explain, encourage, and even give some warning on each of those gifts and their use. I would really encourage you to complete the inventory questionnaire before even looking over the second document as it might influence your answers.

What happens when your pastor is away on a Sunday morning? I can tell you what often happens. I and others in similar positions get called in to cover your Sunday morning service. And please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy doing this because it just happens to fit (often) neatly into one of my own spiritual gifts. Still, I do find it alarming and concerning that there is no one present locally who can lead a simple time of worship. Could it simply be that those gifts have been lying dormant? I think so.

Begin today to discover, not who others think you are, nor what circumstances have limited you to be, but who God actually created you to be. I promise that it will absolutely begin a journey towards fulfilment and will also begin a new growth in our churches to boot!