A New Era For the Columbus COC?

Monday night was a monumental night, or at least it could have been. Time will tell. The deacons of the Columbus Church of Christ (myself included) met with the evangelist to discuss the state of the church and its future direction. Decisions were made that will effect the lives of many here.
Last week the deacons had met for only the second time since our appointment back in November of last year. Prompted, at least for me, in part by the resignation of one of our own and my personal feelings about that, we got together to talk. No real agenda was put forth ahead of time, but it seemed we all had much on our hearts. At the forefront of each of our minds were the spiritual health of the church and the shallowness of the relationships between the members.
At the end of the night, we had decided that we could no longer sit on our hands and watch. We, along with the evangelist and campus minister, were the appointed leaders of the church. If we did not act, who would? We decided that we needed to take our place as leaders beside the ministers and work side by side with them. We would not meekly ask to be included, nor would we arrogantly demand to have our say. Rather we would, as leaders approved by the congregation last fall, assume the place we should have from the start. It was time that the church had a cohesive leadership team.
In our ICOC family of churches, our pattern had been one of top down, hierarchical leadership. There was one man at the top of the church with several levels of leaders under him. Frankly, in my view it has shown itself to be a failure, but not because of the caliber of men placed in leadership. For the most part they have been spiritual men with great hearts. No, it has failed, I believe, because God did not design man to carry such a burden. Moses learned it from his father in law in Exodus 18, the NT speaks of a variety of leadership positions, each with it’s own focus and expertise in Ephesians 4, implying that it requires a diverse group of leaders for a church to reach maturity. Even through the upheaval and awakening of the last year, the Columbus COC was still effectively operating under that old paradigm, with the evangelist in the position of making the decisions. He’s a good man, but it is not right for him to carry that burden alone nor is it good for the church to be limited to his perspective. It was time for a change.
So it was with a little trepidation that I approached Monday night. Somehow, I had been appointed spokesperson for the group (though it would not be long before the others spoke up). I feared that my words would either be too soft or be taken as an attack on his character or abilities. I prayed a lot about it before the time came.
When it did, frankly it was a bit anticlimactic. He was very open to the idea, almost relieved. He expressed that he’s felt quite alone, out there making decisions by himself. He’s longed for advisors. He was eager to work as a team, even saying that he considered himself no more than a deacon with a focus on preaching and evangelizing, much as the rest of us have our own focus on the youth, campus, administration and the poor. As far as he was concerned, he indicated, we stood on equal footing.
We left that night, adn while I felt that we were not yet completely unified, we were committed to becoming so. We acknowledged there is much to talk about and decide and much work to be done. First on our hearts, however, were the people of the church, their well being and their relationships. We made the following commitments:

  • We committed to meeting every other week.
  • We committed to going out in pairs and meeting with each and every member of the church to talk to them about their faith, our church and how they’re doing. We would do little talking and a lot of listening.
  • We committed to making a point to talk to each other man in the group at least once a week, to deepen our relationship and build our unity.

As we left there was a feeling expressed that this could be the beginning of a new era in our fellowship, a turning point if you will. Perhaps it will amount to nothing, most, if not all, of that depends on our follow through. As of this moment I am cautiously optimistic, with the emphasis on optimistic. Honestly, it the most optimistic I’ve felt about the church in a while. May God grant us the strength and courage to follow through with what we’ve begun. He has placed His children in our hands. You might say that as leaders we are in some ways God’s teachers, babysitters and daycare workers. “These are my children.” He says, “Could you care for them and make sure that they get home safely?” It’s a humbling responsibility when you look at it that way.

Daily Quiet Time

Shrode at the Thinklings posted twice this month (here and indirectly here) about having daily quiet times. I agree with him on the importance of a consistent time with God, both in prayer and Bible study. Acts 2:42 says that the first Christians were devoted to 4 things, and prayer and the scriptures (if you interpret the ‘apostles teachings’ as scripture) were two of them. Frankly, it’s all too easy for me to get independent and self-reliant and start skipping or abbreviating my quiet times. Prayer time comes much easier for me. I’ve just never been a bookworm, and reading my Bible is no exception. If you visit here regularly, you know I’ve been posting my notes from my Bible studies. You can visit here and see that I’ve been less than regular in that. It’s a constant challenge for me, but one I will continue to try to rise to.
Taking Shrode’s words as a starting point, I wanted to comment here on the idea that it must be daily. I hear that from nearly every Christian who speaks of it. To challenge it seems almost sacrilege. Frankly, in my 15 years as a disciple, it caused me a bit of grief and guilt. When I’d miss a day of Bible reading, I felt less a Christian. If I didn’t pray enough, I felt less a Christian. To some degree, my Bible study was out of obligation, not desire to learn and know God.
To cut to the chase, I think we place too much emphasis on the ‘daily’. There are many of folks like me who aren’t readers. We risk damaging those folks by criticizing them for not reading daily. A commitment to the Bible isn’t a commitment to a schedule. Frankly, in recent years as I’ve realized that missing a day or too doesn’t necessarily say anything about my commitment to the scriptures. There was a time as I came to that realization that I swung the other way and didn’t read much at all. Since then, however, my desire to read has actually grown. It’s now about me learning about God not punching my spiritual time clock.
Most of the Christians of the first century (and probably many centuries after) actually couldn’t read and there was no Bible or scroll available to them. A select few had them and could read and I imagine that the others cherished every bit of time they could spend at those men’s feet listening to God’s word.
We need to resist the temptation to put quantifiable measures on one’s spirituality or commitment. (To be fair to Shrode, he wasn’t saying that we can or should do that. His main point was only that we commit to read, among other things.) Not that we shouldn’t talk about how much we read or what we’re learning, but it’s just not as simple as daily or not, it takes knowing someone to make a comment on their commitment to scripture. Some will take this freedom and abuse it, saying they don’t have to read and so don’t ask them to, but those folks aren’t really interested in a commitment to the Bible anyway. But I think there are plenty of committed, sincere disciples who just don’t read every day.

05/21 – Deuteronomy 1-4

Deuteronomy 1-4
Deut. 1:15-18 – Though Isreal was the chosen people, Moses charges them to be fair to all, even the alien. I wonder what Moses would say of modern Isreal’s disputes with and treatment of, the Palestinians.
Deut. 2:5, 9 – A glimps into what God was doing for others that was not recorded in the Bible. I wonder what other stories have not been recorded.
Deut. 4:7 – God is near us whenever we pray. I certainly feel that. When my prayer life slips (as it has in these past weeks with my work schedule) I feel less close to God and more on my own. An unhealthy independance and self reliance is easy for me to slip into.
Deut. 4:8 – The laws of God are a priveledge, not a burden.
Duet. 4:25-31 – What a warning and what a promise. It is true that the placing of other things above God is the greatest threat to our well being. Praise God that he allows us to return.

Hebrews and the Cross

More cut and paste blogging. 🙂 This is the second in that series of reports we did in the small group I was in a couple of years ago. This time the assignment was the cross. My favorite book in the Bible is Hebrews because of the insight into the cross it provides. Here’s my take on it, written in outline form.
Hebrews and the Cross
Written 12/15/2001
Hebrews 1:3 – Jesus sat down after he had provided purification. (See also Hebrews 4:9-10, Sabbath rest, rest from the work of achieving salvation, and Hebdrews 8:1)
Hebrews 2:9 – By God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for all of us.
Hebrews 4:15-16 – Because Jesus was just like us, tempted to sin, fighting for relationship with God, dealing with the struggle of life, we can approach God’s throne with confidence. Not meekly, or intimidated by his perfection. But confidently, no BOLDLY, because one of us has made it. He has done the impossible and defeated sin.
Hebrews 5:1-4 – Jesus was in the mold of the priests that went before. Taken from the people, like them and sharing their experiences.
Hebrews 6:19 – Our hope anchors us. What is an anchor for? It is intended to keep a ship from moving, especially when a fierce storm tries to push the boat in all sorts of directions they do not want to go. Where does our hope anchor us? Behind the veil. The Holy of Holies. This is where God was in the temple. What is our hope? Salvation (v.9-11) So our hope in salvation through Jesus death on the cross ties us directly to God.
Hebrews 7:11 – We could not be tied to God this way with the old system.
Hebrews 7:13-18 – Jesus was not qualified to be a priest because he was not a Levite. But he was qualified because of the power of his life. Because Jesus’ priesthood was superior to the former, the old is set aside and the new takes over. A better hope is introduced. What was the old hope? That they might remain in good standing with God by keeping up with the law and the sacrifices. What is the new hope? That we might live eternally with God.
Hebrews 7:23-27 – The old priests had a limitation on their ability to go to God to intercede – they died, But because Jesus can save us completely because of his eternal nature. Jesus meets our need (v.26)
Hebrews 8:1-2 – Jesus sat down next to God in heaven when he was done. For the Hebrew, this was important because the priests never sat down while they were on duty symbolizing that the job of washing away sins was never done. But Jesus sat down, not in the earthly temple but in heaven, the real deal. The temple was only a copy of Gods throne and temple in heaven.
Hebrews 9:6-9 – Year after year after year, this is how the people maintained their relationship with God, through the priest.
Hebrews 9:11-14 – Jesus did the same thing, once and for all and not in the temple, but in heaven.
Hebrews 9:22-26 – Jesus purified heaven itself with his blood, and once for all.
Hebrews 10:14-18 – One sacrifice and we are PERFECT FOREVER! There is no more sacrifice needed.
Hebrews 10:19 – Remember what it said back in 9:7? ONLY the high priest, ONLY once a year and NEVER without blood. Read 10:19 again. Because of Jesus blood on the cross we can walk into God’s private office and sit down with him. That is the nature of the relationship we have gained. It is that intimate. Would George Bush invite you in to the Oval Office? God will.
Hebrews 10:19-25 THIS is how we should live if we truly understand what God has done. We can breathe a deep sigh of contentment, no matter what the situation, and go on, knowing where our anchor is.
Hebrews 12:2 – What was the joy that motivates Jesus to go to the cross? Well, what was set before him? His hope of returning to heaven with God. And that same hope, because of the cross, is what is set before us as well.

An Amazing Woman and a Lucky Man

We were out of town over the weekend. Over the proceeding 5 days, I managed to bill slightly over 50 hours at work. That means I was there well over 55 and away from home gone well over 60 over 5 days. Add in some sleep and I wasn’t home much to do anything. It stinks.
So the grass is getting long and I’ve gotta get home to cut it. I planned to get home just before dark yesterday to get it done, but the skies were looking ominous. Then I get a call from Maria. She says, “I just wanted to let you know that it looked like rain soon, so I got the grass cut.”
Wow. In the 4 1/2 years we’ve been homeowners, she’s tried to start the mower maybe twice, without success. She’s made it quite clear that she isn’t interested in doing it and expects me to. I’m fine with that, after all I’ve made it clear that I have no interest in cooking and expect her to do that, and she obliges me.
Over the past 6 months my work schedule has been demanding, peaking in this month. She has not once complained or even so much as asked me when it will stop. She’s just stood by me, rising to the challenge of effective single motherhood. I am the luckiest man alive.
Thanks Honey, I love you.

Communion

While I’ve got no time to actually write one of my usually long winded ramblings, I thinght I’d post some things I’ve written over the last few years. Cut and paste blogging if you will. This is the first in a series of reports we did in the small group I was in a couple of years ago. I was pretty scared of writing then, kinda ironic now that I’m published for all the world to see (not that they’re all that interested.). The assignement was just to write about communion. The open ended nature of the assignment and my loathing for research gave me no small amount of stress. Looking back, going through with it was probably one of the turning points that ultimately let me to be a blogger.
Written 12-01-2001.
I’m not very good at reports. In fact, they scare me to death. I don’t know how to study very well and really don’t know where to start. So, to say that I was not fired up about this would be an understatement. I really don’t know what I’m doing, and even after an hour and a half on the Internet, I still don’t. So this is probably written in the wrong format, and without enough references and it’s probably too short as well. I did reach at least a couple of conclusions, though.
From what I read and have heard anecdotally there is a lot of debate about communion. There is debate about whether to use leavened or unleavened bread, wine or grape juice, whether to do it daily, weekly monthly or annually. I even read an article that claimed that communion was really just a modified Passover and should be celebrated according to the Old Testament rules governing the Passover, except with out the lamb (annually only on the 14th of the first month of the Hebrew calendar, and if you miss it, not until next year!). There is debate over whether the emblems (bread and juice) are symbols of Christ’s body or that they somehow actually become the real body of Christ.
I think all of these miss the point of communion. Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19). I don’t think the most important part of that statement is “this” but “do” and “remembrance”. That the world is so caught up in the particulars, to me, means that they don’t remember. When I take communion I try to use that moment to remember that Jesus was bloodied, beaten and disfigured so that I, a worthless and helpless rebel, could have a relationship with God. I think that if we took communion with Oreos and grape Kool-Aid, but we connected with God and remembered what we have received (and our lives showed it), God would be pleased.

Happy Birthday Emily!

Things have been rather heavy around here lately, I thought it’d be good to write about some little things that happened recently that I’ve overlooked.
My middle daughter turned 7 on the 5th. She got her Schaefer tradition of breakfast in bed, which for a 7 year old is really cool. We also gave her a chioce of us buying her gifts or spendign the money on a party for her friends. She of chose the party and had an absolute blast. It was a princess theme; they made princes hats (which look like fancy decorated dunce caps!), played ‘braid the princess hair’ (using plates with princess faces and golden yarn hair hung on the wall) and played kiss the frog. That’s basically pin the tail on the donkey ecept that the donkey is a frog (with crown) and the girls put on bright red lipstick and had to kiss the frog poster blindfolded. Closest lip prints wins.
Emily is so energetic and social, she was in cloud nine after the party. She just loves life and lives it with more gusto than most.

Site updates

Well, an unexpected morning at home with a sick child meant I got a little time to do some site updates I’ve been meaning to do while she slept. I added the right side menu to the individual pages, the monthly archives and the category archives.
Of course this just means that I’ll be at work until midnight tonight to make up for the missed morning….. Oh well.

Expect Light Blogging

Activity around these parts is likely to be light for around a month or so. The big project I’ve been working on is due June 2. I’ve been told to expect 50-60+ hour weeks to get it done on time. Late is not an option. There’s 200 some injection molded parts involved in this product and the molder has given our customer a commitment on cost and delivery of the production units based on getting data released on that date. If we miss it, that opens the door wide for the molder to ask for more money and time. If that happens, it can’t be our fault.

Define ‘Fundamental’.

I’m finally getting back to the subject of fundamentals that I started a while back. Reading back over my two posts and the associated comments, I’ve realized that I have some explaining to do. First is to give some back ground on why I feel the need to explore this topic. There’s a several month history behind this that I ought to articulate. Although I’ve touched on it a couple of times, I’ll save the complete story for another day.
The second thing, and the subject of this post is to define ‘fundamental’. I realized that I threw the word out without really defining it in this context. I learned from radio talk show host Mark Scott in Detroit that one of the things one must do in any debate is to define your terms. (Once on 1270 AM, Mark is now heard only on the internet. If you’re going to go listen, be forewarned – Mark is well right of center, unabashedly libertarian actually. I found his reasoning ability and methods excellent.) So when I said, ” We ought to fight for unity on the essentials and let the rest fall where it may. ” how do I define ‘essential’ or ‘fundamental’ or ‘foundational’?
First some dictionary definition excerpts from dictionary.com:
Essential:

Adj.

  1. Constituting or being part of the essence of something; inherent.
  2. Basic or indispensable; necessary

n.

  1. Something fundamental.
  2. Something necessary or indispensable.

Fundamental:

Adj.

  1. Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary.
  2. Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central

n.

  1. Something that is an essential or necessary part of a system or object.

Foundational:

Adjective form of Foundation:
n.

  1. The basis on which a thing stands, is founded, or is supported.

So the ‘foundations’ of Christianity would be, by definition, those things that make up it’s essence, that define it. They are inherent in it, indispensable and necessary. The implication is that if you take one of these things away, you may have something that looks like Christianity, but is not. It is missing part of the essence the thing. So if we’re to find the fundamentals, we need to be sure what we get is truly the essence. With out it, Christianity would be something different. They are “The basis on which [it] stands, is founded, or is supported.”
Having the definition doesn’t help us agree on what they are, although it should help us evaluate what we find. But even the search for ‘fundamentals’ can be problematic. My friend Virusdoc took minor offense (or at least displeasure) at the term ‘fundamental’, relating too closely to the fundamentalist movement in Christianity, which he is not too fond of. But I think that regardless of whether you acknowledge it or not, your Christianity is founded on something, some sort of fundamentals. So whether you choose to call yourself a ‘fundamentalist’ matters little, there is still something, some core that supports your faith.
In the comments here, he also challenged my use of the Bible as the only source for that foundation. He encouraged me to look at other sources as well. I’ll admit to a personal bias here, but that concept is hard to consider. While I’ve gotten much inspiration and knowledge from other sources – books, preachers, seminars, friends, blogs, forums – I have always compared those things to the Bible. Why is that? Part is upbringing. I was taught to do that. But there is also a principle at work here. Jesus spoke of how we build our spiritual house, He told us not to be careful of how we build the house itself, but to pay careful attention to the foundation. In Matthew 7:24-27 He says that to build your life on his words is to build on a secure foundation. To not build on his words is to build on sand. We find his words in the Bible (An interesting question that I’m not prepared to answer right now is, Should our fundamentals only come from Jesus’ words and not the rest of scripture? Perhaps so, but that’s a debate for another post.) The Bible is not subject to man’s whim. It is like bedrock: solid, secure, stable and unmovable. The opinions of men, even well thought out and agreed upon by many, are like sand, clay and dirt: they can shift and squirm. Today’s revelation or inspiration may be out of fashion tomorrow, but Jesus’ words will always be true.
Hopefully you can see the danger of adding in too much to the foundation. If everything is foundational, then you have nothing left to build the building. The Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, even your own home are mostly not foundation. In fact the foundation is the least attractive part of most buildings. Who wants to live or work in the basement? Who enjoys getting down into a crawl space? But without it, the ‘attractive’ parts of the building would be in danger of collapse.
Have you ever looked at the NYC skyline and wondered why there seems to be two ‘downtowns’ where the building heights soar, one at the tip of Manhattan and one about midway up the island? It has nothing to do with property values or social demographics and everything to do with bedrock. In these two areas the bedrock is much closer to the surface making it easier to get to and therefore easier and cheaper to build tall buildings. See, architects and civil engineers know that in order to build something great, you must look for the right foundation.

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