"I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself." ~Philippians 3:10

Apr 22, 2010

Interesting thoughts....

Crafting a vision for your Church?....

Check this out from Naked Pastor....

Biblical Arguments Against Vision
April 22, 2010 | thought |

1. The verse most often used to support vision in a church is Proverbs 29:18… “Without a vision, the people perish.” But even an elementary study of that verse will reveal that the word translated “vision” is best translated “prophecy” or “revelation“. It isn’t talking about the modern preoccupation with creating and articulating a vision over a group of people to maintain health or secure life or success. It’s more related to the biblical theme, “We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Without revelation, without the truth coming to us, we would die.
2. There is no talk about vision for each local church in the New Testament. I suggest the earliest church’s concern is primarily a human one: the urgent necessity of fellowship, the gathering together of those with the same belief in a hostile environment. Then it is out of this that worship, prayer and apostolic teaching find expression. Not even evangelism is its primary concern. The New Testament assumes evangelism is the byproduct of the presence of the church in society. For instance, in Acts, the earliest Christians didn’t disperse in order to evangelize. Instead, the church dispersed after each increase in persecution, and people were added to the church as a result. Which of course brings to mind that this obsession with vision is a modern one. From the earliest church to the post-modern era, it wasn’t a concern. Now, it seems to me, vision is a modern technique for attracting, keeping and motivating people in the midst of heated competition.
3. Philippians 2: 5 encourages the members of the church to be like-minded. This doesn’t mean theologically or ideologically. For Paul instantaneously launches into one of the earliest hymns of the church concerning the humiliation of Christ. For Paul, like-mindedness isn’t agreement, but humility. In fact, later in Philippians 3: 15, Paul intimates diversity of thought. To seek unanimity on a vision statement is unfair to some of the members at least.
4. To articulate a vision and align a church under it assumes we can predict and shape our future by our present thoughts and actions. It falls into the old cause and effect trap: if we do this, that will happen. In other words, it removes God and the need for God as Lord. Even with the most fervent prayer and discernment, the vision requires God to undersign our agenda, no matter how noble or spiritual it might seem. To conjure up a vision for our actions in order to determine our future is in my mind paramount to visiting the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28).
5. Jesus’ own modus operandi was, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me…” (John 4: 34). I suggest that just as the scriptures teach that God provides for and feeds his people daily (manna and daily bread), Jesus was fed daily with the will of God. The overarching themes of coming to seek and to save and to serve found daily and spontaneous expressions in the life of Jesus.
6. The story of Simon the Sorcerer applies here (Acts 8). The disciples were doing something for others freely and spontaneously, motivated by love and inclusion. But Simon wanted to package it into a predictable program with guaranteed success. In the same way, to turn God’s will (example: seek, save and serve) into a vision statement mutates the biblical order (command and obedience) into the worldly order (goal and achievement).
7. Psalm 139: 16 states that, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” A vision statement discerned by the church, articulated by the leader and administered by the leadership subtly transfers the power of our unknown yet preordained future from God’s hands into human hands. With a slight and subtle shift, we organize under the words of authorities.
8. The biblical narrative favors diversity and dispersion. In the Garden, the vast variety of creatures are distinguished and separated by names. Babel attempts to gather everyone under one vision and they are scattered. Egypt attempts to gather all God’s people under one mission and they are delivered. Israel attempts to reinforce its security but is dispersed into exile. The earliest church would’ve preferred to stay in the original hometown of Jerusalem but is persecuted and dispersed. Paul’s greatest adversity was the attempt by Jerusalem to attain and maintain sovereignty over all believers. The Antichrist would sublimate all people under his power and authority but will be destroyed in the end. Organized gathering in the bible usually ends up as slavery or domination. I am surprised that often those most vehemently arguing in favor of vision (a unifying power over a group of people) are also the same ones who believe in the Antichrist, who’s obvious purpose is to deceive even the elect and sublimate everyone under his charisma (because his vision will be plausible and spiritual).
9. Psalm 1: 1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…“. The later translations, in an attempt to neutralize the text, has translated it, “Happy are those…” which destroys the whole point of that Psalm, which articulates the biblical importance of the righteous individual. The fact that it is the first psalm is not an accident, for it launches the whole Psalter in the direction of individual faith that composes the community of faith. Although the bible obviously teaches the assembly of the righteous, it doesn’t consider it a controlled clump, but a gathering of righteous ones, those who have “worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
10. The principalities and powers find expression in organizations and institutions, including the church. I suggest that the church is simply a voluntary gathering of individuals, and it is healthiest to keep them free of an all-encompassing vision which is an attempt to collect all the members under one power. To captivate people “through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe” (Colossians 2: 8), is a benevolent dictatorship, but still a dictatorship. And this is why it is so deliciously deceptive: vision statements are usually plausible, they sound biblical, they are inspirational, and they hold out the hope that all these people can be controlled under one motivating idea, which in the end is demonic.

Mar 22, 2010

Long time... no talk to...

Wow,didn't realize it had been so long since I had posted anything on here. I guess the constant news of the political crisis here in Honduras just burned me out a bit. Lori and I spent a few weeks home with the kids and were refreshed to come back and continue our work here in Honduras.

I was moved today to express a few of my thoughts regarding the new healthcare bill so....

I am not smart enough to figure out all the ramifications of the new healthcare bill passed by congress last night and I could be totally misguided, misinformed, and a tad bit crazy, but I can't help but feel a sense of gladness and joy this morning. I am glad that millions of Americans, many of them children, will have access to health insurance. I am glad that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies. I am also glad that some effort is being made to curtail rising medical expenses, and that certain special interest and business groups will be held to a greater accountability, and that the growing gap between the rich and the poor might be slowed.

I say this fully realizing that it might cost me another dollar or two (or whatever), but I happen to believe there are things I can do without so that the above can be true. It seems that the Jesus I have come to know was always concerned about those who had little and expected those that had to help those who didn't. I also realize that this will mean that there will be those who take advantage of the system and to that I say.... SO What! A least they will have an opportunity to be healthy.

Anyway... here's a few thoughts...

1. Any effort that is made to bring health benefits to more people (especially the weak, the poor, the children) is an effort with which I want to identify.

2. The argument that we cannot afford making medical benefits available to more people does not hold any weight for me. The fact is that our country can afford it, even if it means that each of us surrenders a few more bucks that we would have spent on things for ourselves. We just have to conclude that compassion in the face of human need is a greater value than accumulating more stuff.

3. Any initiative that makes it possible for the common person to have the same access to medical science as the rich appear to have is one I want to hear about.

4. And any group that stands up on behalf of our physicians so that they do not have to fear frivolous lawsuits every time they make a diagnosis and propose a treatment is one I want to support.

Is the new healthcare bill the best way for these things to happen? I really have no idea, but I think it moves in a direction that is a direction that makes me glad.

Nov 3, 2009

More on "deconstruction"....

Here are some more of the thoughts on "deconstruction" from Naked Pastor....

I suppose I should correct #1 from my list of How to Deconstruct Your Church. I should probably say, instead, that you should deconstruct yourself first. I guess this is especially for pastors, but it applies to all of us who want to deconstruct the church so that we can become a genuine community of free individuals. So, here’s a list of how to deconstruct yourself:

1. First of all, you have to really want to. It has to be an inner necessity. You’ve seen the light and you have no choice. You are a fraud exposed. You are going to divest yourself of your false self. Let everyone know that the real you is here to stay (whether they like it or not, fire you or not, desert you or not).
2. Create a small group of people with whom you can open up and really be yourself with. Your leadership team or elders is best, if possible.
3. Keep a journal. It will help you be honest and keep on track. Write even your dreams, which are excellent detectors of what our masks are. Write what people say about you. For instance, my wife said to me once: “When you are more spiritual, you are a worse husband!” I’ve never forgotten that because it exposed that my spirituality at the time was nourishing an arrogance in me.
4. Start letting some of the things you do that are motivated by ambition, rote tradition, competition, or people-pleasing die. Stop doing it. Explain why if necessary.
5. Have people call you by your first name (not pastor, Mr., Reverend, or Father, etc.). Be a real, normal accessible person.
6. Recognize those things about you that aren’t truly you but are attached to your identity as a pastor. Reject them! Example: there are some of your people (and I know some pastors) who have what they think is a biblical view of the authority of a pastor, but is in fact identical to the idea of the “Divine Right of Kings”. Reject it!
7. In your mind and heart, genuinely become one with the people. Party with them. Drink too much with them. This, I think, was one of Martin Luther’s strengths as a reformer. His community was his friends, and they would get together and party and intentionally drink too much to spite the devil.
8. Prepare for rejection. Many religious people want a king. If you aren’t willing to be that for them, they will go and find one. I can’t tell you how many people have left because I was an insufficient leader or none at all.
9. Develop other means of income in case your church shrinks to a size where it is unable to pay you a full salary. Over the last 13 years of my own deconstruction and that of our church, I have taken several pay cuts. I am making much less than I did when I started pastoring this church 13 years ago. Lisa has had to start working, and I am an artist on the side. I’ve done construction and other side projects to keep my family supported. I’ve even received unemployment benefits.
10. Start to seriously question everything, especially your theology and your ideas of what church and ministry is. Let your theology deconstruct, realizing that much of what we are taught and have learned endorses power, authority and control, and is contrary to freedom. Begin to discover what the truth is for yourself. Your search, it is promised, will not go unrewarded.

That’s just a start. I hope this is helpful to some. I’m starting to get some clarity on writing a small book on How to Deconstruct Your Church. Ten easy steps. With some of my more relevant cartoons.

Nov 1, 2009

A little more to the US "arm-twisting" rumors.....

La Vanguardia, a spanish news agency, is reporting this....

Zelaya, caught in the Brazilian rat trap, had few options. Diplomats from Tegucigalpa commented to La Vanguardia that Zelaya, of course, knew very well that he was signing a document that was rather unfavorable to him as it left his possible return as president in the hands of the very same Congress that removed him, without setting any time limit despite the closeness of the elections. According to these sources, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, pressured Zelaya to sign under the threat that if he did not, his son, Hector, who is presently in the U.S., would be prosecuted for drug trafficking.

I will be very surprised if Zelaya is still in Honduras a week from now. I could see a scenario where they allow him to leave the country for good to avoid prosecution, but I don't think he will ever be reinstated.

The Honduras Accord.... and a few thoughts.

I have read a ton of articles stating that the Honduran agreement will reinstate Zelaya to the presidency and this is just not true. The agreement (in point #5) simply says that Congress will decide the issue of Zelaya's restitution. More on this below.

Here is a very basic summary of the Guaymuras Accord, now being called the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord. To read the full accord in Spanish, click here. My comments will be in italics. I copied these summary translations from La Gringa's Blogcito. Her comments are in brackets [].

1. Government of Unity and National Reconciliation

This refers to the Secretaries, Sub-secretaries, and heads of other state departments [such as Hondutel and La ENEE]. [This would be similar to the president's cabinet in the US.] It specifically states that these people should be from diverse parties and should be known for their honesty and capabilities. It also requires this new government to respect the 2009 budget approved by congress in July 2009, since Mel Zelaya had never submitted a 2009 budget.

The biggest issue here is that I wonder who it is that is "appointing" these individuals. I must be missing something as it doesn't appear to tell us how or who will decide who is in this Unity Government.

2. Renunciation of Constitutional Assembly

This requires abstention from convoking, directly or indirectly, a constitutional assembly, as well as prohibition of promoting or supporting any public poll with the object of reforming the articles of the constitution "set in stone". This includes making public declarations or exercising any type of influence inconsistent with the spirit of articles 5, 239, 373, and 374, and the special law that regulates Referendum and Plebiscite.

While it is true that no one in any official government position can now call for a Constitutional Assembly, the "resistence" has vowed to continue to call for it and has vowed to continue to upset the status quo in an effort to accomplish that.

3. Elections and Transfer of Government

Makes a call to the Honduran public to participate pacifically in the elections and avoid every type of manifestation that opposes elections or promotes insurrection or illegal acts. Also discusses the TSE authority and the transfer of power on January 27, 2009.

Again, the "resistence" has vowed to boycott and disrupt the election process in their eforts to convene a Constitutional Assembly and upset the status quo.

4. Armed Forces and National Police

As already required by the constitution, control of the Armed Forces was transferred to the Election Tribunal (TSE) until election results are announced [expected to be November 30]. The military are responsible for the custody, transportation, and vigilance of election materials, as well as election security. The National Police are also reminded to strictly follow the special legislation [I assume this means laws related to elections].

5. Executive Power

Both sides have decided that the National Congress, as an expression of popular sovereignty, in consultation with the Supreme Court and in conformation with the law, resolve the issue of the return of the Executive Power to his status previous to June 28, until January 27, 2010. [Note that there is no timetable or deadline for this action. The congress is in recess right now, but could call a special session next week.]

The decision adopted by the Congress should be based on reaching social peace, political tranquility, and democratic government that the society demands and the country needs. [This could be the catch in which the international community could refuse to accept the Congress' decision or refuse to recognize elections − ALBA members and other countries have already said as much in the October 30 OAS meeting. That would, of course, highlight their hypocrisy.]

This is what all the fuss has been about. The reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya. There is a lot going on with this and it certainly is not a decided issue. There is no way to determine what may happen. Congress is officially in recess right now and had no plan to return until the new government was officially in office in January. My understanding is that they can convene a special session and that is what may happen so they can deal with this. I am sure there will be problems with this as many of them are in re-election campaigns and will be busy with those things. The next week should be interesting.

6. Verification and Truth Commissions

Verification Commission will monitor the strict compliance with the Accord. The commission will be coordinated by OAS, and consists of two members of the international community and two Honduran members (one selected by each side).

It has been rumored that the two international members will be Colin Powell (former US Secretary of State) and Ricardo Lagos (former president and member of the Socialist Party of Chile).

It is recommended that the next government establish the Truth Commission in the first 6 months of 2010.

I wonder why they need to delay this? A lot can happen in six months as we have already seen.

7. Normalization of Relations

By promising to comply faithfully with this Accord, it is respectfully asked that the immediate revocation of measures and sanctions that affect Honduras and its participation in the international community.

We call on the international community to reactivate cooperative projects as soon as possible and to continue with negotiations of future projects.

This is exciting as many programs requiring international aid should be back in full operation immediately. The US has already announced they will begin normal relations as far as recognition of Consulates and beginning to issue Visas, etc.

8. Final Dispositions

Any difference in interpretation or application of the Accord will be submitted to the Verification Commission to be determined in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Honduras.

Taking into account that this Accord is the product of Hondurans, we vehemently ask that the international community respect the sovereignty of Honduras and observe the UN Charter principal of no intervention in internal matters of other states.

9. Compliance calendar

The Accord goes into effect immediately on the date of signing.

Oct. 30, 2009:
1. Signing of Accord
2. Submission of the Accord to Congress regarding point 5.

Nov. 2, 2009: Formation of the Verification Commission

No later than Nov. 5, 2009: Formation and installation of the Unity and Reconciliation Government.

Jan. 27, 2010: Celebration of the transfer of government.

First 6 months of 2010: Formation of the Truth Commission

10. Final Declaration

A promise in good faith to comply with the terms of the Accord.

11. Appreciation

[Not worth summarizing. The people being thanked have already congratulated themselves and each other ad nauseam.]

12. Effective date

The agreement is effective the date signed. The formal signing ceremony will be on Monday, November 2 [in which I assume that Roberto Micheletti and Manuel Zelaya will sign the agreement].

Even though there is now an agreement there is still the implementation of it and the willingness of everyone to abide by it. Let's just say I'm not real confident it will go smoothly. There is much that needs to happen and I have the feeling that both sides are still looking to have it turn out the way they want it. The next few weeks leading up to the election will really be interesting. I am quite sure that Micheletti's team was counting on the fact that Congress is in recess and that nothing would happen in regards to Zelaya until after the elections and in a radio interview, Zelaya has already issued threats and ultimatums(google translation) if he is not reinstated by the end of next week.

Oct 31, 2009

continued deconstruction thoughts...

All of this sounds VERY familiar..... reminds me of another group I know....

from Naked Pastor

Many people are tired of doing church in the same old way (point A). Some seem to appreciate the way we are doing church here (point B), and wonder how they can get from point A to point B.

First of all, I want to assert that if these people moved here and became a part of our church, they would in soon realize that there is nothing spectacular about it. There is nothing to boast and nothing to reproduce. Like I continually tell people, I spend most of my time deconstructing, preventing things from happening, and resisting success. I am constantly reprimanded for our church being self-sabotaging in that we continually seem to undermine strategies that might guarantee some measure of stability and even growth. Believe me, there are times we would love successful growth with its stability and all that it provides, but when we are at my best, we resist these temptations.

What I can say is that, as a church, we are pretty much stripped bare of goal, vision and agenda. We can say, for the most part, that we don’t coerce, manipulate, or control people. People are free to come and go as they are and as they please. It is a completely voluntary assemblage with no expectations placed upon it. We do not prescribe beliefs or lifestyles. If people come with agendas or some people develop agendas, they don’t seem to last. Their sense of what a church “should be” gets frustrated.

Lisa and I have been married for almost 30 years. We have a rich relationship. If other couples who wanted to have a good relationship came to us to learn how, we could give some pointers. We could even allow them to observe us for a while (within limits). But I’m confident that in time they would start asking, “What’s the big deal?” There’s no magic or tricks or formulas. It’s mostly mundane commitment and tenacious hard work. Same with our church community. There’s no magic, no flash, no tricks, no formulas, no big attraction. Our worship music is raw and unprofessional. The preaching and teaching is unrefined, crude and informal. Our community is made up of a diverse mixture of regular people. We aren’t a big deal.

Therefore, even though you might want to deconstruct your church, it ain’t pretty. However, I think it is worthwhile and even necessary if we are to become more free and more human, and if we want to discover what true community and love is. So, I’m thinking I might blog for a while on how our church has deconstructed over the years. It is a wild and fascinating story, and many feel it is a story that needs to be told. So stay tuned!

OK... this is good...DECONSTRUCTION...

Found this at Naked Pastor

I frequently get emails from pastors wondering how they can get their church from running like a machine to looking like a functional family. They wonder how to get from where they are to where they think my church is (I plan on writing more about that tomorrow, which is a whole other issue). I would call this process the deconstruction of the church. Be mindful that we’ve gotten to where we are today after 12 years and tons of continued disdain, ridicule, opposition and rejection. Anyway, here’s 10 suggestions I’ve quickly strung together for a start:

1. Determine in your heart that you will do all things out of love, compassion and patience.
2. Make sure this is what you want no matter what the cost (because often the cost is high).
3. Are there any leaders or elders who are in agreement with you and will endure with you for the long haul?
4. Start speaking honestly about what you are feeling and thinking. Begin with your closest group and move out to the whole community.
5. Allow people to see you at your weakest. Then allow them to reveal themselves at their weakest.
6. Let things die that require coercion, manipulation, begging or controlling others in order to live and continue on.
7. Welcome diversity in belief, thought and lifestyle (they are already diverse, you are just welcoming its open expression).
8. Change the teaching/ preaching time to a shorter teaching time with discussion following. This is scary at first, but you’ll get used to it and eventually prefer it. This levels the playing field really fast.
9. Challenge only those who are judging, abusing, and controlling others.
10. If people decide this is not for them, bless them as they go (because they will eventually go).

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post about why I find such requests on how to do this rather bizarre. It’s been a difficult road that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Unless, of course, this is what they really, really want.