An Overcritical Society


While I was painting my new digs yesterday, I was listening to an audiobook called Love Does, narrated by the author himself, Bob Goff. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. Whenever I see a new Christian book get a lot of attention and it’s written by an author I’ve never heard of, I fear that it might be off in some serious doctrinal sense or something. But I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one had caught my eye a few times.

By the end of the first chapter, I was in awe. By the end of the second I was cracking up. Three hours later I had experienced every emotion under the sun. This guy is clearly the most interesting man in the world and has so many crazy stories that I am just awestruck. It is by far the most interesting, hilarious, and enjoyable Christian book I have ever read.

It’s full of stories that all find a strange way of relating back to God. And for that reason, there are a few (and I mean very few) critics of this book. From what I can tell, nearly everyone love is. But I was checking it out on Amazon today when I saw that someone gave it a one star review. Feeling anger come over me (as I hate one star reviews on anything), I clicked on it to see what could possibly make someone give this book one star.

And as usual, the one star review was a bunch of crap. They took things too seriously and saw the enjoyable jokes and stories as sin and stupidity.

This picture isn't me dissing XKCD. I think that site is typically hilarious :D

Let me just tell you that when you live a life of criticism like this, you become bitter and difficult to be around. No one likes it when someone’s there to rip everything a part. I know this because I’ve been that guy plenty of times.

  • “Yeah, that album is their worst.”
  • “Yeah, that movie was awful. I know you liked it but…”
  • “Yeah, he’s okay at guitar but…”
  • “Yeah, but etc…”

Look, we all have preferences and thoughts about things, but if you find yourself consistently leaving negative comments on every YouTube video, book and music album that comes out, there’s actually probably something wrong with you—not with the things you’re rating.

  • That’s why people who talk too much trash on online video games now have to pay money at times to play online games.
  • That’s why YouTube is trying to figure out how to stop people from leaving awful comments on videos and is thinking of displaying your actual name so you can’t hide behind the internet.

I had an ex who once told me that there was absolutely nothing words could do to hurt anyone. All they are, are in fact, words. It was as though we were back on the playground singing, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” But we all know that’s not true. I’ve never been in more pain from the things people have said to me than the physical pain I’ve experienced.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:6-12)

I know: the irony (and perhaps hypocrisy) is that I’m criticizing critics. But my goodness—grow up! You live in a world full of creativity and there is no need to be so overcritical about every little thing, ESPECIALLY in the church!

  • You know why so many pastors burn out? Because for some reason, people think that their pastor needs to know everything they don’t like about what they do or say.
  • You know why worship leaders go to another church? Because for some reason, we give the worship band one star because she’s flat, he hit a wrong note, that beat was lame, and the intro was just a bit too loud.
  • You know why that new person left? Because for some reason, she saw more love at the bar with her drunk buddies than she saw in the pew next to her.

Despite our call from Jesus not to judge one another, we consistently whack people in the face with the 2×4’s sticking out of our eyes.

Over the past two months or so, I’ve been practicing holding my tongue more than I ever have in my life. Yes, things still slip out here and there, but I’ve found that when I just shut up about things that annoy me, I don’t care much about it. I don’t give it room to fester in conversation—I don’t give it the ability to overtake my thoughts.

I can feel an incredible change in my life because of it.

Alright, there’s my thoughts for the day. If you leave a nasty comment on this blog post or leave one star, you’ve obviously missed the point.

More thoughts on this post? Read my post All Christians are Called to Missions, listen to my message Forgiveness under the Luke series on the 1208 iPhone app, or read Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion.

Advertisements

The Digital Church: Helpful Technologies for Your Ministry


I was recently asked to give a lecture to a class at Spring Arbor University on using the internet and technology in churches today. Considering I do so quite at 1208GREENWOOD Free Methodist Church, I thought I’d share a few ideas as to how you can incorporate such technologies in your ministry.

1. Facebook

Visit 1208’s Facebook

Facebook is about as obvious as it gets when it comes to incorporating the internet into your church. You can upload pictures, tag people, give updates, and link, link, link. It creates an online community in which your congregants can see that much more goes on at your building than just a Sunday morning service. They can see how they can get involved and be aware of events coming up (even if they’re last minute).

However, there is a problem with many church Facebooks: they’re dead. Sure, there is a page people can like, but for the most part nothing is there (or at least what is there is from a year ago). If you want your church to look alive in healthy, show them that it is. Take a picture every other day of something going on and post it to your Facebook. Write a blog post so people can keep up with you. If your Facebook page is dead it might lead others to think that (A) you aren’t doing anything or (B) that your church doesn’t understand technology. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with not using technology, but if you’re looking to attract today’s generation at all, they may take notice that you use technology and use it well. And if you use it well, you can get the word out. For example, here are some flyers we post on Facebook.

2. YouTube

Visit 1208’s YouTube

If you have any video editing skills, take some footage every once in awhile and throw it up on your YouTube channel. From there, you can link it to Facebook and show the world what you’ve been up to. Show people how an event went or make a video to get the word out about an event coming up.

3. Twitter

Visit 1208’s Twitter

Twitter is easy enough to use as long as your not long winded. You’ve only got 140 characters to say what you need to say. As you can see, we update our Twitter by simply linking Twitter to Facebook. That way anything we post to Facebook will automatically be posted to Twitter with a link to the thing we said on Facebook. That way, if we write too much on Facebook then you can click on the link to see the rest of what we were saying. Another great way of getting the word out there and with how popular it is, it should definitely be utilized.

4. WordPress

Visit Jamin’s Blog

If you’re in ministry and have good backing in some kind of exegetical education I highly suggest you start practicing what I call the spiritual discipline of blogging. There are many aspects to this, but I’ll try to keep my explanation brief.

Today, anyone can blog and get their beliefs and feelings out there. This is good of course, but can create some problems as essentially anyone can get their beliefs and feelings out there. Now I’m all for free speech, but let’s face it: people misinterpret the Bible all the time. I’m not asking people to stop blogging, but I am do wish those who know the exegetical basics of Biblical interpretation to step up and blog. You are the ones who can break the cycle and present scholarly blogs. Writing such posts will grow you with God and make you a better writer. It will also give you an avenue to teach through outside of the pulpit.

I highly suggest getting a WordPress account if you’re going to blog. No blogging service will benefit you quite as much as WordPress will, especially with all of the free helpful statistics and insights it offers you.

5. Publishing

With the rise of the iTunes and other music distributing technologies came the ability for local bands to get their music out there. We are now stepping into a world in which writers can do the same. Now with most writings this is not a problem, but when it comes to Christian writings we have the same problem we have with blogging: anyone can write a book. Again, this isn’t bad and it doesn’t mean that what anyone has to say is bad, but it can be. If you understand how to read and interpret the Bible, you have the power at your fingertips to now write a book about something God puts on your heart. I’ve now personally been able to publish two books: COLOUR, and The Prophetic Jacket.

6. Foursquare

Visit our Foursquare

If you have an iPhone or Android you may have heard of this app. It’s essentially a social network for checking into places. When you stop somewhere you check into that place on the app and you get points for doing so. You tend to get more points for going to new places and if you check into a place more than anyone else, you become the mayor of that place. The points are just for fun and it pushes you to compete with your friends and check into lots of places.

This is a good way to get word out that you exist. When people check into 1208GREENWOOD Free Methodist Church it will let others know that they are there. It will even post it to Facebook if they have linked their Foursquare account to Facebook. The more people see people check in, the more they’ll be curious to check you out sometime. It’s a creative way to get word out that you exist and get people not in a church, into a church.

If you own your venue on Foursquare you can also put specials up on your Foursquare page. For example, I got free parmesan bread at a local pizza place for checking in there three times. I can’t figure out what kind of a special would work for a church yet, but it’s a cool idea to put in place if you can think of one.

7. Church Apps

Download 1208’s iPhone app

If you have someone in your church who is good with developing software, see if they can make you a mobile app. If you don’t have someone like that in your church, do what we did and ask an app developer like iGivings to make one for you. We lucked out and happened to get an app made from iGivings for free during a limited time offer, but you can still pay to get one made. If you want to see what that app will look like, check out ours. This is a great way to get mp3s of your messages out there as well as upcoming events and blog posts. It puts them all in the same place. It’s similar to Facebook, but cool to have (especially if you have enough app users in your church).

8. Newsletters

Check out one of 1208’s newsletters

We don’t really have the money to print off a bunch of beautiful color newsletters every time we make one, but we do have the ability to email great looking PDFs to every single person in our church. We also make a link available for download on our Facebook page. This allows us to get word out to everyone about what we’ve been doing, are doing, and are about to do. This way we don’t even have to worry about making everything printable or trying to make it all look good in black and white. We can just expect that it’ll be read on a computer or tablet. Or people can even print it off themselves and then read it that way if they prefer to do so.

9. Cloud Drives

Check out 1208’s Google Drive

You can get a free cloud drive for your church quite easily. Just use Dropbox or Google Drive. They’ll give you a few gigs to store files on and you can makes those files public or private. We have a private Dropbox file for our church in which we transfer our PowerPoints and other service files back and forth. We also have a public one where people can download our messages, newsletters and what have you. They can be very useful.

Defining Religion

So perhaps you’ve seen that Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video rolling around YouTube and Facebook. If not, at least nearly 19 million others have. Check it out really quick:

Those are some powerful words right there. In my opinion what the dude has to say is valid and quite real. Unfortunately, however, I’m not sure “religion” was the right word to use.

Over the past few years, religion has become an incredibly vague word. It’s definition by the current generation seems to be: everything about Christianity that I don’t like or have had a bad experience with. With such a definition, it seems that the entire world has a different idea as to why religion is bad.

  • One person had a bad encounter with theology and doctrine so they accuse it of being “religious” rather than freeing, as it is intended to grow you with God and show you more of who He is.
  • Another person had a bad encounter with spiritual disciplines. Someone got so involved in fasting or prayer, or reading their Bible that they ignored the rest of the world. They accuse them of being “religious” rather than authentic.
  • Someone else attended a church with so much tradition that they stopped paying attention to the point of it all and started to accuse everyone associated with that church as “religious.”

It’s weird, because everyone agrees to accuse religion of being evil while no one ever opens up their mouth to explain what exactly religion is. Now that being said, check out this Catholic priest’s rebuttal to the video you just watched:

What’d you think of what he had to say? Is he right? Wrong?

My personal opinion: both of these guys are saying the exact same thing. Actually, I was waiting for someone to make his exact same comeback, because when “religion” is targeted, typically what people have in mind are the things I mentioned above: theology, spiritual disciplines, and tradition. And who better to make a comeback on all of these things than a Catholic priest as the Catholics do a better job at practicing all of these things today than most of our Protestant churches do.

But if you really pay attention to these videos, I think what you’ll actually find is that they are both mad at hypocrites—not religion. This is because they both have a different understanding as to what religion is.

See, Jesus understood the difference between simply being religious and actually pursuing God. Check out Matthew 6:16-18.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The hypocrites in Jesus words are the religious ones. They have the right action with the wrong heart. They’re fasting looks as though it’s for God, but in actuality it’s for them. They are looking to gain attention from the people around them so that they’ll be seen as spiritual. You can’t look at these people and not see how physically hungry they are. That’s religious fasting. True fasting—according to Jesus—would be to put some makeup on, take a shower, and walk around with a smile on your face.

I would define actual religion as “a pursuit of God with the wrong heart.” From the outside it looks right, but from the inside it’s not. In fact, it’s not even a pursuit. It’s a false pursuit. And because of my definition nearly anything can become religious.

  • You study so much doctrine and theology for the sake of education and debate that you miss God amidst it all.
  • You fast to get others attention, not God’s.
  • You raise your hands in worship because it makes you look spiritual.
  • You pray because you’re good at putting words together and others can see and hear you.
  • You speak in tongues so others will be in awe of your gift.
  • You practice tradition because you’re going through the motions and not because you’re remembering or learning anything.

But don’t you dare think for a second that these are religious activities in and of themselves. Consider them more as neutral activities. If you pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they become avenues of growth and authentic Christianity. But if you do not pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they have a pretty good potential of becoming religious.

Jesus offers freedom. Religion offers bondage. This is true, but we need to learn do discern what is religious and what is not. Because there are plenty of religion-hating Christians out there today who wouldn’t realize they could easily accuse Jesus of being religious. Check out Luke 2:41-51.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold,your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Now of course Jesus is not being religious here, but He did do some things in this passage that people today would accuse anyone who wasn’t Jesus of being religious for:

  • His family was observing the traditional, religious holiday of Passover and following the customs they were supposed to follow as good Jews. On top of that, Mary didn’t necessarily have to attend this feast but she did anyway. Some would accuse her of being a religious overachiever.
  • This passage mentions Jesus is 12 years old. At this age, Jewish boys would gain the title “son of the law” and undergo a course of instruction, learn to fast, and attend public worship.
  • Jesus probably had amazing theological insight. The fact that the teachers were amazed by His questions means He had some pretty amazing answers for these well-educated men.
  • Jesus got so involved in being at church and carrying on intelligent conversation about God that He just set his family aside for three days while they panicked looking for Him. And when they finally found Him, Jesus replied as though He hadn’t even considered how they felt.

Some would call these things religious, but because it’s Jesus they would never do that.

I actually think this conversation is important. If we don’t learn to clarify what religion is, we will create an environment in which tradition, theology and spiritual disciplines fade all the much more (as though they haven’t done so already in Christianity today).

On another note, I’ve been tagging my posts under the topics of Christianity and Religion because I knew that plenty of authentic Christians would search for what I had to say under the topic of religion. Again, we define and consider this word differently.

Join the conversation and leave a comment. Do you agree with one of the videos above more than the other? Do you think they’re saying the same thing? Do you think they’re totally opposed to each other? I’m interested in your opinion.

Desperate Love

I’m no stranger to instrumental worship. I do after all listen to a ton of electronic music. But even that kind of instrumental music tends to have at least has some kind overlaying words.

I’ve been asked quite a few times in my life to make an acoustic piano album. It wasn’t until yesterday that I gave it a real shot. So here’s a song I recorded called Desperate Love. If people accept it well, perhaps I’ll finish the album which will probably be called The Intimacy of God.

A lot of my songs usually have words because I love to write worship lyrics to God. But as I’ve come to know more about worship soaking, I now see use for an instrumental worship album. And on top of that, Jon Thurlow just put out an album entitled The Anointed One to further illustrate that.

Anyways, here’s my song:

Love Wins: Further Discussion

Rob Bell has always been one of my heroes as far as crafting an intelligent and creative message goes. For that reason he’s always been one of my favorite authors.

When I first heard about his new book, it was from some pretty nasty comments. Nasty comments from people who hadn’t read the book. Nasty comments from people who couldn’t read the book because it wasn’t even out yet.

I did my best to defend him and tell people to wait and read it, but even I was nervous. Honestly, I didn’t even want to read the book which was odd because I love his writings. But, I bought it and read it quickly because I knew if I was going to continue to promote the things he taught, I needed to know what he had said in this book.

I thought the first two chapters were ingenious. After that, I was kind of back and forth with what he said and at some points offended, and other times I couldn’t agree more. And then, when I finished the book in it’s entirety, I felt alright about it all.

Now I hope you came across this post with a lot of time on your hands, because I’d like to post a video of my friend and mentor, Dr. Brewer as he further addresses this book and this topic with a lot of wisdom:

Special Chapel Performances

Reminiscing over the last four and a half years:

Click here to watch just the video portion of The Watery Abyss.

Download almost all of these songs for free here.

 

Getting DeathSpanked

I have plenty of stories of people who freaked out about something little  and took the chance to make sure that someone on the receiving end understood their frustration. It’s uncomfortable for everyone around. You want to make it stop, but the situation has already entered Hulk mode and there’s little going back.

  • All they wanted was a soft taco without lettuce!
  • All they wanted was to make sure you understood how much they disagreed with your opinion!
  • All they wanted was to let the ref know that they didn’t know how to make calls!
  • All they wanted was to make sure you knew your Youtube video was the dumbest thing they had ever seen and that 30 precious seconds of their life had been wasted!

They erupt. They explode. They become a person that you don’t want to be around (as well as a person that they don’t want to be around). We all know these people. In fact, we all have probably been these people! If not externally then at least internally, right?

That was my situation awhile back. I had spent hours in my room (a problem in itself) playing the weirdest video game known as DeathSpank 2!

Now this game is actually pretty hilarious. You’re a rather humorous “hero to the downtrodden” who is bringing justice to the world. You need to find the thongs of virtue that were given to other heroes who ended up being corrupted by their awesome power.

Awkward? Yes. But nothing in this game is meant to be taken seriously (except, of course, DeathSpank’s awesomeness).

Well, after playing this game for hours, I finally arrived at the North Pole, which was the place where I had to get the final thong of virtue from Santa (see, I told you this game was weird). I had beaten every single side mission up to this point and I was finally about to finish the game.

And then came the Roodolph glitch. I was so close to beating this game when I became one of the few people who experienced the pain of this irreversible glitch. After you destroy Roodolph (who is also evil by the way), he is supposed to drop an item for you to pick up. It is the mighty ear muffs that block off Santa’s supersonic sound! Or something like that…

But Roodolph didn’t drop it. Nor did he respawn. I was left with a glitch I couldn’t fix and I was pretty mad about it. And so, naturally, I did some googling to figure out what I could about this situation, when I was confronted by a post on a message board that showed me the ridiculous potential of what I could become:

ATTENTION ALL GLITCH VICTIMS:

If you have been a victim of this unjust crime by Hothead games, and have purchased the game for XBLA or PSN and were unable to complete the game they paid for. Please do not let the go and let all developers know that if they do not give issues like this priority, we will organize and stand up.

Please go to this page, sign the page, and at least provide your email to the author if you do not want to make it public, so I can form a mailing list, so we can organize and really make a dent, next time this company releases a product. Even if we were to delay our purchases for a week or two next release, trust me, they will learn they can’t take advantage of their customers.

 

We boil, we fester, and eventually we erupt after trying to tame the flame long enough. In some situations we need to confront others about the pain we feel.

But in little situations like these, I think we just need to learn to shut up. We are far too good are voicing every single opinion and thought that we have – ESPECIALLY online where we can hide our face behind the angry bold text we type. We need to learn to understand what is important to say and what isn’t and perhaps more importantly, we need to learn to not get so upset at every little thing that happens. Myself included.