Monday, October 31, 2005

The Para-Church

I have full knowledge that as I write this there will be people who disagree with me, including people I know who are planning to work in para-church ministries.

The Para-Church exists to meet needs of the community outside of the church walls. The idea is that people may not feel comfortable going to church, or that the church is not meeting felt needs well enough. These organizations may offer counseling, job training, food and shelter etc. that those around them truly need. This is all done in a Christian atmosphere but with no "Christian requirements" - the people receiving these services are not expected to go to church, read their Bible, grow closer to God etc. It is encouraged, but not pushed.

I think the only reason these organizations exist is because the church is not fulfilling it's responsibilites to the community at large. We are called to visit the sick and imprisoned, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty. Historically, the church has done this very badly. During one of the famines in Ireland the people (most of which were pagan) were given the opportunity to receive food from the local church, if they would first go through confession and convert. The heart was right (at least I hope it was) - save their bodies and their souls - but we cannot turn God into a commodity, a bargaining chip. Come to church on Sunday and we'll help you find a job. Be part of this small group and we'll give you food. To do this is at best spiritual manipulation and at worst (and more likely) spiritual abuse.

Yes, we want people to be part of Christian community. Yes, we want to meet their needs. But the church should be able to perform both functions.

We see examples of this through Acts. Almost everything the early church did at the time added to the number of those who were being saved, and most of what they did would not fit in to what we call "evangelism". The met needs, they helped people, no strings attached. They loved, and that love brought the people they were loving on to God.

Didn't Jesus say they would know us by our love?

Not by our promotions, not by our preaching, not even by our relationship with Him, but by our love.

I think the ministry of parachurch organizations is good and necessary. But I think if the church fulfilled what it's function truly is that it would not be necessary.

Take a look at this church. They see a need, they meet it. The love, and the Spirit of God adds daily to the number of those being saved.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My New Experiment

So if you can't tell in the picture what's different (besides my hair being short, I did that a few months ago) I have died my hair black actually. Usually I stick with red tones but thought I'd try something different. What do you think? Personally, I really like it. Now I just have to make sure it doesn't fade to just blue, then I'd have to dye it again...stupid work rules.....

Monday, October 24, 2005

Redefining Success in Evangelism

If I was still at Bethany I would write this as a paper. For me, this is something very important. For a lot of my Christian life I either felt like a failure or came across too strong because I felt in order to "evangelize" (which is something that all Christians should want to do, not just feel they are required to) I had to get someone to "pray the prayer". If they didn't, I felt like I hadn't done my job, and they would be eternally condemned. If there was something in my soul that just told me they weren't there yet, I would panic and either stay away from the God topic all together or make them feel like a horrible person.

No wonder I wasn't "good" at evangelism.

However, all this time, it was important to me. God had made such a huge impact in my life, had changed who I was and given me hope I could not have had otherwise. How could I not want to share that story with people? How could I leave people, friends, family, who came to me for help, and not tell them about the help and healing that God offers. I hold nothing against the youth leaders etc. that were always telling me I needed to share my faith. They were right. The methods and measure of success, however, were very wrong.

See, it's like football (and I am by no means an expert on football, someone else had to point this out to me). The goal is to get the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown, however, each play is designed only to get the ball a few yards. When we tell someone about God, the idea is to eventually get them to a point where they encounter and fall in love with Him, but for some people they have a long way to go first.

At one point it was easier to use tracts and "salvation messages" because everyone already knew the basics. They knew God was good and they were not, and being forgiven was the way to reconcile the two. They were closer to ready.

Now, however, things are different. There are some people who don't think God is good, or who don't know who God is, or who think Christians are all horrible people and why would they want to be one of them. Or they don't realize that they're not good, or hat they need help (to quote Pastor John "you need to get people lost before you can get them saved"). What do we do with these people?

When we share our story of how God changed us it should be with the purpose of bringing someone closer to God, and understanding that does not necisarily mean they will be ready to follow Him. We might be able to ring them a few yards, and then somewhere later down the line they're close enough for the touchdown.

And this is Biblical too. It is the Spirit that draws all men to God, not our work. Our work is to not pull them further away. An encounter with God is still important, a decision for Him is vital, but first people need to be able to get to know who He is.

This understanding is changing the way I interact with people who don't know God. I'm more intentional now than I ever was before in sharing my faith. I try to see where people are and bring them even one step closer, praying that others in the life will be faithful and help them further along their journey to God.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Somebody's Pregnant

No, it's not me...not yet anyways

Dan and Joy (MacElhinney) Pusey are 6ish weeks pregnant (well, ok, Joy's the one that's actually pregnant, but Dan had his part in the whole thing too.

If you would like to congratulate them, send an email to or they'd love to hear from you.

And this will let me know if anyone reads this or not lol

A bowl of Stew (art): The Ideal

A bowl of Stew (art): The Ideal

My wonderful friend Lizbrought up the question of an ideal community on her blog, and it makes my heartsing because community is where my heart is, and was one of the major themes of the A2 conference and so is fresh on my mind.

First, a disclaimer - I am not picking on the Church, I am not complaining about the church. I am seeing a problem within the current functioning of the Body and giving ideas that will (hopefully) bring us back to our intended function.

I think the major problem within the church is the humanistic self-centered attitude that we have allowed, especailly as a north american culture, to slip into the church. Christians are taught that "Jesus died just for you" and while it is true that Jesus died for them, it is not true that it is "just" for anyone. Chist died so that ALL would live. Our salvation is not a personal salvation, it is the salvation of the whole world. When God blessed Abraham it was so that the world could be blessed through him. What God does for each of us is not just for us but for all the lives we may have the power to touch.

This self-centered mentality shows up in a variety of ways, but one of the ways most damaging to community is the "I just need to be fed" idea. Erwin McManus puts it in terms of "spiritual bulemia" - we starve ourselves throughout the week and then become gluttons on Sunday morning. Those of us who are in Christ have the fullness of God, we have access to Him at any point in time, we don't need anyone to feed us, we should have the ability to feed ourselves, or to come along side each other through small groups (or friends getting together, whatever you want to call it).

The function of the chuch should be makig it as easy as possible for people who are far away from God to get close to Him. That means helping people in real ways, that means being their friend, not trating them like a project. That means loving them where they are with a love that lets them know that they can be better people.

Something that I heard recently really stuck out to me. It was the idea that humanity, everyone, already has a desire to be better than they are, already feels a disconnect from God and already feels needs. We don't need to tell people that God can change their lives, we need to show them what God's change in our lives looks like.

That would be my ideal community. People striving to make the lives of those around them better instead of trying to get other people to make their lives easier. We don't need to worry about changing how people behave, God will do that.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I was away last week. I was in Chicago at the A2 Willow Creek conference. I still haven't fully recovered or been able to process the whole event.

First off, 25 hours in a van with 4 other people wasn't at all what I expected it to be. The trip itself was wonderful, as was the ride back.

Secondly, Willow Creek (did anyone know that the church is actually by a creek with lots of weeping willows? The name makes sense now) is HUGE. Their new sanctuary seats 7095 people in 3 tears (I'll have pics up on my photo blog when I get a chance). Now, I've never really been a fan of mega churches for a bunch of reasons, the two most important being the practicality of it (organizing community in a large group would be very difficult) and also because I'll all for church planting. That aside, Willow does an amazing job. Even from the highest point furthest away from the stage it didn't feel like the nose bleed section. The entire sanctuary felt cozy, not huge. Hard thing to accomplish.

Now, as for the actual content of the conference, I'll get to that in a series of rants as I work thought it. I will say that it was amazing.