When Doubt Sets In…

As followers of Christ we are called to live out the gospel message in a way that is fulfilling to our understanding of the way God interacts with the world and with humanity.  If we were raised in the church we were taught the stories of Bible, Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the lion’s den and Jesus’ ministry.  As we grow and mature in age we begin to look at the world differently.  We have different life experiences which shape our overall viewpoint.  Things that once were clear are now a bit hazy, the truth we once believed does not seem to be plausible anymore.  In any person’s faith journey there will inevitably be a section(s) where doubt has set in.

We have all been there…Doubt the very faith we have been raised in or believed for most of our life.  We question the validity of the stories, the interpretation of the text and the practices of the church.  Many Christians have left the faith all together because the level of doubt was too great.  Others have simply changed denominations or changed their beliefs about certain issues like women in ministry, baptism and even homosexuality.  All of these changes have come out of period of doubt.

Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing.  Doubt makes us question, reexamine and reflect on even the most basic of held beliefs.  Minister Brian McLaren wrote “sometimes doubt is absolutely essential.  Doubt is like pain: it tells us something nearby or within us is dangerous.  It calls for attention and action.”

I agree with McLaren, doubt does call us to action.  Church communities are supposed to be places where our doubts can be shared, where our struggles can be brought forth, a place to say “I don’t know about this Trinity thing.”  The Disciples of Christ pride ourselves on being open and accepting of a variety of belief systems and structures but too often our churches do not reflect that.

Our church today faces some grave challenges and it will be easy to doubt that anything can be done.  This, my friends, is the wrong mindset.  While doubt is healthy in one sense, it is completely destructive in another.  I am not advocating for looking at the world through “rose colored glasses” but I am saying that through this time of doubt we can renew our faith in God.  We can take this time of discontent and make it in a time of renewal and rebirth.  Let us journey with God together.

Where were the times in your life when doubt set it?  What did you do to ‘overcome?’ Let’s reflect on these questions in the weeks ahead.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Misconceptions About Christians: Part III

Here is my latest article for the Orange County Record.

If you missed Part I and/or II check it out now!

For the past two week I have been writing about misconceptions about Christians. So far I have discussed the misconception that being a Christian one must read the Bible literally and that being a Christian means you have to go to “church.” Today we will look at another misconception.

Misconception #3- TV ministers/evangelists are representative of all of Christianity.

One of the most popular and widely known Christian based television channels is the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). TBN was launched in 1973 has been expanding to other countries, bringing the people the message of Jesus Christ. I am not against this by any means but some of the people broadcasting on TBN have nothing in common with me (and many other Christians) theologically. Yes, there are times when I agree with something TD Jakes or Joel Osteen says but more often than not I disagree with them. The problem that I see with most of the TV ministers and evangelists is that their messages are from the same theological mold and construct. TBN and other Christian stations make it a point to only promote their brand of theology, their view of God, their view of Christ and their view of God’s interaction in the world. The problem arises when people who are not of the Christian faith or disenfranchised with the church think this is the only way to view God.

There are millions of people who enjoy and get something out of watching the programming on TBN and there just as many people who would want it to go away. By TBN promoting their theology as the theology of all Christians in the entire world, it greatly restricts the church and Christianity. This limits the movement of God in a person’s life; this limits the spirit to move and to intercede. This makes Christianity one-sided and monochromatic. TBN promotes a Christianity that is ‘their way or the highway.’ They seemed to have figured out Christianity.

One time I was speaking with a woman and the topic of me being a minister came up. She began to tell me her entire faith journey and then she told me something that I would never forget. She told me that she was raised in the church, raised her children in the church; she was a devoted and committed Christian. She told me that she felt she had been ‘misinterpreting’ the Bible because it was not the way Jimmy Swaggart preached and proclaimed the gospel. This got me thinking, was she truly believing “bad theology” until Jimmy Swaggart came along? Just because Jimmy said it and promoted it, that made it the “gospel truth?” This my friends is the power of the TV minister. This is the power of Christian television.

When a news organization like Fox News or CNN want the “Christian response” to a major event who do they generally ask? Answer: the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen. While they speak for some people, they don’t speak for me and many other Christians. No one person or persons speaks for all of Christianity. Why can’t there be a Christian station that was “fair and balanced,” a station that showed all view points of Christianity, a station that started conversations about faith instead of ending them? This might be a dream that might never come into fruition, but it is something to strive for.

Next week I will continue my series on the misconceptions about Christians; I welcome your feedback.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Misuse of Scripture #420

This past Friday was April 20 or 4/20.  There is a subculture in US in which April 20 is designated as a day to consume marijuana.  (Learn more here).  People took to public places and online communities to promote the day and ‘celebrate’ in their own fashion.  I thought it was quite bold of them to openly and public profess their love and admiration for weed.  I guess Snopp Dogg made a career centered around is music and love for pot so why not celebrate it, huh?

Friday afternoon my youngest sister (a college sophomore) posted this tweet.

Naturally this peaked my interest.  She informed me that people on Facebook were claiming that the Bible promoted the consumption of marijuana.  Which Bible did they chose?  Genesis 1:29… which reads

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.– NIV (2011)

People in the 420 movement enjoy the more fluid language of the ye ol’ King James Version which reads

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

(They seem to like it because of the word “herb.”)

I’m not trying to insight a debate on the legality or the morality of smoking pot or anything like that, but I do want to open the door up to discussing the use of scripture in this scenario.

It’s no big surprise that Christians from all backgrounds look to the Bible to help them understand God’s interaction in the world.  The problem that I have is when the Bible is used in such a narrow sighted way.  I don’t see people who use this particular verse to further their pot smoking views rolling up oregano or rosemary and smoking that.  No, rather they have found their herb or choice.  If this passage is true they all of plants even the ones that cause allergic reactions in people (poision ivy/oak /sumack) should also fall under the umbrella of herbage.  Why this one verse, why this one seed-bearing plant?

Generally when people are picking and choosing laws and rules to follow or not to follow in the Old Testament they don’t normally go to Genesis 1:29.  Rather they choose something from Leviticus or one of the Ten Commandments. Where is their call to action and celebration about the proper treatment of animals and sacrifice rituals?  Where is the party being held about not wearing mixed fiber clothing or not consuming pork or shellfish?  Maybe the people at www.godhatesshrimp.com have it right…The Bible has been used for and against every major issue that one can think of so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that people have taken to the Bible to promote pot.

To look to the Bible to find a ‘ethical’ way to smoke weed at 4:20pm on 4/20 is a gross misuse of the Bible.  Genesis 1 tells of how God created order out of chaos, brought light to the darkness and organized the world into the place it is today.  To pluck out one verse for this reason tramples on the story and what it stands for.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Misconceptions About Christians: Part II

 This is my latest article in the Orange County Record.

If you missed part, check it out now!  Misconceptions About Christians: Part I

This is part two in the series of the Misconceptions about Christians.  Last week I touched on the misconception that to be a Christian you have to read the Bible literally.  Today I will speak another misconception.

Misconception #2- To be a Christian means you have to go to “church”- While this might seem a bit counterintuitive for a minister to say such a thing, hear me out.  I like to remind people that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus Christ ever advocate or command that his followers go to church.  Christ’s message was about bringing the love and reconciliation of God to all people in all places.  Never did Jesus say “And on the Sunday gather together in a building for one hour and then return to your lives.”

The church at one time in the United States was the cultural center of a town.  The perception was that everyone in the town was a Christian and attended service somewhere on Sunday mornings.  It wasn’t ‘if’ you were going to church, rather it was “to which” church you were going to attend.

But over the years, the understanding of ‘church’ has changed and not everyone is on board with it—a conflict has arisen.  One of the biggest so called ‘worship wars’ is how church is supposed to look.  Some people want the ‘traditional’ way of worshipping: pipe organs, hymnals, wearing your ‘Sunday Bests’, etc.  On the other hand there are those who want a more ‘laid back’ or ‘contemporary’ approach- ‘come as you are’ mentality to clothing, praise bands, screens with images and song lyrics.  You can try to blend the two together which sometimes works, but more often than not, one side feels the other side has “taken over.”

These two different styles have literally split congregations.  But the truth is to be Christian does not mean that you have to attend a worship service in a stained glass windowed building on Sunday morning at 11am.  No, rather, worship is supposed to be an expression of gratitude and adoration to God, so how one connects with the Divine is up to them.  Don’t get me wrong I believe that fellowship and support of other Christians is vital to faith formation, but it is not limited to a building we call “church.”  More and more churches are finding that small group and house church ministries are reaching people that had never graced the door of a church before.  Why? Because these groups are generally smaller and more intimate.  There is something comforting about expressing one’s doubts about faith issues in someone’s home than in a church building.

The church grew out of a collection of people that wanted to get together and worship God.  In the early church, they did not meet in multi-story buildings rather they met in homes.  The church today is still the place where faithful followers of God come to worship, but what that looks like for the future is still unknown.  I believe that the Church may not look like it does today fifty years from now.  But one thing is for sure, I believe what Christ said about where two or more are gathered, there he will be also.  Whether it is in a home, 100 year old stained glass building, an old Wal-Mart or a strip mall, the church will remain.

Next week I will continue my series on the misconceptions about Christians.  I would love your feedback.

Baby Dolive #2

On April 14, 2012, we welcomed our second child into the world.

Reid Matthew Dolive

Born: April 14, 2012 @ 4:28 a.m. in Beaumont, Texas

Weight: 8 pounds, 1 ounce

Length: 20.5 inches

Needless to say I am a proud papa 😀

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

New Project In The Works

A few months ago I started working on a project with friend, fellow minister and seminary alum, Laura.

Back in December Laura and I were talking and told her about a book idea that I had.  I wanted to look at church marquee signs and break down the messages that they were conveying.  What could someone learn from these signs about the gospel message or the church?  We see these signs all over the place and some of the signs have the most cliche Christian sayings and quite frankly I can’t stand some of them. (Fellow Disciple Christian Piatt has blogged several times on what he calls “Church Sign Fails” click here)

Basically I wanted to look into how churches were summing up their theology through the marquee sign, in as few words as possible and the messages that they were promoting.

Laura liked the idea and through our conversations we began to talk about how the church was reflecting the culture.  The culture today is fasted paced and we like people to get to the point and get to it now.  We don’t like long emails, phone calls or blog posts (hopefully this one wont be too long 🙂 ).  So Laura suggested that we look at how the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter is contributing to the discussion of faith.  If we don’t like long emails and we like people to “get to the point faster”, how can we ever have a serious discussion about God, faith and the afterlife (just to name a few)?  I doubt anyone can sum up their theology in 140 characters or less.

We decided this book needed to be written.

So we contacted Chalice Press (our denominational publishing house) with our idea and they asked us to write a proposal for a book on this topic.  Thankfully we were able to meet a couple of time face to face and work on the lengthy proposal and even worked via Google Docs on it.

On April 10, 2012, we officially submitted our proposal to the powers that be at Chalice Press.

All we can do now is wait…

Stay tuned for more updates.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan 🙂

(“Red Hardcover Book With Flipping Pages” available under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4268153789/)

Misconceptions About Christians: Part I

Below is my latest article in the Orange County Record.

Being a minister, I am often asked why more people are not Christians. Sometimes this question comes from a person struggling with the notion that there are others who do not believe in Christ. Others ask this question because they see the decline in the particularity of the Church.

Whatever their reasoning, the question is asked out of love for their faith.

To be honest there really is no clear cut answer; this is something the Church has struggled with for centuries. But it seems like today this predicament is on the minds of Christians of all walks of life. People leave the faith or are not interested in Christianity for various reasons. Maybe they had a bad experience with a particular minister, maybe they could not ‘wrap their brain’ around a particular theology, maybe they were told that their beliefs were wrong or that their questions were not valid. For whatever reason the fact of the matter is that the Church itself does not hold the cultural and societal significance that it once did. I do not know if it ever will be that way again—a sobering thought for a young minister like me.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Christians today and I want to explore some of them over the next few weeks.

I believe that the “Achilles heel” of the Church are Christians themselves. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If we claim to be followers of Christ, then why aren’t people experiencing the presence of Christ when Christians are around them? There seems to be a disconnect between what is professed in sanctuaries around the world and what is actually followed through with by fellow Christians.

So what are the misconceptions about Christians?

Misconception #1- Christians have to read the Bible literally. – The Bible is the foundational document of the Christian faith and has been the focal point for millennia. However, the way that it has been read and interpreted varies greatly. The Bible has been read by billions of people and each person has taken something different from the text.

How much are we limiting the Bible and the power of God to reveal Godself through the pages of scriptures if the Bible is limited to one interpretation? If there was one way to read the Bible then all of the churches should be on the same page. But the last time I checked this is not the case at all. Many people who believe in the literal interpretation of scripture often do not all agree on how that looks in actuality. First Corinthians states that women should cover their heads in worship, but a small fraction of Christian women actually do this. If the Bible is to be taken literally then how to do you know what to take literally and what not to take literally? Obviously one cannot take Jesus’ parables literally because they are stories in help get across a main point. What about the commandments on how to treat slaves? What about the dietary laws in the Old Testament? Not many Christians have ever sold all they had as Christ stated was a requirement to enter the Kingdom.

Does this mean that the Bible is unimportant? No, but the way that one person interprets the scriptures may be completely different than the way another person interprets the scriptures and the shocking part is they both might be in the same congregation. Too often all Christians are labeled as literalist and this is flat wrong. Some of the most famous and prolific Christian thinkers did not take the Bible literally. Maybe some people believe that women should not hold a leadership position in the church, others do. Some people believe that world was created in six days and others do not. They are both reading the same scripture, following the same Christ but see the Bible in completely different ways. Does this mean that one is wrong and the other is right? No, it just means that they see the experiences of the faithful of God printed in the pages of scriptures in ways that speaks to them.

Next week, I will continue this series on the misconceptions about Christians. I would welcome your insight and feedback. You can contact me at evandolive@att.net.

So Now What?

Lent is over.  We have sung our Easter hymns, celebrated the risen Christ, and heard the story once again about out God conquered death.  Easter Day has come and gone.   I often wish that Easter was not in the Spring time but rather in the Summer.  It was only four months ago that we celebrated the birth of Christ and now Good Friday where he has died and Easter when he was resurrected.

For some people Easter is the highlight of Christian calendar.  Jesus Christ has come and has lived and was unjustly killed, but through the miraculous power of God humanity has seen what God can do.

So now what?  What do we do now?  What are followers of Christ to do in the interim between Easter and Christmas (the next High Holy Day in the Christian calendar)?  In most churches during the summer attendance is lower due the busy summer months.  Families go on vacations, grandparents go to visit children and grandchildren and our calendars begin to fill up with picnics and gatherings.

Since the Christian calendar is defined so much by Christmas and Easter what are we to do this in between time?  The story of God does not stop because Christians do not have a reason to party and exchange gifts.  The message of the gospel does not continue to serve as a model of love and forgiveness for humanity because we are busy with other activities.  By muting the story of God to just Christmas and Easter, we greatly restrict the story of how God moved in the lives of people for centuries.  The gospels writers took those experiences and put pen to paper for all of humanity to have.   They did not limit the story of Christ in the world to his birth (which only two gospels even mention) and his death.  Most of the New Testament is about how the followers of Christ responded to the teachings of Christ after his resurrection.   If we believe that God is continuing to world in our lives then we have to tell the story.

How can we continue telling the story? How do we continue to tell people that Christ is risen?   It doesn’t have to be standing in front of a group of people and reiterating how God has moved in your life.  Telling the story doesn’t have to even use words.  One’s actions can serve to tell the tale of impact that God has had on one’s life.

Whether it is through service to others, care for a loved one, making a phone call to someone in need, all of these actions (and many more) reflect the message that Christ is alive in the world today and we have been transformed because of it.

Let’s not wait until Christmas to feel the presence of God and to share God’s love with everyone.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Happy Easter


Happy Easter!

 May this day be a reminder of the renewal of the spirit that this found in Christ Jesus.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

(“Cross” by Glen Van Etten availble under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tejedoro_de_luz/2350566557/)

The Easter Detour

We are in one of the most holy times of the Christian year. We have been in Lent for several weeks as we are preparing with other Christians around the world for Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. In Disciples of Christ churches (the denomination I am ordained in) and most Protestant churches we don’t generally observe what is known as “holy week,”the week that is from Palm Sunday to Easter.

I had an opportunity when I was in seminary to preach at our weekly chapel service and I was assigned the Tuesday of Holy Week. I struggled with the notion that for most Christians the Easter journey went from Palm Sunday, a day filled of joyous cries to the one who comes in the name of the Lord to Easter Sunday when Jesus arose from the dead. I called this jumped from Palm Sunday to Easter, “The Easter Detour.”

It’s easy not to think about or reflect on the implications of the Last Supper and even Good Friday, the day Christ died. But Easter doesn‟t mean as much if we fail to recognize the significance of Holy Week; it is during this time of Lent, of reflection and of prayer that we are able to understand with better clarity what Easter is about, what Easter can mean for us, how Easter effectively changed the world.

We can’t jump from Palm Sunday to Easter and still learn that lesson. I pray that this season of Lent has been one where you experienced Christ in a new way and were able to focus on this journey we are taking together. I also pray that during Holy Week you would be able to attend a Maundy Thursday Service and/or maybe participate in a Good Friday Prayer Vigil. If you are not able to then try to find time in your day to pray and reflect on the meaning of these Holy Days.

May we experience Christ this Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter in a powerful way.

In Christ,
Rev. Evan