You And I Aren’t So Different

Here is my latest article for the Orange County Record.


It’s a common question.  It’s is a question that comes up in the most general and basic of conversations.  You could be at a party for a friend, meeting someone for the first or in the chair getting your haircut.  The question arises: “What do you do for a living?”  For most people when they answer question the response is one that is met with probing or clarifying questions, not when I answer.

You see when I tell people what I do it strikes fear in their heart, I tell them: “I am a minister.”  All at once a wave comes over their face as if they are shocked that a minister would come out from behind the pulpit and Bible commentaries to venture out into the world of sinners and commoners.  Eye contact lessens as if people don’t want me to peer into their soul and see them for who they truly are.

Generally people immediately begin to tell me about their religious preferences and experiences.  If the person I am speaking had not interjected what I call “God talk” yet, they promptly add it to the conversation.  They will tell me about their minister’s sermons from the previous Sunday to prove to me that they were listening and that his/her teaching was effective.  Someone actually turned on the Bible on CD while I was receiving a haircut.

Once someone inquired about my job and told them that I was a minister.  They told me about their lack luster church attendance.  This person in particular had stopped going to church because the service in the church she was attending was not connecting with her on a deep, spiritual level.  If she had just told me that part of the story I would have been fine and we might have continued our conversation about her religious experiences or maybe abandoned that track and began a completely new conversation.  Rather she began her conversation by informing me “I really don’t go to church that much, I mean I am not a devil worshiper or anything like that but I just don’t care for the service at my church right now.”   Since when did not going to church for Christians become devil worshipping in a minister’s mind? Is that the dichotomy that exist– Worship God or you are a devil worshiper?  Is this is perception that people have of ministers?   Do people really think that I am a perfect, pious, self-righteous, judgmental person who goes from place to place condemning people for their lack of faith and church attendance?

Sadly that is an accurate description of about one percent of the ministerial population, but not me.

Ministers are human beings; we are people just like you.  We go to the store, we shop online, and we try to make ends meet month to month.  Ministers have taken on as their call or duty to ensure that the message of Jesus Christ is promoted and propagated in the world.  Yes many ministers are educated in theology, divinity and pastoral care, but knowledge of the Bible and having good skills in the pulpit does not make one perfect.  Yes ministers are seen as the spiritual leaders of their congregations but to place the label of perfection places a great weight on minister’s shoulders.

Ministers don’t walk around singing “The Old Rugged Cross” and quoting scripture, rather ministers have to find a way to get the kids to soccer practice, homework completed, dinner on the table and make that two hour evangelism committee meeting on top of writing a sermon, making visits and calls.

Am I perfect? No, far from it and I don’t claim to be.

I listen to music other than gospel (gasp!)

I make mistakes just like everyone else. (double gasp!)

I sometimes don’t pray as often as I should. (heretical gasp!)

Does this make me a less effective minister?  I don’t think so, but it does make me human.  Christ came to the Earth to restore people to wholeness and mend people in their brokenness.  Nowhere in the Bibles does Christ command his followers to be perfect, rather he understands that humans are flawed individuals seeking completeness.

So the next time you see a minister tell him/her that you hope they are well and not too stressed, especially during the holy times (Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter).  Don’t try to impress them with your knowledge of Bible verses or church history.  Don’t treat them any differently than you would treat anyone else.

So as you can see, you and I aren’t that different after all.

Sermon- “What Does This Mean?” Pentecost 2012

Sunday (Pentecost 2012) I preached a sermon entitled “What Does This Mean?” based on Acts 2:1-12.  You can listen to the sermon by clicking the link below.

Sermon Link

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part III

I didn’t think I would be writing another one of these post for while.  But Christians are giving Christians a bad name… again…

For some reason unknown to any one but him, Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina took to the pulpit to speak on President Obama’s recent statements affirming same-sex marriage. Now North Carolina was in a big debate regarding this issue and in a statewide vote denied same sex couples the right to marry; no doubt that was fresh on his mind when he came to service.

A little over a week ago I posted an audio clip from Pastor Sean Harris who advocated to hit your children if they “acted gay.” You can read (or re-read it here).  While Pastor Harris’ comments were out of line, Pastor Worley’s comments leaves Pastor Harris’ comments in the dust… Why?  Worley advocates murder.

In the video posted below, Pastor Worley goes on a two-minute rant about homosexuals, the President and what his solution to the “gay problem.”  In the video he says,

“I had a way I figured a way out…a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. Build a great big, large fence 150 or 100 mile long – put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified until they can’t get out. Feed them and you know what in a few years – they’ll die out. You know why – they can’t reproduce.”

On a personal note, the video was extremely hard to listen to.  Not only does he advocate for a group of people to be killed he is doing it from the pulpit in a church which is supposed to be a holy place AND has the audacity to say this comes from God.  At one point he says that the Bible is “again” it and that God is “again” it.  Also, what is disheartening is that fact that members of his congregation were “amening” and agreeing with what he had to say.  Glad they are practicing that love of Christ… glad they love all people just like God loved them dispite their faults.  If (as some say) all sins are equal in the eyes of God then why are they stratifying this particular sin?  Which is it Pastor Worley and the members who agree of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina?  Are all sins equal or does God have a “Top Ten” list of the sins one is not to commit with homosexuality at the top?  Why are you trying to make disciples in your image of God?

Pastor Worley I believe you and I (and millions of other people) are reading different Bibles.  Jesus Christ (the one you are supposed to be following) never called for the murder of a group of people just because they were different and didn’t think the say way he did.  History lesson: Hitler did that… so… think about that…

Christ being the compassionate person that he was sought out the ‘other’ to be in relationship with him/her to tell them that God still LOVES them for WHO THEY ARE.  Don’t believe me?  Check out your Bible… there are more passages about loving your neighbor and being the hands and feet of God than there are about homosexuality being wrong.

Trust me… actually don’t… look it up for yourself, you might learn something. 🙂

You can watch the video below… if you want… as well as a member trying to defend her pastor’s position on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


If You Want To See The Gospel Put Your House On The Market

2255 1936 DeSoto AirFlow For Sale
As I have written previously, we are in a transition point in our life here in Orange. The future is not as clear as we would like but we are optimistic. Part of this process is listing our house on the market to be sold. If you ever had to sell your home, there are a myriad of things that you put up with but a suspecting buyer might not. Some of things were small fixing a piece of carpet that was coming up to larger tasks like fixing a gate and laying sod over an area where our old above ground pool once resided.

My story though starts a few days ago. Knowing that the house was officially for sale, we knew/hoped potential buyers would want to stop by and take a peek. One of the biggest projects we have is laying sod in the backyard. One of the problems that we were having is that I no longer have a truck to haul the sod from the grass farm to the house. My neighbor who has a nice Silverado (Texas Edition of course) told me that if I ever needed him to pick up the sod he would get and drop it off at the house. I took him up on his offer. So last Thursday, he went to the grass farm and picked up a half pallet of Saint Augustine sod. There was one little problem, I had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon. Generally when I go to the doctor I have good luck and do not have to wait too long to see the physican, this time was not one of those times. I guess that since I had to be somewhere in a decent amount of time, the doctor’s office decided to make me wait and wait and wait.

My wife called me while I am playing the waiting game and told me that our neighbor had come to the house and was laying the sod down with three other neighbors. When I was finally relinquished from the bonds of the doctor, i made it home only to find that they had finished laying the sod, even though I didn’t order enough. My neighbors were still there, working on the fence post that was leaning which made it hard to open and close the side gate properly. They were digging and digging and digging, trying to get this post out. Since there were four people now trying to get one stubborn post out, one of the neighbors decided to go to his house and get his hedge trimmer. He began trimming the holly bush out front of the house and even began to weed eat under the bush. He mowed over the hedge clippings to make them smaller to fill in a hole from from pipe work in the front yard. And that was just the beginning.

Within a span of three days- two posts were straightened and cemented, another half pallet of sod was laid, tiles were pulled up and news one were put down, boxes were moved, surfaces cleaned and numerous trips to Home Depot and the trash can– all done by a group of people seeing a need a acting on it. In the time since the intital work, smaller jobs have been completed around the house, all with the sole focus and intent of serving another human being.

This my friends is the embodiment of the gospel.

This is the essence of what Jesus Christ came to Earth to do, to be and promote. Christ came to start a new way of understanding and embodying the nature of God. No longer will God be somewhere in a distance place in the cosmos or even in the Temple in Jerusalem. No, Christ came to show that God is present in laying sod, moving boxes, cleaning windows, laying tile, pouring grout and the many many other things that needed to be done so that our house will be in tip-top shape for potential buyers.

Because of their actions my faith has been strengthen. A group of people over the span of a couple of weeks have shown me what it means to be the community of God. Not a word of Jesus Christ was mentioned, no prayers were said, no angelic choirs singing, but God was present.

I pray that I am able to show the gospel in such an impactful way someday.

May we all pray that prayer.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


(“For Sale” available under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsabarnowl/3998894081/)

Misconceptions About Christians: The Conclusion

This is the fifth and final installment of my “Misconceptions About Christians” series for the Orange County Record.

If you missed the previous four, you can find them below.


My last four articles have looked at four prominent misconceptions about Christians.  So far I have discussed the misconceptions: that being a Christian one must read the Bible literally, that being a Christian means you have to go to “church”, that TV ministers/evangelist are representative of all Christianity and being a Christian means you have to support the Republican Party.  While of course this list is not exhaustive, I believe I touched on some of the ‘power players.’

The purpose of this series was to show a different side of Christianity, to show that Christianity does not have to be what is commonly construed in the media.  Like I stated in my first article, the ‘Achilles heel’ of Christianity is Christians themselves. Now more than ever people are leaving the faith faster than people are coming into it.  Is it because of what Jesus has to say about loving your neighbor or taking care of people in need? No, it’s because they are not seeing the Jesus Christ found in the pages of the New Testament in the lives of his followers.

Because of this, people have left or misunderstood the faith that I hold so dear.  By showing that those with the loudest, most in your face view of Christianity do not hold a monopoly on God should be freeing.

That’s right—freeing, a weight lifted off your shoulders.

Imagine the Christian faith where differences with regards to the Bible were accepted and even sought out.  Imagine the Christian faith that focused more on relationships than bodies in pews. Imagine the Christian faith that focused more on ‘lives touched’ than ‘souls saved.’  Imagine the Christian faith that accepted people who dress differently than in their ‘Sunday bests’, a Christian faith that did not focus too much time and attention on one group of people.  Imagine what the world would look like if people who proclaimed to follow Christ tried to make Heaven here on earth.

This and so much more is right within the grasp of the modern church; it is going to take openness, acceptance and grace, just like what was extended to each and every person in the entire world.

God is bigger than any one denomination, belief system or theology.  As we change and grow so does our understanding of faith, Jesus Christ and grace.

While I have enjoyed writing them and I hope you have enjoyed reading them, it all comes to down to one question: So, now what?

Maybe you have seen the bumper sticker that reads “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  People are doing this everyday in a variety of ways.  Sure churches are doing mission work all over the world but if the image that is projected of church is one that congregants are a church going Bible literalist who believe you have to vote in the Republican primary and quote Charles Stanley to be one of the elect of God, then why would anyone who believes differently want to be part of that movement?

Change is what has to happen for the church and the message of Christ to relevant.  Too often Christians sit in their sanctuaries or committee meetings and complain about how no one is interested in the church.  Often the conversation goes to some reason outside of the church that is root cause of this problem.  Seldom the answer that is given is the church itself which  has to change instead of world changing to church’s needs.  This is where the perception that the church as an intuition is inflexible and antiquated comes from.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  However the answer or the solution to the problem has yet to be found.  There is no quick-fix, there is no magic potion.  But something must be done and by at least lifting the notion that there are some misconceptions about Christians, hopefully this will get the conversation stated.  For the church to survive it will take all of us coming to together to be the change in the world and to be the church of God loving and accepting one another as flawed human beings.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What A Difference A Year Makes

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of one of the most infamous end times predictions to date.  Harold Camping and his Family Radio called on Christians to prepare themselves for the end of the world, the date of this cataclysmic event?  May 21, 2011.

Camping stated he had figured out through numerology and probably some complicated algebra problem that the Bible predicted the end of the world and if you looked closely enough you would find the date.  This wasn’t Camping’s first trip to the rodeo when it comes to end times predictions.  In 1994 and 1995 he made similar predictions, but this one gained some momentum largely in part (I believe) due to the internet.

Any time a Christian minister makes bold predictions it garners national attention.  For days leading up to the fateful day, news organizations from around the world held interviews with Camping as well his followers.  On May 20, people waited with bated breath to see if anything would happen in Australia.  I thought this was interesting that the notion of the end of the world was supposed to start  across the International Time Line.  The International Time Line is a human construction; Camping was banking that God subscribed to the International Date and even Day Light Savings time to ensure the end of the world.

Of course, May 21, 2011 came and went and nothing happened, we are still hear.  Camping tried to revise his claim and stated that May 21 was the spiritual judgment and the physical judgement was to come in October.  That date as well came and went.  Finally Camping declared that humanity was not supposed to know when the end of the world was going to be and therefore we should stop worrying about it.

In the wake of the prediction, hundreds if not thousands of people spent their money and said their good-byes for nothing.  One report came out that a family in New York had racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they thought the end of the world was coming and no one would come calling for their payment. (Greedy?)

Time Magazine called Camping’s prediction one of the top ten failed predictions of all time.  (Read it here)

People have been trying to figure out when the end of the world is going to be for millennia, the newest craze is the Mayan Calendar which goes out sometime in December 2012.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end; what matters is what followers of Christ are going to do in the mean time.  Are we going to sit around and just wait or are we going to try to bring a piece of the “pie in the sky” Heaven here on earth?  Brian McLaren (not sure if he is the originator of this quote or not) stated that we needed to stop teaching the Bible as an evacuation plan, but rather a transformation plan.  This is was the fault of the May 2011 prediction.  While they firmly believed that the world was going to end instead of trying to transforms people’s lives by allowing them to experience the same Christ they had experience they posted billboards and ran radio spots.  No billboard, picket sign, radio commercial or even blog post will ever be as effective as personal, one-on-one, communication and contact.

Jesus was with the people.  He didn’t sit from a throne and bark orders or look smugly down his nose at the outcasts of society.  No, we got his hands dirty and mingled with people who most wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole.  He transformed lives with his presence.  We have ability as well.

It won’t be too much longer until we get another bold prediction and we will have to re-visit this.  But in the meantime, let’s start transforming the world.  It’s a big place and we have a lot of work to do.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

“What Does Your Church Believe?”: Part II- Freedom of Belief

This is the second installment of my “What Does Your Church Believe?” series. Last week I discussed the notion of open communion and the importance of it in DOC theology (click here for Part I). This week we will look at “Freedom of Belief.”

Back in the 19th Century when the what is now know as the Disciples of Christ was beginning to form as a movement, one of the pillars that many lifted up was the notion of freedom of belief. Our founders came out of a Presbyterian background. While there is nothing wrong with being Presbyterian, the founders did not like the use of creeds in worship and as tools for believing the ‘right’ types of things. Over time the motto of the Disciples of Christ became “no creed, but Christ.” This means that we are called as followers of Christ to seek out a relationship with God in a way that is meaningful for ourselves, just as long as we center our beliefs on that idea that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

We all come from different backgrounds, life experiences, socio-economic status, generations and education levels. We are NOT going to interpret the same thing even though we are reading the exact same passage. Some passages that were meaningful to us five years ago do not mean as much today. I like to give this example. My daughter, Violet, was born on February 1. On January 31, passages in the Bible that mentioned parenting, God as a loving parent, or that the people of Israel were God’s children, it not mean as much to me as they did when I read them on February 2.

Now if there was just one interpretation, who would get to decide which was “correct?” Would the Catholic interpretation be favored over the Baptist interpretation? Would the Presbyterians be “more correct” than the Methodists? As you can see this would cause major dissention between the denominations (and there is already enough of that to go around.)

Does Freedom of Belief mean you can believe whatever you want? In sense no. When reading the scriptures one has to remember the original intent of the book or passage one is reading; we can’t make the Bible “say” something that it never was intended to ‘say’ in the first place. The Disciples of Christ sum it up by stating “Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Holy Spirit, study and prayer, and are expected to extend that freedom to others.” The key here is extending grace and acceptance to others. We may not all believe the same things, we may all see something different when it comes to the Bible, but if we are grounded in the one essential of faith, Jesus Christ, then everything else is secondary.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part II

Last week I posted a video about a minister in Florida who burned the Koran as an act of protest and I stated that this was one reason why people were not Christians.  (Read about it here)

Here is another example.

One question that I am asked at least twice a month (if not more) is “what do you think about homosexuals?” More often than not people ask me these deep theological questions I am usually getting my haircut and I can’t move.   Generally I have to bite my tongue and give them a smart alec answer.  Knowing this is a particularly sensitive subject for some people and one that elicits strong reactions I generally have to tread lightly.  I get a wide range of beliefs from people, some people are totally for the inclusion of homosexuals without questions, some are completely and utterly against it and some are of ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ mentality.  Due to other Christian’s reaction and somewhat fascination with homosexuality (I’m talking to you Westboro Baptist) many members of the homosexual community do not feel welcomed or loved in church.  This is a travesty.

Enter, Pastor Sean Harris the minister of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC.  Harris made national headlines when in a sermon he advocated to basically ‘beat the gay’ out of your children (on the heals of a state-wide election on same-sex marriage, which the state ultimately voted to keep marriage between one man and one woman).  During his sermon he said,

“Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist… Man up, give them a good punch, OK. ‘You’re not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.”

He continues and says that girls should be girls and wear dresses and smell good.

Hear part of the sermon here

On his blog, Pastor Harris tries to explain himself and says he was taken out of context, but he really doesnt explain himself fully.  You can read the entire post here.

He writes:

I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended. I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community. My intent was to communicate the truth of the Word of God concerning marriage. My words were not scripted. It is unfortunate I was not more careful and deliberate. I can understand how these words could be misunderstood without the context of years of ministering to the people of God at Berean Baptist Church… I have learned from this and will seek to be more articulate and deliberate with my words in the future.However, I do not apologize for the manner in which the Word of God articulates sexual immorality, including homosexuality and effeminacy, as a behavior that is an abomination to God.

So did he apologize or not? Basically he said, “I am sorry for what I said not that I dont believe I was right to begin with but that you took it offensively.”   Not really the greatest of apologies.

According to the CNN Belief Blog, Harris stated, “No, I don’t think that I need to apologize for preaching to my people what the word of God says. That’s my responsibility.”

Did God really say that?  Should the basis of your understanding of homosexuality based on a couple of scriptures?  Where is the acceptance that was shown to all people even the outcast and the despised by Jesus Christ himself?  Has Pastor Harris taken the gospel of love and made it into the Gospel of proper sexual orientation?  Of some people would argue that if it was that important to Jesus why didn’t he ever say anything about it?

Whether or not you believe homosexuality is sin, the fact of the matter is that love has to be at heart of all conversations and ministries.  Not many Christians ministers aren’t preaching about obesity being a sin or that women aren’t covering their head during worship or people arent greeting each other with holy kisses.  Why not the same fervor with these?

The issue here that because these Christians are not ‘preach the word of God’ they have missed the word of God.  Too many things have been done in the name of Christianity and that is why many people have left.  The homosexual debate is one that is not going away anytime soon but it can if Christians who are called to be followers of Christ put into practice what Christ advocated for.

People can interpret the Bible based on their own understandings and upbringing but when does it cross the line?  Pastor Harris’ comments out of context or not crossed that line.  It made every Christian look like they disliked other homosexuals, you could not be a homosexual and a Christian and that one of the charges of Christians is enforce predetermined gender roles on our children.

When my wife was in college she had to take education courses for her teacher certification.  One day the class was on teaching Kindergarteners and some said in the class that they did not stop boys from playing with Barbie dolls and did not stop girls from playing with Tonka trucks.  My wife told me she heard someone behind her say “I’m not letting my son play with dolls.  I dont want him to be queer.”  Odds are Pastor Harris would agree.

Christ came to restore all people back to wholeness and completeness with God.  Christ did not come so all homosexuals would get released from their “egregious sin.”

The church is called to bring wholeness to all NOT advocate for people hit their children because of the preception they are giving off.

Christians should not stand for a “man of God” who is charged to profess the gospel to speak just vile words in the name of their risen savior.

Would Pastor Harris say we should hit our children if they are getting fat and want another cookie?  I mean, gluttony is a sin right?

This debate is far from over and because of the actions of North Carolina and of the President I believe it just getting started.

Hopefully we wont have any more sermons like this one… here’s hoping.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon- “But I Chose You”

Sunday I preached a sermon entitled “But I Chose You” based on John 15:9-17.

Sermon Link

 

Enjoy!

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

“What Does Your Church Believe?”: Part I- Open Communion

This is Part One of Five in Series about the Christian Church (DOC).  I have been a Disciples since my birth and I find that five major tenets or pillars that the DOC professes are some of the reason why I am ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) today.

Below is a summation (albeit brief) of what I believe and feel about the practice of open communion.

How do you as ministers or fellow followers of Christ handle the question “What does your church believe?”


Last week I introduced this series.  We will be looking at the five major tenets of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This week we will start with open communion.

Communion is at the heart of our worship time together.  We partake of it every time we get together.  It is a reminder of the last night that Jesus with his disciples and according to the scriptures instituted this ordinance.  The Preamble of the Design of the Christian Church (DOC) states “At the Table of the Lord we celebrate with thanksgiving the saving acts and presence of Christ”

But for centuries the communion has been at the center of heated church debates: who could receive it?  How are we to partake it?  Do we use actual wine?  Do you serve communion before or after the sermon, do you take the offering before or after communion?  Is the bread a symbol or the actual body and blood of Christ? And on and on and on.

In the Christian Church (DOC), we do not have a formal doctrine per se of communion, but we do have some guidelines.  One thing that sets us apart from most other denominations is our practice to have an open table.  An open table means that the invitation is given to all people, no matter their race, creed, church membership or affiliation.  Christ invites all to the table to commune with him and with God.  There are no qualifiers to partake, there are some special hoops to jump through, just an open invitation by Christ himself.

In Disciples churches around the world the practice of communion is one that is done is a myriad of ways.  Some congregations pass trays with little cups and little pieces of bread, each one are serving another.  Some partake communion by intinction, where members come to a common loaf and a common cup to dip the broken bread in to the chalice.  This symbolizes that we are all from the same family of faith and that we all welcome at the table of the Lord.  No one way is right and the other way is wrong, rather they are both meaningful expressions of the beautiful ordinance of the church.  It does not matter how you partake, rather that if you are so moved that you have the option to partake.

Michael Kinnamon wrote a book entitled, “The People Obsessed With Bread.”  This is a good description of the Christian Church (DOC).  Communion reminds us of the ever-presence of God and thorough simple elements we are transported back to the night in which Jesus was betrayed.  So why not  remember that every time we get together?  Sure doing communion every Sunday can become a bit mundane and routine, but we are called to remember Christ’s death and each time we take the bread and cup we wait expectantly until Christ comes again, to restore the world back to the very good place it was intended to be.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan