Review of “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”

It’s no secret, the church is in a decline.  Attendance and support for the Church has been in on a steady downturn for many, many years. A whole host of reasons have been given on why this is.  Some blame MTV and iPhones, others blame parents for not taking their children, while others blame extra-curricular activities and sports.  Whatever the problem might be, rarely does anyone blame the church itself and the people that are attending it.

Dan Kimball is a minister and author.  He noticed that when he met people and got to know them that there are a great number of people who like Jesus, but not the Church.

The book discusses what the Church has done to foster these views, and how to address them. Kimball encourages Christians to leave the “Christian bubble” and listen to what non-Christians are saying.

Through a series of interview Kimball articulates six objections that people have with the church. At first glance a person is who in the church and has a connection with God because of it might be defense and even dismissive. Therein lies the problem. Kimball argues that Christian live in a “Christian bubble” and therefore think they know and understand those who do attend church or even believe in God.

Here are the six objections

Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Kimball does a good job of showing both sides of the issues, expect for number four; on this particular issue he touches on the accepting side of the issue but still comes down (and pretty hard I might add) on the side of homosexuality is sin.

Selected quotes from the text:

“The more we focus on what we stand for instead of what we stand against, the more we will line up with Jesus and his teachings about the kingdom of God, and the more we will be seen as a people who will believe in truth and love.”

“We need to be open and honest about the difficult passages and odd stories in the Bible. It seems more people are doing their homework about the Bible outside the church than they are inside the church.”

“Our goal should not be to get people to ‘go to church.’ We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God, not merely inviting them to attend our worship services.”

Kimball’s book may not be the end all be all to Christian evangelism and prevalence  but I believe that this book is a good conversation starter. Kimball glosses over a few things here and there but for the most part drives home the point that the church has to do something to reach out to the emerging generations.

I think that this text would be good for the leaders of a church or even an evangelism committee. The point of reading this text is to start conversation, not to change minds… that takes time.

Link to Amazon

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Happy Reading!!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon- “And God Showed Up”

Today I preached a sermon entitled “And God Showed Up” based on Luke 9:28-36.

Sermon Link

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Review of “Rogue Saints”

The first film featured at the Texas Christian Film Festival at Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas was “Rogue Saints.”

“Rogue Saints” tells the tale of two friends (Nick and Dylan) and a legend of a diamond buried under a church baptistry.  With riches in their eyes, these two friends volunteer has maintenance workers at a local church. Nick has a history with this particular church but a recent tragedy as left him jaded and on the outside.  Dylan isn’t a Christian and has many questions about the faith.  (There is a great scene of Nick trying to explain the Trinity and Virgin Birth 🙂 ).

Throughout the film, Dylan and Nick are faced with impossible odds, deep questions of belonging and even theodicy. The film shows how even in the toughest moments God seems to show up, even when we least expect it.

From rougesaintsmovie.com

Rogue Saints takes a comedic look at church people, church culture and the way God’s love really does change everything.

In the end, the film is heart warming and does show how the community of God can transform even the hardest of hearts.

3 out of 4 stars.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


God In Our Midst: Review of “The Guardian”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.   You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.  “The Guardian” is one of the films being shown.


“The Guardian” is a short film (15 minutes in length) written in 2010. The screenwriter was a sophomore at Pasadena High School when she won Houston’s Cross Wind Productions’ Teen Scriptwriter Contest.  The prize for her winning was to have her screenplay professionally produced. While most sophomore aged high school girls are worried about getting a date with the star quarterback, this screenwriter had her sights set on bigger things.

“The Guardian” is a wonderful film of finding God in our midst. The short film follows the life a young teenage girl who has lost her father and her way in life. Her home life is not the greatest and she is looking for someone. In a strange encounter, she befriends a homeless man who for some reason cares for her.  Through her interaction with this man (played by Houston’s own Wayne Dehart) she sees that God’s hand is active and alive.

While the film is short, the message is powerful.

3 out of 4 stars

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan


Update: We have received word that this film is a finalist at the Milan Film Festival in Milan, Italy. Congrats!

Finding God In Tragedy: A Review of “Faith Under Fire”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.  From now through the festival I will be posting reviews of the films shown.  You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.


June 22, 1980 was no normal Sunday. This particular Sunday in the quiet town of Daingerfield, Texas will never be forgotten. On this date, Al King, Jr. entered the First Baptist Church and opened fire, killing seven people including a seven year old girl.

This day and the days after it are the subject of a documentary entitled “Faith Under Fire.” (Trailer Below)

This film recounts the moments that changed so many people’s lives on a typical Sunday morning in Daingerfield.   Director Sondra Martin Hicks takes the viewer on a emotion filled retelling of the tragic events.

You can hear the pain, the anguish, the heartbreak, the “what ifs”, the “why them?” and the raw emotion still after 30 years.   Hicks weaves the story of the event and the the reflection of the event in a powerful way.  At one point, the viewer is able to hear the original church audio of the moment when King entered the church and opened fire.

“Faith Under Fire” examines how faith, community, love and justice co-exist.  For some this experience brought them closer to God, for others it was years before they could return to a relationship with God.  I began to question how I would react if my child or wife was killed.  Would I call for the death penalty?  Would I chose to forgive?  Would I hate the person who did this?  Could I ever learn to “deal with it”?

During this film you hear the reaction and thoughts of the family of Al King, Jr.  It was surprising to hear their version of that fateful day.  King was cold, mean and abusive and his wife and children were powerless under his reign.  In their minds, there was nothing that could have stopped him from committing the act of violence that he did.

In the end, this film brings up so many different emotions.  But through it all, the viewer  is left with a sense of how faith even under fire can hold up and restore people.

4 of out 4 stars.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan Dolive


God, Football and Theology According to Ray Lewis

My latest article on houstonbelief.com


All eyes were on New Orleans Sunday night as the 47th playing of football’s biggest game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Amid the $3.8 million 30-second commercials, blackouts and amazing plays, one player, Ravens Middle Linebacker, Ray Lewis was the focus on much of media’s attention. Lewis at the beginning of the playoffs had stated that he would retire after 17 years with the Ravens; this was his last run at another Super Bowl win. He has been in and out of the media light during his career; he was charged with obstruction of justice in a murder investigation and even been accused of using a banned substance.

However, after the Ravens had clinched their second franchise Super Bowl victory, Lewis was asked how he felt being a Super Bowl champ again he answered:

“It’s simple: when God is for you, who can be against you?” [Quoting from Romans 8]

So what exactly are you saying there Mr. Lewis? Was God only on your side or the Ravens’ side? Is God not a 49ers fan? Did the good people of Baltimore unite in prayer more fervently than those on the West Coast?

I am not denying that God gifted Ray Lewis with the ability to play a position in football better than anyone else; I am not denying that Ray Lewis has a relationship with God. Could his answer possibly have been an excited utterance, just something that he said in the moment? Maybe, but then again maybe not.

Was God’s hand in the mix during the Super Bowl? Did God cause the black out or cause the ref not to call passing interference that would have swung the game to the 49ers? And if God’s hand was in the mix why was the favor only for one team in league or 30 teams? God was just as much on the side of Ray Lewis as God was on the side for all of the 49ers, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars and every other human on the planet. No amount of status, fame, fortune or access to resources grants a person “more favor” with God. It just doesn’t work that way.

When it comes to public theology, one has to be careful. We have to be careful that we are not using a text for a purpose that it was not originally composed for. This is a very difficult skill to learn and one that has plagued the church for centuries. The Bible has been used for almost every major political, socially and “hot topic” issues; it has been used for having slaves and for the emancipation of slaves, for the promotion and denial of women’s rights, for and against the affirming of homosexuality.

When we come to the Bible we are bringing our own preconceptions or even our own “agendas.” If one is looking for a passage to make their theology work, well guess what, they are going to find it.

So congrats to Ray Lewis and the 2012-2013 Baltimore Ravens.

May we remember that in winning and in losing that ALL are all God’s children. God doesn’t love one person over another.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

When Giving Hurts…


The internet has been a buzz with a recent picture. The picture seen above is above a receipt with a certain special message to the server. The story goes that a minster went to a restaurant with a group of people. The policy of the restaurant is that when the party is over a certain size an automatic 18% gratuity would be applied to the bill.

Well the minister who was eating at this particular establishment did not think that was correct. In this case the minister scratched out the 18% tip, did not leave an additional tip and wrote “I give God 10% why should I give you 18?” Read more about it here.

Almost immediately when this hit the internet via Reddit, there was a host of opinion and calls that it was fake. Fake or not, it does raise some questions about this minister in question.

Christians for centuries have held to the practice of tithing; generally this is deemed by giving 10% of ones earning back to the church as a way of remembering that all thing come from God. While there is no direct command many Christians take this seriously, although many do not. A report came in in 2011 that stated that the average tither in churches only gave less than 3%.

If this minister was so firm on the notion that he/she will not pay more than 10% on anything, then I wonder if his/her salary is under $17,400 per year? Anything over that, would move you into the the 15% bracket and that just cant happen right?

Tax Bracket Married Filing Jointly Single
10% Bracket $0 – $17,400 $0 – $8,700
15% Bracket $17,400 – $70,700 $8,700 – $35,350
25% Bracket $70,700 – $142,700 $35,350 – $85,650
28% Bracket $142,700 – $217,450 $85,650 – $178,650
33% Bracket $217,450 – $388,350 $178,650 – $388,350
35% Bracket Over $388,350 Over $388,350

What about the Social Security tax- ministers pay that on their own and thus they have to withhold 15.3% of their income, should the minster write a note to the federal government and inform them that 10% is as high as he/she is willing to go? No, if this is the barameter that this particular person is going to use, then two things have to happen. Either this minister does not pay taxes on anything above the 10% rate or if the measure to God has to be bigger than everything else, then this minister will have to raise the amount of his/her tithe.

Basically this minister is insinuating that giving 18% to a server in a restaurant would upset the balance in God’s Kingdom and thus make the server more important to God.

The server in recent interviews has said that the computer system they have automatically puts the 18% on the ticket, it wasn’t her doing.

Sometimes giving hurts but all the time we should pay for the service we receive. Generally waitstaff do not make the federally mandated minimum wage but rather work for tips. When a party is large it takes time and energy way from smaller tables and thus they should be compensated for it. So this isnt an issue of giving to God and giving to Caesar, this is about fairness.

The issue at hand is the appropriateness of the ministers actions. Was the food bad? Was the service terrible? Why this lashing out against this server? Why invoke the name of God as a reason not to tip this server? While I have never worked as a server I sympathize with them. They are hard working people just trying to make a living; trying to a make living off the tips from patrons.

The pastor was extremely out of line. The pastor tried to use a relationship and understanding of God to save a few bucks. If this minister had learned anything from the gospels it is giving and helping others is at the core if the ministry of Jesus.

Unfortunately this event does not help ministers or Christians at all. Please note not all Christians are like this. I promise.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


UPDATE: The waitress that posted the image online has been fired because the minister heard about the online posting and demanded action from the establishment. Thats right he demanded that the waitress be fired for posting the image. Read more about it here.