New Sermon Series: The Building Blocks of Faith

 

Tomorrow I will be starting a new sermon series  entitled “The Building Blocks of Faith.”  In this five part series, I will go through the Book of James highlighting how we as followers of Christ can build up our faith and then use it the world around us.

Here is a brief outline

  1. James 1:19-24  “Do”
  2. James 2:14-26 “Show”
  3. James 3:1-12 “Tame”
  4. James 4:1-10 “Come”
  5. James 5:7-11 “Wait”

I will be posting the audio files each week on the Sermons page.  I hope you find something useful as we travel the road of the Book of James.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

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Tweet of the Week: Wait… What?

I know that a lot of people do not like the President’s policies or whatever, but this type of criticism is a new one for me.  I have heard people in passing joke about the fact that they think the President is the “Anti-Christ” (a word not even used in the book of Revelation but that is topic for another day) but never anything like this.

Happy Friday and happy tweeting!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Stop Taking Attendance!

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At a church I used to serve there was a well-intentioned person who after every service would tell me how many people were in attendance. “We had 47 today, Preacher,” he would say. I could hear the disappointment in his voice when he would have to tell me a low number like 35. A smile beamed across his face when we had more than 50. No matter the number, he would tell me without fail.

In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services.
After years in the ministry I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance, immediately.

For many churches the process of collecting attendance is to get an accurate account of people in worship, to measure how many people occupy space in a pew. Some churches have note pads in the pews so people can fill out their information and place it in a designated area. Others have a volunteer to manually count the people in attendance. No matter how small or big the faith community is an attendance is taken. Some congregations publish the number of people in their church bulletins or have it on a sign in the sanctuary to compare last week to this week.

For too long churches have measured their ‘success’ and ‘failures’ on the number of people that darken the door on 11am on Sunday morning. The quickest way to get people to wring their hands in worry is to tell them that numbers in worship have dropped. Visions of the church closing its doors will run through people’s minds inciting more and more anxiety.

It’s no secret that the church in the American culture is not where most Christians would like it to be. The church was once the central hub of the community is now a place where people go on Sunday mornings if they want to. The church has been in a decline for some time and I believe this has caused us to become more inward focused. As the church began to experience decline numerically the church’s reaction was to try making everyone left happy including the ministers, elders, deacons, lay ministers, organist and even the custodial staff. The boat was not rocked, things stayed the same, a course was laid in and no deviation would be acceptable.

I believe that this is the wrong approach. One time when I was interviewing with a church for a position they inquired if I had any plans that would help the church grow numerically. The answer I told them I believe with all my heart and prompted a bevy of puzzled looks. I told them that I was not a ‘numbers guy.’ I did not measure the success of the church in how many people showed up on Sunday morning. Is Lakewood in Houston, the largest church in America, a “more successful church” because they average several thousand people each week? No. Most churches just want bodies in the pews and babies in the nursery but this is the wrong approach.

I would rather have fifty people in church on Sundays that went out and touched a hundred people’s lives, than have a hundred people in church that only touched fifty.

The church has become too worried about having more people than the other churches in town. The church needs to stop looking inward and start looking outward. There is a world that is in desperate need of a Savior right outside the walls of the church. The time we spend in meetings or around the pot luck lunch table talking about how big the church was in 1947 is wasting everyone’s time.

I have to admit that even I can fall into this number trap. It can be disheartening when a minister prepares a sermon or the choir works diligently on a piece and only a handful of people are there to experience it. I have to remind myself that the people who are in attendance are there to experience God and worship and that is it. God can use all sizes of churches and faith communities to promote God’s message of love, peace, joy and reconciliation.

I want people to experience God in the same way that I do but I am not beholden to a number.

Let’s start taking a new kind of attendance, one that is centered on the other, not bodies in the pew.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit: “Checked_tick” by Oliver Tacke via Flickr. Used Under The Creative Commons License 2.0.

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Baby, you're a firework

A little over two years ago I started this blog.  I had started writing a religious column for the local paper and I wanted to share those posts with people outside of Southeast Texas.  Over time I began to add my sermons in audio form and even write more article that were only ever published on this site.  Every once and a while someone would comment or like my post which was nice but it was for my own edification and sharing my understanding of the faith I hold so dear.  I loved hearing from people (even people who disagreed with me); it was a good outlet for me.

In March 2013, evandolive.com got a little busier when my open letter to Victoria’s Secret went viral (to the tune of 4 million+ people).   It was during this time that I had the idea for a book.  I began thinking about how in all of marketing there is an element of fantasy and perfection and somewhere along the line society began to blur the two together. Don’t believe me? Try to find a Middle School aged boy who does not think that Axe Body Spray will attract the opposite sex.  Why?  Because this is the core of their marketing campaign. On top of that, how do people of faith respond when the image of God is being distorted to only encapsulate one body type or the so called “ideal body type”?

After working on a proposal, a detailed outline, numerous sample pages and various edits, I am happy to announce that I have entered into a contract with the Pilgrim Press, the publishing house for the United Church of Christ, to publish my first book!

I am very happy, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.

As of now, the working title is The Distortion of the Imago Dei.

I have been busy getting my idea down on paper (via Google Drive) trying to synthesize it all.

I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown me over this past year; if my letter had not gone viral I am not sure I would be making this announcement today.

Thank you for all your support as I embark on this new journey!

Stay tuned for more updates!

OK… back to writing… I have a deadline to keep.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Baby You’re A Firework: Fireworks at Disneyland, Anaheim, California” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License 2.0

God Is Making All Things New

Below is an article I wrote for a newsletter for the hospital I am working for.


2013 has come to a close we find ourselves in the midst of 2014. Every year people resolve to make the New Year better, more fulfilling or even less hectic than the one before. These resolutions or promises are guides that will help us reach our goal of bettering ourselves, our family or our community. Some people want to exercise more, learn to cook or stop biting their nails. Others want to volunteer more, worship more fully or step out in faith by responding to a call or stirring of their heart. And yet some can be quite different like the woman who ate every meal at Starbucks for an entire year.

The New Year is a way to reflect on the life that has gone by in the previous year: the struggles, triumphs, blessings and heartaches that we have felt. All of these events and emotions form us into the person we are today. We are not the same person we were on January 1, 2013 and we will not be the same person on December 31,2014. We are being transformed and changed by the power of God and the experience we have with God through worship, nature, prayers, the sacraments and the scriptures.

Every day is a possibility to see how God is interacting with the world and in our lives.

In the Bible, at the end of the Book of Revelation, we find that God declares that one day God will make all things new. This is the declaration that is given to all of humanity. One of my favorite hymns, “This Is the Day of New Beginnings” speaks to the power of new beginnings and how we are not alone in them. The words are printed below.

This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.

For by the life and death of Jesus,
love’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
can make for us a world of difference
as faith and hope are born again.

Then let us, with the Spirit’s daring,
step from the past, and leave behind
our disappointment, guilt and grieving,
seeking new paths, and sure to find.

Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.[1]

As we journey in 2014 not knowing what is ahead of us, let us go in faith and know that God will be with us every step of the way.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan Dolive

[1] Copyright © 1983 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.; Words © 1975, 1995 Hope Publishing Co

Interview with Ben Fort of EmergingDisciple.com

Today I did a special interview… it was with my Brother in Law, Ben Fort.

He recently started a website called EmergingDisciple.com  which will serve as the canvas to which his spiritual journey will be played out.  I look forward to seeing how God uses his renewed faith.  You never know more videos might be coming your way.  Be sure to check it out!

Video Link

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Guest Post: “Is Our Worship Real? (For Real)?

This week’s guest post is from my sister Caitlin Dolive.   Enjoy! If you want to write a post be sure to click here for more info!


I decided to put my thoughts down on paper and post them on my brother’s blog  in hopes of helping others and in hopes of getting some feedback from clergy, pastoral and ministry friends and followers of evandolive.com. Let me first start with my personal views on worship.

I LOVE PRAISE and WORSHIP. It is my favorite part of most church services. I often get more from (as in hearing from the Lord, encouragement, and hope) just by hearing or singing hymns to give praise to God.  Though I still connect to the word or message provided by the pastor, I often times feel myself connecting more in a moment in worship. I feel worship is intimate and can be powerful all in the same breath.  But as Christians, I think we often check out or miss those moments that God is trying to stir in us a moment of worship. God wants us to Praise him and honor him.  Why should we hold back or wait for the right time?

Growing up  I was  not raised in church that lifted their hands arms, danced  or jumped around to give praise to God, but this is not something I am ashamed of, if anything I am grateful for the foundation that I had growing up in church. I am thankful that God has opened my eyes up to other ways to worship him.  Throughout my worship experience both now and in the past, I have learned worship does not have to be anything more than you thanking God for his many blessings, sitting in the quiet listening for his sweet voice, or even lifting your voice with praise all with a grateful heart.  The key is to worship with a grateful heart and to not got go through the motions.  If you’re praising God with just words what justice does it serve?

Your worship should also be in your actions ( your life as a Christian.)  . Billy Graham says it best “The highest form of worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

Psalm 95:6 -7  states “Come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before our maker for he is our God.”(NLT)    When you worship are really bringing yourself in to God’s presence?  If the King of Kings came into your place of worship would he be pleased and honored with your worship or in some cases would he be welcome?  As Christians we shouldn’t wait until Christ’s return or when we leave this world for eternity to Worship God and spend time in his presence.

Also, John 4: 21 – 24 states, “Believe me, dear women the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.  But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit , so those who worship him must worship him in truth.” ( NLT)

I can’t imagine what  the worship is like or will be like when I get to Heaven. But if I can have glimpse of it here on Earth I want do whatever it takes to manifest his glory and honor until that time. God wants all of our worship, everything in us to praise and worship him. Let’s make a point to worship God by opening the floors of heaven with our worship, honoring the person who deserves all that we can truly give him.

I want my worship to be FOR REAL and I pray that you experience his presence in a way you never experienced it before. The video below is for  the song Fire Fall Down by Hillsong United. I love this song and to me it represents what worship is all about.

I pray it blesses you.

May God Bless you and keep you always.

Caitlin Dolive



EDIT: Formatting— sorry for the inconvenience. (7/22/13- 8:25AM CST)

Guilty Or Innocent: One Fact We Might Be Missing…

There was one constant this week at work while I visited patients– and no, it wasn’t the fact that people mistaken me as a Doctor or a Nurse.  This week over 50% of the rooms I entered had the George Zimmerman trial on the TV.  CNN, MSNBC and other major news outlets have been running what seems like 24 hours coverage of courtroom drama; the lead story for most of the news stations and more than likely on talk radio (on both sides of the aisle) has been a run down of the evidence, the objections and word for word break down for the testimony given.  Social media has been flooded with hashtags, posts, reflections and petitions for both Trayvon and George Zimmerman.

Talking heads and media commentators have weighed the evidence and tried to ascertain what verdict the all female jury will return with.  They have debated the use of “cracker” as a derogatory word and have talked ad nauseum, often in circles, about this case.  At times, it can be too much to handle or absorb.

But through it all, there is one piece of information, in my opinion, that the ratings-hungry news organizations have missed or overlooked; whether the jury comes back with a guilty or innocent verdict, a 17 year old boy, Trayvon Martin, is dead.

Trayvon Martin via Wikipedia

While it is right to seek after justice, is it possible during the process to miss the point?  Has the media and the populace become so enamored with the trial and the ultimate verdict that Trayvon has been pushed to the side?  Is this the effect of the 24 hour news cycle with its constant updates, critiques and up to the minute details?

Trayvon was brought up during the trial.  But in my view it was more indirectly, as if he was a part of some grand motion picture of the legal system of Florida.  He was described as a thug high on marijuana as well as a 17 year old kid just trying to keep out of the rain and get back home.

What happened that February night was a travesty for all parties involved. No parent should ever have to bury their child and George Zimmerman now has to live the rest of his life knowing that he took another human being’s life.

At the center of the Creation story found in the Book of Genesis is the notion that all of creation is made by the hands of God.  But it is humanity that takes a special place in the order of creation.  God created humanity in God’s likeness and image.  Genesis 1:26-27 reads:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth. ‘ God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them,male and female God created them.” (Common English Bible, 2011)

These two verses serve as a reminder that no human being is an accident and that every human being is a product of a living God. It was God who formed from the dirt Adam and then breathed the very breath of God into his nostrils. These two events are not the by product of a passive God; these events signify that God has an intimate relationship with ALL of humanity, no matter what side of the “train tracks” you are from.

During the next few days (or maybe weeks) we need to remember the story of creation.  As the verdict is returned and the news organizations postulate why the jury went one way or the other, may we remember that all life is precious and all people are children of God.

George Zimmerman, guilty or innocent, is a child of God.

Trayvon Martin, no matter his past or alleged wrong doings, is a child of God.

May we remember where we all come from not just during a high profile case, but forever.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Review: “Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War”

English: A folded American flag held by a Unit...

English: A folded American flag held by a United States Marine at the funeral of Douglas A. Zembiec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never served in the military.  I have had family and in-laws who served this country in a variety of capacities though the armed forces.  Now more than ever, the public is keenly aware of the movements and campaigns of the US military are leading in the Middle East and around the world.  New stations cover a returning solider, coming back home to a throng of people cheering and waving US flags; we get choked up when we see a solider surprising their family; we stand and clap during sporting events when a service person is recognized on the jumbo-tron.

While all of these things are wonderful expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, what about what is going on in the inside of the solider, inside their mind, their heart and their soul?  Can one ever understand what life is like in service to the country?  Can one ever understand the what life is like in the line of fire? to shoot a gun? to have bombs go off near you? to lose a friend? to kill someone?

How does one (if ever) reintegrate into a fast paced, self centered, on the go American society?

The book Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War takes a look at the notion of moral injury in returning combat veterans.

Moral injury results from having to make difficult moral choices under extreme conditions, experiencing morally anguishing events or duties, witnessing immoral acts, or behaving in ways that profoundly challenge moral conscience and identity and the values that support them. Moral injury is found in feelings of survivor guilt, grief, shame, remorse, anger, despair, mistrust, and betrayal by authorities. In its most severe forms, it can destroy moral identity and the will to live. The struggle of combat veterans to return to civilian life can be even more difficult than serving in war and last a lifetime. (taken from http://www.brite.edu/soulrepair/)

The book profiles five different soldiers from different campaigns that the US has been involved with and their struggle with their own morality and faith and how their soul was injured during their deployment.  The book is written by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini who both had family member serve in combat; both articulate that their loved ones were not the same people after their deployments.

This is an eye opening book to the pains and injury (not just physical) that combat has. I guess sub conscientiously knew it but I never connected the dots.  This text brings moral injury to the forefront, to a place where we as a society and nation are faced with it.  By hearing the stories of struggle and pain that the soldiers went through the reader is taken to a different place, into a world that most of us are not privy to.

The book states that returning combat vets are at a statsically greater risk for suicide and violence; this leads many to think that the pangs of war and combat are deeper than just what is reported on television.

Soul Repair does not hold back on its critique of the Veterans Administration and the US government for not support returning veterans.

Selected Quotes:

Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behoavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings. (page XV)

Veterans who struggle with moral injury are struggling to recover their lost sense of humanity, which they require to reintegrate into the human community. No easy shortcut can bring them home. (page 54)

Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives and chart pathways for our future. (page 114)

The Disciples of Christ in 2011 voted to look into the notion of moral injury and how the church can help veterans from all campaigns with moral injury. Thanks to a grant Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas opened the Soul Repair Center.

I support the work of the Soul Repair Center and I pray that it will be used for the healing and restoration of all people who are faced with moral injury.  The authors note that the church used to assist with the transition of those returning from war who had “shed human blood.” They had to undergo “a rehabilitation process that included reverting to the status of someone who had not yet been baptized and was undergoing training in Christian faith. … this ancient form of quarantine was required because early Christians understood that killing or participating in war, regardless of of the reasons, injured the souls of those how fought. (page xviii)”

I recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a member of their family in military combat, no matter how long ago.  Moral injury is something that has been with humanity ever since the first war broke out.

 

Book Link
5 out of 5 stars
★★★★★
In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Final Sermon at Bethany Christian Church (DOC)- It All Ends With Love

On May 26, 2013, I preached my final sermon at Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I was serving there as their Interim Minister.  On June 3, I will be a Staff Chaplain at Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas.

Leaving is never easy to do but I am looking forward to the new opportunities that await me.

To the members and friends of Bethany, thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Interim Minister.

Sermon Link (Romans 5:1-5)

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan