Advent Calendar 2015

Advent is the time in the church calendar when we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is marked by the observation of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent the church observes a different theme of this journey: hope, peace, love and joy. Candles are lit as the light of the world (Christ) is drawing closer to us.

During this time, we are called not to run to the manger but to wait… that’s right…. wait… for Christmas. Sure some people have decorated their entire house on November 1 but Advent calls us to slow down, be more reflective and wait. It is through this intentionality that we begin to see and experience the message of hope, peace, love and joy in our own lives and the world around us

There is something freeing, however, in slowing down. We are able to take in all that is around us and see how God is moving in our lives in ways that we would have looked right over had we not taken a moment to be reflective and aware.

How are we using this time of Advent to prepare and to wait? Are we rushing from store to store buying mountains of gifts, trying to equate our love for someone by how big the price tag is?

Don’t we want Christmas to be something more than lights, too much food, elves on the shelf and Santa? Why can’t this time of Advent propel us into a deeper sense of the Divine around us and with us? Where are the places God is leading us to? These are the thoughts that we take with us during this journey to the manger.

Use this calendar each day of Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Each day has a scripture and something to pray for or to reflect on. Let us journey to together to find the Christ-child, the source of all hope, peace, joy and love this Advent.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

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Advent Calendar 2015 PDF

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Creative Commons LicenseAdvent Calendar 2015 by Rev. Evan M. Dolive, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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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

Sermon: “Blessings For All”

Below is a link to a sermon I preached on February 2, 2014 entitled “Blessings For All” based on Matthew 5:1-12

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/dnfs7b7rna/blessings_for_all.mp3%20
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

The Person Who Was Missing From The Nye/Ham Debate

The internet has been a buzz after the “Creation Debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis.  The debate focused on the question “is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

Ham is the founder of the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky which postulates the world was created how it is described in the book of Genesis and believes that the world is only 6000 or so years old (this model is known as Young Earth Creationist.)  Nye showed another side stating that science and evolution were the models of creation that should be accepted.

Both people gave their reasoned arguments in a bevy of pictures, graphs and charts.  They had their particular point of view and they were showing the world how they understood the world to work.  Ham is a Christian literalist and Nye is a Scientist.  Both are coming from completely different angles while looking at the same thing.  On one hand you have Ham trying to make the model of Creation found in the Bible fit the world around him and on the other you have Nye who uses the empirical method to be certain about his beliefs.  Both of these men were using their view to be the one that should be seen as true and authoritative.  Here in lies the problem.

Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) articulated the notion of perception when he wrote:

“Just as if A, B and C should each put on different colored glasses;  A puts on green spectacles, B yellow, and C blue; each one of them looks through his own glasses at a piece of white paper and concludes he is right, not remembering that he has his spectacles on.  Thus to A it appears green, to B yellow and to C blue.  They begin to argue on the subject, and it is impossible for any of them to convince another that he is wrong- each one feels a conviction next to absolute certainty that his opinion is right. But D, who has no spectacles on, and who is standing looking on during the contest very well knows that they are all wrong; he sees the spectacles on each man’s face and accounts for the difference.”[1]

Throughout the debate I could not help but to think that one person was missing: the person who doesn’t see religion and science as mutually exclusive.  Where was the person of faith who is OK with a bit of mystery in the world and OK with the notion that the world might not have been created in seven 24 hour days?

The problem with this type of debate is the same problem that people have with the political pundits in Washington: they are too polarizing.  Both sides think they have it figured out.  This is being played out in our society; a Gallup poll stated that 42% of voters claim to be Independent, while 31% affiliate with Democrats and 25% with the Republicans.  People more and more do not like to be “nailed down” in one camp or another.

Some of the biggest complaints I hear from people not in the church or those who recently left is that some churches have “it all figured out” and leave no room for questioning or growing or new ways of looking at something.  Learning, growing, shaping and forming our own ideals is something that we instill in children when we teach them critical thinking.  Why do people in some churches feel they have to become robots of their church or pastor and just spit out what they have been told to believe?

The creation debate more than likely didn’t change anyone’s mind about how the world came to be.  If anything those on either side felt their guy “won” and their view was shown in the best light.  Then there are those who struggle with faith and how the world works in harmony together.

They were left out.

The way I see it is that both Ham and Nye missed the mark.  Ham is using the Bible as a science book– the Bible is a book of faith and people’s experience with the Divine.  Nye did not leave any room for mystery and faith; it was charts, graphs, facts and figures.

There has to be a balance made.  Faith and Science do not have to be at odds with each other.  The debate was too focused on facts and not on mystery.  Where was the presenter who said “I’m not sure how this all happened, but I have faith?”

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


[1] Mark G. Toulouse, Joined in Discipleship: the Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity, rev. ed. (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1997), 42.

14 Books In 2014

My new year’s resolution is one that I think many people make: to read more.

I enjoy reading and I even have a Kindle.

I have an ever growing list of books that I want to read, should read and have been recommended to me but by consequence of having a full time job, preaching on Sundays, a wife and two kids, time is scarce.

So this year I am going to make a goal to read 14 books in the year 2014.  I know to some avid readers out there 14 is the standard quota for a week but I am taking baby steps here.

I hope to write reviews on the books I read during this challenge and you never know maybe I will surpass my goal of 14.

If you have any recommendations for me feel free to comment below!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Rev. Evan has
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Picture: “Books HD” by Abeee via flickr. used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.

Sermon: “Treasured Words”

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary (Photo credit: MichaelHDJ)

Below is a link to a sermon I preached entitled “Treasured Words” based on Luke 2:1-20.

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/5oalx1lf7f/20131215-112106.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon: “The Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near!”

 

Below is a link to a sermon I preached entitled “The Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near!” based on Matthew 3:1-12 on December 8, 2013.

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/s3evmwgbjh/20131208-112407.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon: “Remember Me In Your Kingdom”

Christ The King (All Rights Reserved)

Below is a link to a sermon I preached entitled “Remember Me In Your Kingdom” based on Luke 22:33-43 (Christ The King Sunday 2013)

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/1cboi2mnhw/Remember_Me_In_Your_Kingdom.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon: “It’s Not Our Call”

Below is a link to a sermon I preached on November 17, 2013 entitled “It’s Not Our Call” based on Luke 18:9-14

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/ju9p00nmfo/its_not_out_call.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan