June 2009


Father peter

Last week I spent a few days with an old college friend.

This particular friend has an interesting faith journey. He grew as the son of a fundamentalist preacher. He attended a mainstream evangelical college. He almost walked away from faith, but was apparently predestined to become a neo-Calvinist instead. Then he converted to Catholicism.

He was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church ten days before our visit.

One of my favorite points of the visit was having dinner at an Irish Pub in downtown Milwaukee. Without wanting to make light of a complex situation in Ireland, I had the thought, “This should be able to happen. A Catholic priest and an Evangelical pastor should be able to share a good meal with great conversation.”

We hit some points of disagreement in some conversations. I would hit a few points of disagreement with most of my pastor friends if we talked long enough! However, we also had a lot of of areas of deep agreement in our faith and practice.

I always thought that Pete was a bright and thoughtful guy, who was always willing, maybe desiring, to push the status quo. I have to say that Father Peter is even more impressive. Here are a few of the ways that God has molded Peter in the Catholic seminary and ordination process.

Focus: In that past Peter seemed a bit restless. Today he can look you in the eye and tell you his calling without blinking. He has disciplined his life toward that call.

Peace: He seems to genuinely be at peace with himself, his calling, and God. This shows in the way he interacts with others – some of the edge that characterized his in the past has been smoothed out.

Intimacy: Peter seems to know God better than ever before. He has been intentional about genuine spiritual formation, going to great lengths and effort to know God more deeply. It shows!

obama_family_2006_xmas_card

Regardless of what you think of politics, all of us can appreciate what President Obama is doing for fatherhood in America.

Social conservatives have long advised (I think correctly.) that fathers in America need to step it up and be more engaged in their families. They note the important roles that fathers play in the development of their sons and daughters. When a father is checked out, physically or emotionally, the family suffers.

“Pro-family” conservatives have a strong ally in the fight to improve fatherhood in the Democrat Obama.

This is an issue where there should be common ground between parties. Better fathers would help make better families, which would make better neighborhoods, which would make a better nation and world.

Obama is using his rhetoric (perhaps his greatest gift) to call us to be better fathers. He calls us to act like men not boys. Obama points out that manhood is not required to make a child, but it is proven in having the courage to raise a child. He calls dads to turn off the TV and tune into their children.

I do not question that others believed those things, but I do not remember hearing fatherhood emphasized by any other president.

More striking to me than Obama’s great speeches about being a father, is his example of being a father. I like seeing him with his children. I can not imagine his work load or stress, but I like that he still chooses to do fun things with his kids. While cynics say it is just for photo ops, I think it is crucial for our nation to see the president spending time with his children.

It is important for America to see the importance of being a dad.

Here is an AP story: http://tinyurl.com/mglmmj

Jesus-teaching

The other day a group of us were looking at the story of Jesus as recorded by Mark. As usual, Jesus surprised me and caused me to think about my life.

Jesus showed me that sometimes my priorities are off.

Mark 2:27 – Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was a HUGE deal in Jesus’ culture. One of the unique points of the Hebrew Creation Poem was that the Creator God took a break to enjoy the creation. The Creator modeled that life was not just about mass production! Therefore the Hebrews incorporated that rythem of rest, and party, into their lives. Sabbath was one of their defining traditions.

They were passionate about the Sabbath … to the point of Sabbath becoming a top priority.

For some people, the Sabbath became a priority over people.

When faced with this paradigm, Jesus set things straight.

Jesus clarified that the Sabbath was for the good of people, not people for the good of Sabbath.

So what does that have to do with me?

I think that I can get passionate about things, good things, and I might lose sight of the big picture.

When I do that, when I put traditions or programs or ideology above humanity, then I just miss the point.

Thanks Jesus for giving us wake up calls that you give us with your words and your life!

Jim Jackson Laughing

“I need to see that movie. It will make me laugh!” shouted my 5 year old son as we drove past a local movie theater.

My first thought, “Wow, he is a great reader!”

My second thought, “Wow, the advertisers already have him.”

I knew that it was time to act. It was time to defend my children from being told what they needed to buy in order to be happy.

Then I remembered a trick that I learned from a Tony Campolo talk on Greed. It was time to start teaching my children to laugh at commercials.

Our first adventure in laughing at advertisements was simply perfect.

Our children were watching Veggie Tales on live TV, when a commercial for a “Prayer Cross” began to play. This product was an overpriced piece of cheap jewelry with the words of the Lords Prayer on it. Yet this product claimed to “help you pray to God” and to “bring you peace and hope.”

It was time to pull out the laughter (Profanity was my first reaction, but not as helpful.).

“Kids that is so funny! Do we need to buy jewelry to talk to God? No way!” “Ha, Ha, Ha!”

“We do not need that ‘prayer cross’ to get peace and hope from God!” “Ha, Ha, Ha!” “That is SO SILLY!”

The kids quickly joined in on the fun at laughing at the commercial!

We proceeded to expand the game to commercials for breakfast cereals, toys, and movies.

We now enjoy a lot of laughter at the expense of ridiculous advertisements.

Candle Darkness

After reading my last post, some people wondered why I stayed involved with vocational ministry in a local church context.

The answer to that question is rooted in large part to my belief that Jesus has great plans for the Church.

I believe that Jesus desires for the Church to change the World.

In Matthew 16 Jesus took his followers to the darkest place in their culture to cast his vision for the Church. Caesarea Phillipi carried with it deep historical, spiritual and moral baggage. It was the stronghold for the fertility god cult. That place was characterized by false belief, greed, injustice, immorality, and oppression.

No good religious person would have gone to that dark place.

The Rabbi Jesus went there. He took his followers there to give the founding words of his Church.

In this dark setting Jesus was identified as the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promise to rescue us from darkness. He then made two promises about the messiah movement that would follow him.

Jesus Promises to Build His Church in the Midst of Darkness

The setting of the story was crucial:

The Landscape of CP was dominated by a large cliff. This cliff became the backdrop for the fertility god worship.

Ornate niches were carved into the cliff

Idols were placed on the niches to observe the rituals of the cult

This cliff became known as the Rock of the Gods.

Jesus said “On this rock I will build my Church” with the Rock of the Gods dominating their setting.

Perhaps Jesus was saying “EVEN HERE, In the darkest, most broken place, most unclean place, I will start my Movement.”

Jesus was not only willing to go to the dark places, He said it was a perfect place to build his Movement!

Jesus Promises the Victory of His Church over Darkness

Once again the setting was crucial:

The cliff in Caesarea Philippi had a large cave with a large spring flowing out of it.

In the ancient world water was believed to be sent from the gods.

This water came out of a mysterious bottomless cave in a massive cliff.

The cave became known as the entry way to the underworld, or the “gates to Hades.”

Jesus said that “the gates of hell will not prevail against” his Church with the Gates of Hades nearby them.

Jesus stated that his Church would be on the offense against the darkness, and the defensive structures of the darkness would not be able to hold back this movement of light.

Jesus intends for His Church to bring hope, grace, peace, justice, truth and healing to the darkest places of the world!

In the midst of painful experiences and disappointments in the church, this story of a Church that will change the World has kept me engaged in vocational ministry.

At times I actually experience this type of movement.

At times I work for what is promised and hoped for, in spite of what I actually see.

discouragement

Here are the Top Ten Ways to Ruin Young Pastors. They have also been found effective on other ministry staff!

10. Promise big things in their interviews, and then pull back on those promises once the family is on site.

9. Do not bother mentoring them or investing in their personal or professional development.

8. Ask them to reach new people, but force them to think the same way as the existing staff.

7. Ask them to bring change, but do not allow them to do anything different.

6. Young Pastor’s Concerns = Never Valid. Member’s Concerns about Young Pastor = Always Valid.

5. Give them responsibility, but do not give them the authority to accomplish those things.

4. Give them greater workloads than other pastors, but also less respect.

3. Say one thing in private meetings, another thing in staff or elder meetings, and another thing in Sunday Worship.

2. Reject their ideas, tell them how to do it, and when it does not work … blame them.

1. Allow your personal insecurities to interpret the young pastor’s words and deeds as attempts to mock you or steal your job.

This post was inspired by some of my past experiences (NOT Elmbrook) and the tragic stories of a number of friends who have entered vocational ministry with passion and commitment, only to be beaten down by leadership of their churches. Some of them have left vocational ministry, all of us have considered that exit. While these friends were not perfect in every situation, none of them were slackers, whiners, heretics, immoral or insubordinate.

Surely the Church can do better than this!