Monday, August 30, 2010

And now for some maturity. . .

If you'd like a mature take on the Restoring Honor Rally and all things Beck/far right. . . Here's a great piece by Russell Moore. I'll go ahead and stick with sophomoric taunts.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trying to speak about that which you know not

This is heresy:

I could write alot about this, because it makes me really mad. But Glenn Beck does not speak for Christians, and his rhetoric yesterday is misleading, confused and non-affective at solving any problems. His rhetoric is also decidedly non-Christian. Not that that should matter politically, but he made it matter. "Getting back to god" presumes that one knows who's god we're talking about. Excuse me, but Joseph Smith didn't talk to God, . . the Mormons are not worshipping the true God. . . . .there is another supernatural being that comes to mind.

I"ll stop now. . . . .

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Nation of Texas

I had the privilege of visiting The Village Church in Dallas Texas. As the 5 readers of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of Matt Chandler. . . . not in the "coolest flavor of the month" preacher way. . . but I think he'll be around for a long time because he teaches the word unapologetically, he strays away from false guilt and painting with broad brushes, and he's balanced and nuanced in his stances on things. (which does not, as is often believed, lead to heresy or slippery slopes. . . it's just being a little thoughtful about how we land on some things)

I showed up during the last song of the opening singing and I thought I had missed a bunch, but that's how they plan their services. . . announcement/1 song, and then the sermon. They do most of their worship music after the sermon so as to respond to what was preached.

Michael Bleeker is the worship pastor at the Village, and he does a great job. He and Matt C. used to lead the Metro Bible Study in Dallas, which was a multi-church young adults gathering that ended up growing to like 3 thousand people before Matt C. came on staff at the Village. The Village now has 3 campuses and north of 5 thousand people. But, as I'll point out later, there aren't some of the same issues that many large churches have.

This was another trip to the South. . . and it's a very cultural thing to attend church there. Everyone attends church. What I like about Matt Chandler, over against some other preachers. . . is that he speaks against that. He calls it out. He understands that (perhaps) many of the folks attending his church could not be Christians, and are perhaps just participating in a cultural ritual.

I think this is very important in any church context. But, for sure. . in the South. We need to call this out.

Lessons Learned:

This church was top notch in everything that they did. I learned that excellence in music, production, visuals, etc. . .does not necessarily coincide with doctrinal indifference, watering down of the message, and lukewarm Christianity. It is often reported to be the case. . . but those problems comes down to other more important things, which The Village is very passionate about. . . .such as. . . .the authoritative preaching of God's Word, and, congregational worship that is participatory (instead of spectacle-ish and presentation--ary), and doctrinally solid. You should do both of those, and you should strive for culturally understandable gatherings. These things are not mutually exclusive.

I loved The Village Church, I've been corresponding with one of their Worship Leaders and am impressed with all of the folks that God is using there.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vocal Amazingness

(and now a short break from the church reports)

I'm sure many of you have seen this 10 year old girl from America's Got Talent.

It's amazing, . . . . we talk so much about skills being honed and practiced and how much you have to work to be good at something (which is true for most of us) and then God just drops a gift like this on a child. :)

To be sure, she has some work to do, especially tonally. As a vocal teacher, I can tell she's working to remain consistent in her tone, but not always getting there. "But Aaron, she's only 10. . .lay off" you say. Well, anyone remember Charlotte Church?? The reason you don't still see her around is because she never figured that out, and never was able to transition her voice into adulthood. When you stop practicing (because you're a huge star) at that age, it's just not good for further development. So, I hope for this girl's sake she's surrounded by some good people who will continue to work with her awesome gift and develop her as a vocalist. It's pretty wild and un-canny to hear this voice come out of a 10 year old. Enjoy. ( i think the singing starts around the 1 minute mark)

(if I had a nickel for every time I heard this song done poorly by a high school senior/college freshman. . .I'd be a rich man )

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mars Hill Albequerque

So, we took the whole fam on a western swing to Moab, UT, the Grand Canyon, and Albequerque to visit a campus of Mars Hill Church.

MHC is in Seattle, WA, but they've been planting campuses, ( I think there's 7 in the Seattle area) and now they have one in New Mexico as well.

First off, let me just say that these guys are studs to be doing ministry in a very challenging, economically depressed, hurting area. You could really feel that, being at the church, that there's alot of pain in that area. . . I commend the Pastors for leaving more comfortable positions (some in Seattle) to come and minister to a hurting people. At some level, all Pastors are doing that, but some areas are harder than others, to be sure.

This church meets at the Lobo Theatre in the University District in Albequerque. They had a great setup, with some challenges, like the kid's ministry was in a different building than the church gathering, and a former concert venue does not give itself to all the trappings of a church.

This church was very friendly. My wife has told the story on her blog about how helpful the men in leadership were to her and my family (I was parking the car). They really did the welcoming/connection/visitor thing very, very well.

MHA is usually a video campus. They show Mark Driscoll from Seattle (1 week later) for the sermon time, while having a very strong local pastoral leadership that leads the people throughout the service, and runs classes throughout the week, etc. . . .I"m going to avoid the discussion on this kind of church leadership set up (perhaps another time) and just say that the local guys were very present and inviting, and in charge. No one seemed to waiting to take their cues from Mark Driscoll. . .the people sit under his preaching. . . . and the local guys flesh that out.

My critique for MHA, any church campus, or church emulating another church, etc. . . Is that I felt like the speaker that day was trying to emulate Mark Driscoll. The video was not shown that day (I think Mark was on vacation) and a leader from their church was preaching. To be fair, it wasn't their campus pastor, he was teaching at a different church (ironic?) that day. But this guy was a young leader who preached the Word faithfully that morning.

The problem with trying to emulate another speaker though, is that frankly, you can't. This guy wasn't plagarising or copying verbal ticks or anything. . . but he spoke for an hour, opened with alot of history on the scripture passage, and ended with 5 or 6 points of application. For those of you who don't know, this is how Pastor Mark teaches. It takes a certain kind of speaker to be able to hold attention for an hour, (Pastor Mark doesn't even always do it for me), and if you can't. . you shouldn't try.

These guys are really strong leaders, operating in a hard area, plowing hard soil for the Gospel. I have a ton of respect for them and what they're doing. I would just say, that when the preaching is live, and Pastor Mark is not being shown on video, these guys should be themselves and change up the service, do different things, etc. . . use their gifts.

I really don't want this series of blogs to turn into church evaluations. . . . that is a regrettable part of American church life, and I don't want to propagate a spirit of evaluation among us as brothers and sisters.

So, hopefully my thoughts on these churches can be understood as "things we can learn, and yes, appreciate in our local body".

My lessons from this church: #1 The ministry is suffering. There's no minstry of the gospel without a certain level of suffering and entering into someone else's broken life, (as Jesus did for all of us) And I"m not just talking about church staff when I say that. It's true for all of us, where God has placed us. Thanks to the MHA guys for fleshing that out. #2 Be Yourself. God has given each of us gifts for Him to use for His glory.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ah Georgia

(We'll be going in reverse order . . . or something close to it)

I'm not sure if it's the humidity, the combination sweat/hair spray smell, the red clay, the Sunday night service, or the "dressing up", but there's something about the South that takes me back. There's something about visiting churches in the south that seems very familiar to me. I didn't realize it when I was younger, but there's a part of that culture that was stamped on me at a pretty young age, and still seems very close. The minute I stepped out of the airport, it hit me. It was very similar in Texas as well, I'll get to that in a later post. But, there's a vast difference between the South, the East Coast, the Midwest, and the Progressive Rocky Mountains. . . maybe that's why we give the names out.

I was privledged enough to visit Passion City Church, the church plant started by Louie Giglio and Chris Tomin, they of the Passion conferences and worship music awesomeness. It's a struggling little plant, they had to start meeting at the Cobb Energy Center :), 3k people were there, and it was a pretty engaging environment. One of the cool things, to me, was to see Chris, Louie and the gang (I've seen them quite a bit) really feeling "home" and feeling close to family, etc. . . .They were loving each other, and their church. . . .much different than a tour or other environments where you usually see these guys.

Of course, this was different than any other church I saw this summer, . . there was no kids ministry, there were no classes. . . just organization to get folks where they needed to go, info. on the next gathering, and info. on the building they're renovating for a permanent spot in downtown Atlanta.

It was pretty simple. . Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockels (one of the most sought after singers in Nashville) sing, Louie preaches, we sing some more, and we go home. They do this very, very well. Louie was highlighting some Compassion International work in Kenya, and he interviewed some Kenyan nationals during the service as well.

They did take an offering, it was nice to hear Louie explain that he's not taking a salary from the church until they are in their new building (a while), there's no "bigger kingdom" kind of stuff with these guys, they are here for the good of the City, and everyone knows that they're dominating whatever is left of the Christian music industry, . . .so humility is appreciated, and these guys really come across that way.

Their vision is: for God, for people, for the City, for the World; For me, you could really tell that all of those goals were guiding them. Louie is passionate (he he) that our glorifying of God not just be with voice, heart, and mind, but also with strength. He's always pushing everyone to live out what we believe and impact the World for Christ.

I wanted to hear more about the word "sin". Louie talked about how God has rescued us "from the depths" and raised us up. . . (great gospel truth) and so we should go likewise and lift up others and spread the gospel, and spread Christian love. However, I think it's important we say why we needed rescuing, and what the Cross did for us, specifically. There's many ways to say it, I know, but the word, "sin" doesn't take alot of time to explain in Atlanta, and it could've been a richer time, and, frankly, a more compelling call to mission, if Louie would've talked more about the depths from which we came.

I don't want to drudge through the muck, stare at my navel, and feel bad about myself for an hour on Sunday. But, one of the things that really hit me this summer was how important it is to constantly remind folks of the gospel, in an explicit way (not in vagarities like "from the depths" "lifted up" "rescue" etc. . .. we need to experience some of the explicit, hard to hear words. )

That would be my one wish for this church. . . is that Louie spends time maturing his people in God's word and reminding the deep south, churched, prim and proper folk how much they need a savior. You don't skip that and just celebrate that you do have a savior. . . .there's a place for that. . . but you don't start there.

I think this will be a great church, . . .they're obviously going to make Christ very well known in their city and the World as they work for the Kingdom. I just think that Louie needs to not treat his church-goers like conference attendees and take the long view of maturing a people in God's Word, and in the deep truths of the gospel. There's no hurry to "move on" to other things,(as if there ever is), they'll mostly be back next week :)

It was a great time, for me, to be there. . . .these guys got me started leading worship, and it's great to see them leading folks to exalting God from the get go (no showy/shallowness even though these are the best musicians/producers in the area), going hard after Him, and being passionate about missions. That's my heritage, that's where I came from, and I'm grateful for it. I have some critiques that I shared. . . .but I love these guys and love what God is doing through them. There are alot of guys from Louie's generation/school/method that do all of the missions stuff and forget to exalt God and forget to challenge people in their small view of God. I've always appreciated that about Louie. There isn't that tilt towards theological minimization that is so characteristic of the 80's, campus crusade, YFC, large youth conference crowd.

Great stuff.


ps. oh, and Christy Nockels can sing the phone book, her husband, Nathan, (producer of all the Passion albums, some country albums, and many other artists) was on keys, and Daniel Carson banged out the Coldplay all night. I was in the sixth row, . . . they're all very short people. . . curious. . . . Good times.


Ok, I'm going to do it. I'll post my thoughts on all the places we visited this summer while not engaging in any over-evaluation (see .. . better yet, . . don't see it). That's not what it's about. It's about clarifying what we're about, what is important, and what the landscape is like these days.

Prepare to have your RSS blown up.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Linkage Randomness

There's been some fantastic stuff on the interwebs these days. . . I offer:

--Here are some very interesting thoughts
on the Gay Marriage debate and the difference between civil and religious marriage.

I'm squarely on the fence on this one :) I agree that we need to make more out of religious weddings so as to set them apart from civil agreements. I also agree that all peoples regardless of sexual orientation should have the same rights (not necessarily "marriage" but the financial and tax breaks, etc. . .). I also am in favor of protecting the word, and institution of; Marriage. Because of our family's journey with adoption and continuing ministry therein, I also shudder to think of the relaxed adoption laws that would accompany non-descript, anything goes, civil marriage law in this country.

Tough to land on. . . . I'm working through it . . . I'd love to hear your thoughts on this article.

--Here are a series of posts from Jared Wilson about the (hopefully) demise of the performance dominated worship services. I've been a part of these churches, I've planned the services. . . (we never did bike-jump the Pastor, though :) ) bought the t-shirt, etc. . .

But, this was very convicting, and yet calming for me. The evidence is on the table, these kinds of gatherings are not helping the furtherance of Christ's church. If we're doing the Billy Graham Crusade, . . .fantastic. . .call it a crusade, not a church. Take a few minutes and read these posts . . excellent thoughts.

here (I remember when we passed this book out in 1998)

--I just finished an 11 day detox. Over the last 11 days I lost 13 + pounds and a few inches. As well, over the course of the last 90 days, my cholesterol has dropped 30 points, my triglycerides are now "normal" as well. (If you'd like a brief Aaron Britton health history, message me. . . . but it's way too boring and depressing for a blog post :) )

Thanks be to God for a health-improving summer! And, thanks to Amy and Greg Nunamaker for hooking us up with the program.

If you have 9 days or so where you could go with eating alot less and taking it easy (the detox is not easy. . . . fairly brutal) check out Isagenix. Don't mess with the MLM scammery, just follow the directions and it's pretty simple. Isagenix provides your body with all the nutrients it needs without most :) of the calories, it's pretty simple math. I'm grateful to Jody (who lost a few pounds herself) for helping me through it, and to our kids for dealing with a couch-ridden dad for a few days.

My body needed to lose the weight, and I feel pretty refreshed and ready to go back to work next week. Thanks Isagenix! (hopefully I'll get paid for this advertisement)

--Good thoughts on social media and the church

--Better thoughts from Mark Altrogge on social media balance

--Two great links on community and how we screw it up in America. :) here and here

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sabbatical Thoughts

Well, the summer sabbatical is almost at an end. I will end things up next week where it all started for me, with Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin in Atlanta. Those guys really got me started with leading worship (from afar) and now lead a church, (Passion City Church) in Atlanta.

It's been a really educational and eye-opening summer. There's alot to unpack. Is anyone interested in my thoughts on Church, after visiting many? Does anyone care to hear family thoughts after spending so much time at home? See, I just get the feeling that not many are reading this blog and so I could just talk to all of you if you wanted to hear about various things. No need writing pages and pages of blogs about a whole summer unless there's enough interest to warrant conversations impossible. I'll wait to hear from ya'll.


Anne Rice and Hating the Player (not the game)

As you've probably heard, Anne Rice has left Christianity. This was sobering for many, because her conversion was quite famous, and because she was a very well-known vampire author. . . well not a vampire herself, . . but, anyway. . . . :)

Here's a bit of her statement from, apparently, the world's most reliable news source: Facebook

I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

What I'm about to write may offend some. . . it might come across a bit in-sensitive. . . .if that's you, and I know you. . please take the opportunity to talk to me about this. If you don't know me, then please be confirmed if you think I'm a terrible, judgmental, sinner. Because, I am.
I was born in Alabama. I toured throughout the South as a young man, singing in many smaller, fundamentalist churches. Also, I grew up in Nebraska, that harbinger of political equality, and started in vocational ministry working at a church that could only be described as Right-leaning.

However, never once did I feel as though anyone in any pulpit was conflating the quality of my Christianty or depth of my commitment with which political party I was voting for. Never, even in the midst of many inappropriate youth group "gay" jokes from leadership, did I feel like we, as Christians, were "anti-gay". Never did I feel like the church was "anti-science" even though I was exposed to some things that I would say, looking back, were pretty bad science.

I think that this reaction against the Church by many, to leave because "they're all Republicans" or "they don't leave room for science", "they all hate gay people" or "they won't let me vote for whom I want to vote" are over-reactions. That's right, I think Anne Rice over-reacted.

Are there butthead Christians who do look down on folks for the very reasons stated above (and in Mrs. Rice's post). Yes. Are there people who identify proper Christianity with voting for a certain political party? Yes.

Are those people indicative of the larger church in America? No. Should these people cause one to reject the church as a whole; or to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater? No.

See, I heard it when pastors would clarify, "we're not going to tell you who to vote for". I listened when folks talked about loving all people regardless of their struggles, while still rejecting certain behaviors as sinful. Every time a pastor talked about abortion, or standing up for life, I did not understand that as a political play/ploy. I listened, I asked questions, and I gave folks the freedom to get a bit emotional and take a side on an issue, even if I took a different side.

The worst example was at a church in Nebraska where I served; During a service the pastor recognized a local politician, campaigning, who was in attendance that day. He stood up, some folks clapped. . .the service continued.

Today that kind of behavior could get someone thrown in jail :) But, did I huff off in anger? Did I judge the pastor as a kingdom conflating, right wing nut job, commie hater? Did I leave the church? No. Though inappropriate, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Life, and worship, went on. I guess such is the emotional level that our political discourse is taking place these days.

This all goes for the Left-leaning church as well who would reject folks if they ever supported war, or judged any "private" behavior as sinful.

But, I must say, I've found many of my left-leaning friends to be taking a bit of a martyr's attitude in the evangelical church. Some behaviors have seemed a bit "quick trigger" to me.
Like, once the pastor says "abortion is wrong" the judgment "oh, that means all of these people are voting this way, and if I don't you think I'm a sinner" is what is heard by those who are feeling a bit mis-understood.

So, what I would say is this. . . . let's talk. If you feel as though your church is doing any of the things Mrs. Rice alleges for "Christianity", why don't you set up a meeting with your pastor? Perhaps you are wrong and mis-heard him. Perhaps he needs to be more nuanced and could clarify some things for you. Perhaps you are taking a forwarded email from a church member or off-hand comment as representing the church as a whole. Perhaps we all need to give each other some latitude in our speech, and love each other enough to forgive some over-statements and ill-timed humor.

Christians have made many mistakes, as have churches, (since they, after all, are led by Christians). I have been hurt by churches, I have disagreed with things that have been said.

However, let's all have enough humility to understand that none of us are un-baised observers. We come to these issues and situations with our pain, wrong thinking, and opposite extremes. Know that about yourself. . Know that. Seek to understand others with enough humility to see your own passions and "dogs in the fight".

And, please, on the political party issue. . . .let's become an issue-by-issue, nuanced, skeptical people as the church. And, let's stop believing in a party, man, or any form of government to do what only God can do.