Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peter's Story

I'd like to thank Peter for sharing his story with us. Like many of you (and me), Pete is a follower of Christ but does not attend an institutional church. He's the first person to take me up on the offer of posting his story on my blog. Thanks Pete! Everything below is word-for-word what he emailed to me:

First, let me share with you that I do believe in God, Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I do not neglect reading and studying God's word, and I do fellowship with other believers on a semi-regular basis. With that said, I'll move on down the road.

It all started when a friend asked our pastor "how do you address the needs of seniors in our congregation." Well, he said, "they just kind of fall through the cracks." When our friend told us that, it really started me thinking, "something is wrong here. It's about relationships right?" So, our friend suggested that we start a home fellowship. I wish I could paint a picture that everything went smoothly, we started a home fellowship and we lived happily ever after, but it didn't happen. I was riddled with guilt about not attending the "Institution" on one hand, and on the other hand, in retrospect, I wasn't being led by the spirit.

However, these events set the wheels in motion for me to research and find out the truth about the Institutional church and how it had become a system cloaked in the "traditions of men" after the first century.

So, where am I today?" Do I attend a home fellowship?" Nope! "Do I fellowship with other believers?" Yup! "Am I excited about reading your stories of how you transitioned out of the Institution to meeting as the First-Century believers did?" You betcha I do! "Will we make some connections with each other?" I sure hope so!

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Opportunity to Tell Your Story

Since you are reading this blog, you probably have some sort of unique church story. It's likely that you at one time were part of the institutional church model, but have departed from that for simpler waters. Or, you may be struggling with institutional practices, but have not left because you love the people with whom you meet. Or, it's possible that you've never been involved in the institutional model and have no intention of doing so. Or, you stumbled upon this blog and have no idea what you are reading about.

Assuming that you are not part of the last option I mentioned, I'd like to share your story on this blog. I find it fascinating to read about others' church journeys. While we of the departed often have similarities, the details are frequently different. Not only does it encourage me to read about it, but it often helps people to put their own thoughts together on paper (or a computer screen). Therefore, if you would like to tell your story, here is your opportunity. Please just let me know in the comments section of this post; we can then get in touch via email with the details. I'm not hoping for books, but rather just blog post entry length articles telling the main points of how you have arrived where you are concerning the church. After we discuss it, I'll post your story right here on this blog for all to read and be edified. Thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Need a Christmas Gift Idea? Try This.

(WARNING: somewhat shameless promotion below)

Two years ago at about this time Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity hit print. This book, which I edited, was written by over twenty different contributors. Each chapter deals with a different issue related to theology, faith, and church life. Although we certainly do not agree on everything, the authors all stand united in two things. The primary is that Jesus Christ is Lord. The secondary is that church life ought to be informal and follow the model given to us in scripture.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift idea for someone else, or if you need something to ask for yourself, why not try this book?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Informal Gatherings Are Such a Relief

Did you grow up getting dressed up for church in your Sunday best?

I did.

I also did most of the other stuff that goes along with institutional Christianity. The normal Sunday included getting dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, attending a Sunday School class, attending a worship service (ceremony), going home for a few hours to hurry up and relax, then returning to the church building to do much of the same all over again.

I do not fault my parents in this; it's just the tradition that had been handed down to them. Even after I became an adult I kept doing this same stuff for many years. I even went to seminary, and then became an institutional church pastor for a few years. I was at the core of institutional church activities.

What a relief simple gatherings are! Sundays are now something I genuinely look forward to. On most Sundays we get together informally with some friends. Sometimes it's at our house, sometimes not. I can wear shorts and a T-shirt if I want to. We almost always study the bible and pray. We also do a lot of hanging out and eating. Sometimes we even watch some football. It is so relaxing. What a relief from institutional trappings!

When you meet with other believers, is it a relief? Is it a Christ-centered get together? Are you relaxed? Do you look forward to it? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Introverts Unite

This past week we celebrated my 46th birthday. Of the variety of gifts I received this T-shirt is my favorite. Quite honestly, it describes me very well. Although I have a blog, I'm generally pretty introverted. Maybe you are, too. In that case, go ahead and get this shirt. We can unite in our introversion (we just won't ever talk about it).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why The South Is The Most Dangerous Place To Live On Earth

The final vestiges of Christendom reside here. That's why they call it "The Bible Belt."

At a physical level, the most dangerous places to live are probably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, North Korea, or any inner city of the United States. However, if we're talking about spiritual danger, then the southern U.S.A. has got to be the most dangerous. That's because it's one of the few locations on earth where it's still more socially advantageous to be a Christian than not be.

Persecution, while unpleasant to say the least, has a way of purifying the church. It separates the wheat from the chaff. When trial comes, those who aren't truly in Christ bail out quickly. This type of thing is happening increasingly across the United States (albeit to much smaller degree than the persecutions many of our brothers and sisters in Christ face overseas). The South remains different, at least for now. Many folks continue to have some sort of vague connection to both the term "Christian" and an institutional church of some type. They may even be a "local church member."

As most of you know, I call Savannah, Georgia my home. I was raised in Western New York State, so I know what life is like outside of the Bible Belt. When I was about twenty-five, Alice and I moved south. I soon realized that almost everybody called somewhere church. The odd folks were the ones with no church home. This despite the fact that many only "went to church" on Easter and Christmas.

Things are changing. As our culture in general becomes increasingly secular, the South does as well. It's just that the South is, in my opinion, two to three generations behind the rest of the country in its movement away from Christendom. Because of this, many Southerners continue to believe they are fine spiritually despite the lack of fruit (evidence) in their lives.

And that's what makes the South so incredibly dangerous. A person who thinks he is in Christ but who is not is in a more dangerous place than a person who knows he is not in Christ. A false sense of salvation is a terrible place to be. This type of person sees no reason to repent and believe because he thinks he's already fine. However, Jesus made it clear that His followers will bear fruit. No fruit = no salvation.

I love living in the South. However, it is an odd place. I'd bet that no other spot on earth has such a high percentage of cultural Christians. This is a tragedy because they think they are fine but are in fact doomed. Some persecution might do them some good. Persecution is coming; however, since it's still a few years away it might be too late for them.

The South is indeed a dangerous place.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Why I'm Not Taking the Time or Spending the Energy to Debate the Trinity

Most commenters on this blog stay on topic. I appreciate that. One of the unwritten rules of blog interaction is that the topic of the post should also be the topic of the comments.

A few times recently at least one commenter has repeatedly called into question the doctrine of the Trinity. This would be fine if I had, in fact, been blogging about the Trinity. However, I was not (and thus I did not post all of the anti-Trinity comments). It has been a long time since the Trinity was the primary focus of any blog post of mine.

While I love the Trinity, I have no intention of taking the time or spending the energy on debating this doctrine. Why not? There are several reasons. First and primarily, I believe the doctrine is very clear according to scripture. One great example occurs at Jesus' baptism. I could go on and on. It is so clear that debating it is pointless.

Furthermore, within the church as a whole this is a largely settled debate. The church has agreed on the truth of the Trinity for hundreds upon hundreds of years. This is different, for example, from the debate about ecclesiology. Numerous dissenters have always existed against institutional Christianity since very early on (see here for more on that). Not so for the Trinity. I'm not suggesting that all Christians have always been convinced of the truth of the Trinity, but rather that no significant number has failed to adhere to it.

I'm also not going to debate the Trinity because plenty of other paces exist to do so. If you desire to bring up the topic, please do so there. Beyond that, I simply see no benefit in the debate. I don't know what can be gained by discussing in detail something that is, at least in my mind, so clear scripturally. I'd rather talk about, and wrangle over, something that needs to be discussed: the state of the church.

So there it is. If you want to debate the Trinity please do so in other forums. This is not the place. Thank you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

If You Knew Nothing of Christianity, But Then Found a Bible and Read It, What Would You Expect Church Gatherings to Be Like?

In this particular post I'm simply asking a question of you. Please put your answers in the comments section. Maybe we can begin an interesting and edifying discussion. My purpose in this is not to discuss what's wrong with the institutional church, but rather to focus on what can be right when we follow the Biblical pattern for meeting.

QUESTION: As much as you can, pretend that you know absolutely nothing of Christianity. You find a Bible and begin to read it. Based on what you see instructed to us and modeled for us in scripture, what would you expect church gatherings to be like?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Marathon Finished!

This morning I ran in and completed the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

I'd like to thank all of you who prayed for me. My feet did in fact hurt for over half the race. At one point I prayed to God to relieve the pain. Soon after my lower legs and feet went numb. No joke. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but God's answers to prayers are far wiser than ours would be. Although the feet issue slowed me down a bit, I was still able to achieve both of my primary goals: 1) finish the race, and 2) finish fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2018.

Boston has set standards based upon age and gender. Males ages 45-49 have to complete a marathon in under 3 hours, 25 minutes. This morning I semi-staggered across the finish line in 3 hours, 20 minutes, 33 seconds. Woo-hoo! I came in third in my age group out of 169, and 53rd overall out of 2225.

This has been a journey that began for me in February 2015. That's when I decided to live a more healthy life. One of my first goals was to finish last year's RnR Marathon. However, as I've chronicled previously, the weather last November was so hot and humid on race day that the directors and city officials cut the race short. Ugh. For the last 365 days I've anticipated today.

God delivered an added bonus. Earlier this week it was hot, with high temperatures in the mid 80's. However, this morning it was about 55 degrees with low humidity. I had been praying for weather like that for weeks. Thank you God for answering. It made for perfect race weather.

Additionally, this morning was even more fun because my wife Alice and daughter Mary tag-teamed the half marathon in relay form. Mary ran the first seven miles, and Alice walked the final six (she couldn't run due to an ankle sprain from five weeks ago). They were waiting for me at the finish line. It was awesome.

Thank you again for praying. I very much appreciate it.

A Quote for Today

"If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down, because that means I didn't run hard enough." 

-Steve Jones, former marathon world record holder

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Hi, fellow followers of Jesus. Today I'm writing with a specific and somewhat self-centered prayer request.

In two days I'm running in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. This is something that I have been looking forward to for a year. However, my ability to participate at all is now in question.

To put it simply, both of my feet are hurting. Although I do not have a diagnosis, my guess is that my right foot has a case of Plantar Fasciitis. My left foot, on the other hand (please excuse the terrible pun), feels more like Achilles Tendinities. Both stem from over-training.

I'm asking you to pray for me to be able to run in the marathon. I may have to take a break from running for a while afterward. If that is the case, so be it. However, this particular marathon, in my home city, is a goal I've had for 365 days. Please pray that God will extend His mercy toward me by relieving the pain for the race.

I don't want to hyper-spiritualize this event. It's just a marathon after all. However, since it has been something I've anticipated and worked toward all year I would hate to miss it. Thank you so much for praying.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sola Feels?

In keeping with yesterday's Reformation theme, I hope you are familiar with the 5 Solas of the Reformation. These are Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

In our increasingly postmodern, truth-hating society the above Five Solas are not valued. This is not surprising for a God-despising culture. What is surprising and troubling is that a significant number of Christians are now making decisions not based in fact and truth, but in feeling. This is a great danger for the body of Christ.

Babylon Bee has done it again. This piece of satire entitled "Sola Feels" introduces us to this new doctrine in the church. Yikes!