Category Archives: Change Agent

The Preacher/Pastor System

Our struggles in our Western/European expressions of Christianity are due largely to innovations and inventions forming an inner and outer corrosive crust slowing down the flow of our faith.  Sects, denominations and cults are the portions visible to any observer.  As the layers of corrosion built up over the centuries, the major result is division and the inevitable infighting that follows. Trying to chip away or dissolve this inner and outer crust most often proves futile and downright dangerous to life and limb.  We love our respective crusts!  We love them in spite of the damage they do to our witness.

One of the major additions to this crust is the “pastor system.” Pastors, as revealed in the New Testament, were not paid professional public speakers in residence at each congregation under the supervision of, and answerable to, a group of men (and, in some instances, women) serving as a board of directors. In most cases, the “pastor” (“preacher” in some traditions) functions at the pleasure of this board.  He does all the preaching, teaches classes, and officiates at funerals, weddings, and fulfills other duties as outlined by the board. Predictably, it doesn’t work well in most cases. It doesn’t work because it is an alien concept not found in Scripture.

When I became a preacher, an older veteran warned me to remember that I was working with people with all their strengths, weaknesses, foibles, sins, joys, sorrows, crises, victories and failures. Here’s the problem: the preacher/pastor becomes the focal point of all these things. Who you gonna call?  The preacher/pastor, of course.  For a while he can cope. Eventual burnout, however, is inevitable. It would be different if it was understood that we are all priests. That would take a tremendous load off the “designated priest,” who really shouldn’t exist anyway.

Perhaps you are aware, as I am, of churches where it seems to work well.  The preacher/pastor has a long tenure, is loved and appreciated and, from all appearances, all is well.  Not only are such congregations the exception, but seem to have a handle on the priesthood of all believers. Furthermore, the group that in other places functions as a board has become shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). May their tribe increase!

In most other cases, however, in addition to the expectations of the board and the congregation, the pastor/preacher becomes the primary target of disgruntled constituents. For those who have not served in this capacity, it is hard to imagine the insults, injuries, disparagement and humiliation that can come with the territory when things go wrong.

All this hinders and hamstrings our mission: to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). So what can be done? A giant first step would be to acknowledge the problem. For those who believe solutions are found in words inspired by the Holy Spirit, the second step would be to open the Scriptures and compare what we do with what we should be doing. The third step requires that we love our Savior more than our traditions and apply the solutions.  Hard?  Yes it is. What seems harder would be to face the returning Christ with mission unfulfilled.


Filed under Change Agent, church, Holy Spirit, Preaching/Teaching, Restoration, Scripture, Unity

Walk Like an Egyptian

We’ve all been watching the events in Egypt (you have to, that’s about all that’s been on the news) with rapt attention.  The non-stop rally in Cairo’s Tahrir square has us (or, at least the news casters) spellbound.  Would Mubarak step down?  What would happen if he did not?  How would control be reestablished?  What will be the outcome of this semi-peaceful revolution? Will “…free and fair presidential elections,” really eventuate?  So many questions answered only in time. Speculation about the future is largely just that.

But I am impressed with the people, aren’t you? They finally had enough. They demonstrated that in the only way left to them: demonstrations. Too many died…too many were wounded but the demonstrations were mostly non-violent. Their demands were amazingly cohesive.  Primarily, they wanted an end to the thirty-year autocratic rule of a man who clung to power like it was his lifeline.

It all made me thankful to live in a real, live democracy where we, the people, can bring about change by going to the polls. Yes, we demonstrate, but we call them “political rallies.” Whether or not you agree with the “Tea Party,” you have to give them credit for bringing about change in a peaceful manner. There comes a time when the people (last I checked, this is still a government of the people) must say, “Enough!  We demand change!” The major flaw in our system, it seems to me, is when our judicial branch unilaterally decides what is best for us (another topic for another time).

The people of the Middle East have thrown a big rock in the autocratic pools of their nations beginning with Tunisia. The ripples will be felt for years to come. All reasonable people hope the resulting waves will be peaceful. Indications from Yemen and Algeria, however, point to something more violent.

Because of the internet, people around the world who are fed up with dictators and repressive regimes are taking to the streets. Freedom is in the air. Let’s hope that oppressed souls everywhere will have the courage to walk like an Egyptian.

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Filed under Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, Dictatorship, Egypt, Freedom, independence, Middle East, morality, Peace, Politics, Revolution

The Paradox of Afghan-American History

I relish the study of history.  The stories of nations, tribes and peoples of ages past have much to teach us.  These days, however, I often wonder why we study and teach history at all.  If we refuse to learn from it, then why not ignore it altogether?  This is especially true when it comes to the war with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The United States of America is a relatively young country…only a couple centuries old.  But enough history has occurred to teach some truths about the American people.  Admiral Yamamoto may not have spoken some variation of the famous line in the motion picture, Tora! Tora! Tora!, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” but it states a historical truth: you can attack the U.S., but then you’d better find some place to hide.

It is difficult to understand what Al Qaeda sought to accomplish by bringing down the World Trade Towers.  But, as the Japanese found out subsequent to Pearl Harbor, American reprisal is dogged, determined and swift.  As they did in 1941, Americans rallied ‘round the flag, mourned their dead, praised their heroic police and firefighters then turned to find and destroy the enemy.  Bin Laden is smart to cower in mountain caves and never show himself again.  He will have to continue to hide until he dies or is caught, tried and executed.  History teaches that truth, justice and the American way yet survive to fuel a terrible resolve.

Afghanistan has a much longer history which teaches that the Afghan people will never be subjugated for long by any outside power.  Check with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the Persians, Russians and the British.  I recently talked with a young, former sergeant who served several tours in Afghanistan.  I asked him, “What should America do about the war in Afghanistan?”  His answer was quick and direct, “We should get out as fast as we can.”

The truth about both Iraq and Afghanistan is historically based.  More than dictators or any other form of oppression, the thing they hate the most is a foreign army, especially if that army is made up of “infidels.”  Recent polls have shown that, for the most part, the Afghan people hate the coalition presence.  Once they leave, history teaches that all the changes the troops have fought and died for will most likely be reversed and the Afghans will revert to their former state of affairs.  This writer firmly believes that too much blood has been shed already for nothing.  History screams its agreement.

Here’s another related historical truth: nation building is risky and often a fool’s errand.  It worked in Germany and Japan because the Allies initially took over completely.  Somalia and Haiti are pure failures.  We never even got started in Viet Nam.  Freedom and democracy are not our gifts to give.  A nation must pay for it with its own blood sweat and tears.  Only then will they value and cherish it.  Can we give this gift to Iraq, Afghanistan?  Not unless they want it enough to struggle and suffer for it.  History is a great teacher, but only if the students pay attention.

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Filed under Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ignorance, independence, Islam, Middle East, Peace, Politics

Out of the Ghetto…into the Real World

In his book, The Cultural Church, (20th Century Christian, Nashville, 1992) F. LaGard Smith writes:

The world around us today is not interested in what rituals of worship may or may not be authorized by Scripture.  Most modern Americans have no intention of worshipping God either one way or another.  Nor do they perceive any need for a Savior, because with every advance in moral relativism, they experience even less and less moral guilt.  Many (if not most) do not even understand that they have a soul which is accountable to God.  If they have no soul and commit no sin, what need do they have of a Savior?

If the above is true, what makes us think that we can reach out through more appealing worship rituals? Will people come to realize their need for a Savior because we tell them they need one? Will people become aware of an eternal soul just because we tell them they have one? Not very likely!  And yet, this seems to be our strategy for reaching the lost.  Do you think maybe its time to wake up and smell the coffee?  Hello?  Anybody home?

We can preach, teach, sing, pray and plead until our throat caves in and never touch one with a locked-up heart.  Many people heard Jesus preach but only the ones who had “ears to hear” responded.  Even miracles (I mean the real ones…not the fakery of today) cannot pry open the oyster of self-satisfied or self-righteous hearts.  So where does this leave us?  Only with the example of Jesus.

Jesus did not travel about slapping up tents, doing some advertising, and holding gospel meetings.  His insights on worship had to do with attitude not magnitude. Jesus entered people’s lives. He ate dinner with them.  He partied with them.  He met them on the streets.  He spoke their lingo and used stories they understood.  But, most of all, he loved them and they knew it.  When they heard it in his words and saw it in his deeds, they opened up their hearts to him.  If we will become Jesus to our world, the same thing will happen again.

The day we finally decide to do things Jesus’ way instead of “the way we’ve always done it,” will be the day the true Restoration Movement begins.

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Filed under Change Agent, church, Community, Evangelism, Ignorance, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Restoration

Christian Nation? Not Really.

Those who continue to think of the United States as a Christian nation need to face reality.  Even though the nation was founded by believers it has not been perpetuated by such.  We are now a secular nation driven by secular values and goals.  Here’s the reality: we are now governed by greed instead of God.

While the legacy of Christianity continues in many ways (one example: we give more to charity per capita than any other nation) it should not surprise us that resistance to Christian practices performed in public (prayer, for example) is growing and being declared unconstitutional or illegal in more venues.

What bothers me is the response of many Christians: weeping, gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing.  Folks, get used to it…we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  There are so many more important things than praying before a football game.  At the moment still have free speech in this country and we can still proclaim the gospel to those who will listen.  We can still call for justice and mercy.  We can still serve those who suffer.  We can still be Christ in our communities.  We can still expose lies and false teachings.  We can still stand for truth and righteousness.

Let us focus on matters that matter!  It is not time to don sackcloth and sit in the ashes.  It is time to be light in the gathering darkness.


Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, Community, Current Events, Faith, morality

Pinto or Maserati?

murphysinamericansamoa4ha7Is your church (if you are part of one) a Maserati or a Pinto?  My friend Philip Murphy, an attorney in American Samoa, has written an excellent post about how churches (groups of Christians who serve, work and worship together) should see themselves.  It has a lot to do with what our communities think of us.  How they see us has an impact on our evangelism.  See it here and do him the honor of making an intelligent, apropos comment.

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Filed under Change Agent, church, Community, Ekklesia, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Religion, Respect, South Pacific

The Mission: Avoid it or Embrace it?

bob-odleMy dear friend and brother, Robert Odle, has written an excellent post that every committed Christian ought to read, digest and act upon.  You will find it here.

Shall we seek to do what Jesus commanded, or shall we continue to be distracted by things he never mentioned or modeled?  Do yourself a favor and have a look.

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, church, conversion, discipleship, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism