Monthly Archives: November 2006

Those Admirable, Uncompromised Muslims

I watched a news segment this morning about Muslims living in Las Vegas. The report examined how Muslims remain true to their religion while surrounded by three things antithetical to their religion: gambling, alcohol, and public nudity. I think they said 18,000 Muslims live in Vegas. It was an interesting segment.

And I thought: tens of thousands of Christians live and work in Vegas, but the story isn’t about how they remain true to their religion amidst gambling, alcohol, and public nudity. Is it because Christians are viewed as so compromised by the world, that avoiding those vices is not an issue for them? Is that how the world, sadly, sees us? Muslims seek purity, but Christians in America long ago gave up the fight?

One Muslim cab driver admitted that occasionally he goes into a bar and gets a drink. “I’ve been Americanized,” he said with a smile. But because he does it so rarely, he said, “God will forgive me.” Sounds like he’s becoming like too many Christians.

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USC Marches On to Meet Ohio State

Go USC!

I’ve always been a USC football fan, going back to my schooldays in Arizona and California. When I came back to Indiana for college, I took obnoxious pride in the (then) annual Rose Bowl victories by the Pac 8 (now Pac 10) team. One year I worked the main desk in the union building on New Year’s Day and was able to proudly announce that–yes, once again–the Big Ten had been defeated in the Rose Bowl.

My college years were 1975-1979. Each year, the Pac 10 won–USC in 1975, then UCLA, the USC, then Washington, and then USC again in 1979 and 1980. In fact, the Big 10 won just one Rose Bowl during the 1970s–in 1974 (OSU over USC). And their rep was always either Ohio State or Michigan. Meanwhile, the Pac 10 mixed it up with a variety of schools, any of which were up to the challenge of drumming Bo or Woody–Stanford (2 wins), USC (5 wins), UCLA (1), and Washington (1).

During the 1970s, of course, USC had that great string of running backs–Sam Cunningham (4 touchdowns in the Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State), Anthony Davis (I remember watching his 6 touchdowns against Notre Dame), Ricky Bell, and Charles White. And bookending them were OJ Simpson (1968) and Marcus Allen (1981).

A Google search tells me that USC has had more first-round draft choices than any other school–67, with Ohio State close behind at 63. I look forward to seeing those two teams meet in the championship game this year. Though I admit: Michigan has a very good claim to USC’s spot.

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World War 2 Museum

Last Wednesday, Pam and I took my parents to the World War 2 Victory museum in Auburn, Ind. I’ve been wanting to go there ever since the museum opened in 2003. It contains the world’s largest collection of World War 2 vehicles–over 150 of them, a good share of them German vehicles.

Wow, what a place! I loved it. The WW2 movies tend to show the same vehicles–an assortment of tanks, trucks, jeeps, and motorcycles. But my goodness, the variety of vehicles from that period was incredible. Very interesting vehicles like I’ve never seen.

There were no Japanese vehicles. We were told that they were mostly destroyed during the war. So everything was from the European theatre.

The museum is across from the Kruse car auction lot, and is owned by Kruse. He bought the whole collection from a Belgian collector. The WW2 collection is housed in just one side of the mammoth museum building. The other side consisted mostly of the Car and Coach Museum. The cars were nice, but we all felt that the horse-drawn carriages, including some royal carriages and stagecoaches, were the stars of this collection. They also had three Batmobiles–two from movies, plus the TV show Batmobile. Plus Batgirl’s cycle.

Wow, four days since I’ve posted. And I’ve been on vacation. Just shows how busy this vacation has been.

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When Birthdays Are, and Aren’t, Funny

Today is my brother Stu’s birthday. It’s easy to remember, because it was also the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I think Stu is 47. A prime number totally unworthy of any special recognition.

I, of course, turned an ominous 50 a month ago, and Pam made a big deal out of it. As part of it, we had supper with her dad and my parents.

My parents are coming over in a few minutes. I was thinking about the fact that my mom turned 70 in August, but we didn’t do anything special. In fact, I can’t recall anyone celebrating turing 70, or 60 for that matter. But people resume the fanfare maybe at 80, certainly at 90 and 100.

Why’s that? Well, I pondered that, this being a day off from work and little else being available to occupy my mind.

When someone turns 40 or 50, we bring out the black stuff, and the birthday becomes a joke that “you’re getting old” or “you’re now over the hill.” It’s funny. But at 60 and 70–not so funny, because you actually are old and over the hill (sorry Mom). Then when 80 comes, it’s simply a matter of, “Wow,” a sentiment repeated with increasing emphasis at 90 and 100.

So those are my deep insights for today.

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Sweeeet!

On the way home from work today, a little red car was really pushing me. I had to speed up faster than I wanted so I could pass the car in the right-hand lane and then get over myself. When I did, the red car zoomed on by.

A few miles later, I came upon a police car with flashing lights. He had just stopped someone. And words cannot express my delight when I saw it was the little red car.

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Giving a Handout

Yesterday at church, two persons came asking for a handout. I talked to both of them. They told their hard-luck stories and explained what they needed. I’ve heard three such stories in the past couple of weeks, and they were very similar. All three, I’m sure, knew I was listening with skeptical, maybe even cynical, ears. That might explain why they tried so hard, with their rambling words, to convince me that their situation was for real.

What they didn’t know is that I basically accepted (naively, I’m sure) their situations as true, or at least within the ballpark. I certainly didn’t see them as ever becoming rich from handouts. These are guys for whom life is a constant, day-to-day struggle, and nothing will change that. “Begging” is a survival thing, not something they enjoy or take pride in.

For the two guys yesterday…well, these are not guys who would get hired anywhere very easily. There is this whole underclass which, before coming to Anchor, I never saw. People who piece together an existence from government programs, from begging, from occasional work, and from mooching off of relatives and friends. They lack job skills, education, social skills, confidence, and self-esteem.

These are the people for whom the minimum wage matters. If they can find work, it’ll probably be minimum wage. So I’m glad that the Democrats are in charge, because, in their mixture of quasi-good and charlatanish motives, they do intend to raise the minimum wage, whereas it’s nowhere on the radar of Republicans.

The first guy came before the first service, while the worship team was practicing. He said he needed gas money, and wondered if we could provide some food for Thanksgiving. We don’t give out gas money, I learned. I don’t think we give out cash, period, and there are very good reasons for that. But I did give him money (which may or may not go toward gas–I prefer to think it will), and I suggested he stop by the church during the week about his other needs.

The other fellow came halfway through the second service; the worship team had just finished our part, and we were out in the foyer. His arm was in a sling, and lest I not believe his story, he pulled his T-shirt aside to show me a substantial scar on his shoulder. I directed him to Cheryl, who handles our Needy Fund. He sat through about half of the service, so that’s good.

I am unbelievably blessed. Skepticism toward the poor underclass should not be part of my make-up, but I do wrestle with a good chunk of skepticism. If I’m going to err, it needs to be on the side of generosity, not the side of skepticism. But how it works out in everyday life–how and when to give a handout, without becoming some kind of “enabler” (if that concept even applies to people like this)–is not something I’m close to having figured out.

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The Undefeated Run is Over

So the Colts finally lost. Now people can stop talking about an undefeated season, and they can get that distraction off their backs.

The Ohio State – Michigan game lived up to its hype. Tremendous game. I was in Bellefontaine, Ohio, Saturday morning for a meeting. Afterwards, at a gas station, I saw a black fellow wearing a Michigan hooded sweatshirt and cap. I pointed at what he was wearing, chuckled, and said, “You’ve sure got a lot of courage!” He said he worked at the Honda plant and was headed to work, and would miss actually seeing the game. “The Japanese just don’t understand the importance of this game,” he told me.

My USC Trojans kept their march going. I predict it’ll be Ohio State and USC in the title game. If, of course, USC can get past Notre Dame next week. Won’t be easy.

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Gleanings from a Communications Workshop

I’ve been going to write about something I learned last Friday during my Communications workshop at Granger Community Church. The leader was Kem Meyer, Granger’s Communications Director. I took a seminar by her at the MinistryCOM conference in September, out in Phoenix, and loved both the content and her delivery. Her slides expertly use graphic metaphors, with not a single bullet point in sight. And aren’t we all tired of PowerPoint bullet points, which just keep coming and coming and COMING from all directions with tiresome, gimmicked-out flourishes? They are soooo nineties.

Perusing my notes, I see a lot of good stuff, but nothing which I feel compelled (or smart enough) to expand upon. So I thought I’d just bullet-point some tidbits which I found interesting, useful, or insightful. These are not necessarily the main points. Just things I scribbled down.

  • Churches are often a small number of people overhyping their product. Can they really deliver on their promise of health, success, good families, etc?
  • People want information, but not more information. They have a specific question, and want the answer to that question.
  • Don’t give people more choices to make. It has negative consequences, regardless of generation. Boomers get overwhelmed and shut down, GenXers fuss over whether or not they’re making the right decision, and GenYers just ignore you and move on.
  • Pastors can be prostitues or prophets. A prostitute is someone you pay to make you feel good. A prophet tells you what you need to hear.
  • In trying to reach nonChristians, put them in their comfort zone. That may mean behind a cup of coffee, or in front of multimedia.
  • People today enjoy the buzz of large groups, but they like to process in small groups.
  • If you can’t maintain something, don’t implement it. (For instance, a website.)
  • True creativity comes from limited resources.
  • Two types of people read the bulletin: first-time visitors, and people looking to see if you used their announcement.
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Why So Few Missionaries?

My friend Dave Datema serves with the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena, Calif., and his blog, “Freakin’ Missionary,” is one of blogs I check every day. He grew up as a missionary kid in Jamaica and Sierra Leone, and now he works alongside missions statesman Ralph Winter.

In today’s post (November 9, 2006), Dave presents two explanations on why so few Americans are signing up to be missionaries. These are well worth repeating here.

View #1: The main problem is that there are major hurdles in the way of missionary service. Some of the major ones are: raising financial support, school and consumer debt, the stigma of being a narrow-minded fundamentalist who believes his/her views of salvation are absolute and for everyone, parents who’d rather hold grandbabies than touch the nations, and the loneliness involved in pursuing something off the beaten track of one’s peers. It is HARD.

View #2: The only real problem is that people today simply don’t want it bad enough. Stop this incessant whining about how hard everything is. What do you expect? What did Jesus warn? The hurdles to missionary service have always been daunting, even more so in years past – MUCH more so. Do we really need to hand-hold people into missions? ¬†Wouldn’t it be better to give them a kick in the pants instead? Waa, waa, waa. I wish CT Studd would come back to life and give us a lesson in sacrifice and commitment. It’s enough to make a person puke.

Check out his post for the rest of his self-described rant, and while you’re there, page down through some of the rest of his posts. He writes with a blunt edge. There’s a lot of good stuff regarding missions.

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Granger Community Church

Last Friday Pam and I attended seminars at Granger Community Church near South Bend, Ind. It’s considered one of the nation’s most innovative churches. They run about 6000 people on Sundays, and they focus laser-like on reaching the lost. I took a seminar on Communications, and Pam took one called “Maximizing the Arts,” which revolved around worship. Both were excellent.

Granger is a superb church. I loved hearing about their ministry. Loved gleaning great ideas. I highly respect what they do. And I’m glad I don’t go there.

Size matters. The critical mass of people and money enable a church to do things with great quality. And it enables a whole lot of people to go under-used in ministry. The demand for high expertise (to reach the desired level of quality) means many talented (but not highly talented) people ride the bench. I basically did that for a number of years at my previous, fast-growing church (my fault–there was no need for my service, so I didn’t provide much service). At Anchor I have no doubts about how much I’m needed, and I can work my butt off in ministry. I can truly use all of my skills and gifts in fulfilling ways, and do things that give me great joy (like playing the piano), whereas at a megachurch I would have little to offer.

At the end of the day, we got a tour of the Granger facility. Our guide, a fellow in his 50s, clearly loved being part of something alive and growing. He was articulate, a good thinker, probably a successful professional. And I thought of how valuable a guy like that would be at Anchor, and how much he could do to help us reach our neighborhood for Christ. More than he’s doing at Granger…?

But churches like Granger are doing wonderful things. I can’t knock them. Nor do I accept the postmodernist arguments that the days of the megachurch are numbered. I think those days are just beginning. Many people (like me) will be drawn to small communities. But it seems that a much larger number of people will be drawn to megachurches–good for some people, bad for others. Sorry, Brian McLaren, but I don’t see the sky falling on megachurches.

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