Friday, August 26, 2011

Oddly Conservative: Parents and Kids

So here goes part 3 of my “oddly conservative” blog series. What I find interesting about this so far is the amount of input I have gotten from a crowd I have not heard from before. I enjoy being a free thinker/free believer and stretching…wrestling…debating theological issues. All you have to do is hang out with me for a bit and you will find this out. I really don’t get offended by a whole lot, especially other people’s opinions or doctrinal beliefs. In fact I welcome it because I may learn something along with the way. I have to be careful though because though I label myself as one...even free thinkers/free believers can be some of the most close minded people. If your experience does not align with theirs and you still see the cup as half are in trouble. I will say that sadly those who have had nothing but good experiences or hide the bad ones can come across as pompous and arrogant which drives me nuts.

The thing that I see quite a bit since I was a youth pastor beginning in 1995 is the after school activities ramping up. Do you remember when soccer and other sports NEVER met on Wednesday nights? If you do you might even remember when stores were closed on Sundays. This is where I become “old school” and again…it is my opinion.

Growing up in church, I along with many friends from my church…it was never an option to miss either a Sunday or Wednesday night program (Royal Rangers, Youth Group, Awana, etc.) due to extracurricular activities. To be honest with you my Dad never gave us an option. was a lifestyle not a weekly decision. Anything I or other kids wanted to sign up for pertaining to school had to run through the filter of “will it interfere with church activities?” Kind of like the question most youth pastors ask when a teen tells him/her they are dating, "Is he/she a Christian?" If it did interfere then the parents would talk to the coach and ask if something could be worked out. If not…then plain and simple we were not involved with it. It was not because “that sport is evil because it pulls you away from church” it was simply because parents wanted their kids in church. In my own experience and many of my friends on Facebook we found it to be a great experience. I never did want to miss youth group…I wouldn’t have mind missing a few morning services but even Sunday night church was fun.

So why am I such a stick in the mud when it comes to parents getting their kids to come to church? Again…I say church but however that looks for you is what’s important (home fellowship group, etc.). The reason why is that I remember being 14 or 15 and thinking when I get my license and car…church will be the last place you will find me. However…thanks to my parents who were willing to be hated by me, and some very cool youth pastors and senior pastor (still at Poplar Creek Church) I never wanted to leave. The fact of the matter is I was ticked when I had to miss as I became 18 and began to work full time. If it was not for those guidelines in my life (though some may say were legalistic) I can say I would not be where I am today because of it. I was able to weather two horrific storms in church politics as a pastor. I am able to come alongside other hurting people in the church and help them find hope. Trust me when I say, If my parents did not at times MAKE me come to church, I would not have gone and probably would not be where I am today.

I believe it is healthy for parents to setup boundaries. I dealt with many teens in youth group and speaking engagements where there are no boundaries. As one person said, "a river without boundaries is just a swamp." Will boundaries solve everything? Nope. I would like to believe though that they would certainly curtail the number of Christian drop-outs however. I can only pray that I raise my kids the same way and when those teen years come…I can be as cool with them as my parents were with me and that they stick to it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oddly Conservative: Christian Music

So here is part two in this series entitled, “Oddly Conservative.” One of my great passions is music. Pretty much any kind of music you throw at me I will more than likely enjoy…except (wait for it)….COUNTRY.

Growing up I was never really into music at all until my brother one Christmas bought me my first, Guardian and Sacred Warrior tapes. I was instantly sold and began to listen to more and more Christian music. By time I was 17/18 years old I was DJ’ing for a Christian skate-night my youth pastor and I started. It began with one night a month and rapidly turned into every Friday night from 9 until Midnight at Milwaukee’s premiere skate rink. I formed a great relationship with the local Christian bookstore (while working for another) and began getting all kinds of underground and hard to find Christian music from rock to rap to rave. It was rare if the skate rink didn’t close their doors each Friday night because they ran out of skates which meant 450+ people.

My favorite style of music still to this day is industrial and goth. Everything else I enjoy as well. During my mid 20’s though I began to enjoy more and more of the mainstream stuff as well (I hate the word secular). My collection of 4500 CD’s and cassettes went from ALL Christian to mainstream as well including, Pink Floyd, Ozzy, Phish, Rush, and more. I have and remain very open minded about all things music unless it is a new album from, Brad Paisley.

This is what’s oddly conservative about me in regards to church music. I do not care for in the least classic hymns that are redone to include verses that were never in the original version. I also do not care for beautiful hymns such as How Great Thou Art; It is Well With My Soul, etc. butchered into something that completely sounds like garbage. Now I have heard some classics redone musically and they are phenomenal. The worship leader, Monica Barden at the church I pastor always hits it out of the park when she re-works an old song of the church.

However, when an artist takes an old hymn and adds some new lyrics and breathy or grunting voice behind it…to me it is an epic fail. Now I am not a musician but to add some lyrics to an already perfect song to me shows no creative ability. Where in mainstream pop-culture do you see someone adding a few extra chords to Moonlight Sonata making the new way the standard in which we hear it? Who would dream of adding a few new chords to Canon in D. So why add some lines to, Amazing Grace and throw out some of the original verses?

Call me old fashioned but I prefer people don’t mess with the old songs if it means getting rid of the original wording or music. Many churches probably have not sung the original, Amazing Grace in a long time. I don’t need marketing gurus telling today’s puppets of Christian top 40 what to add or change to make an extra buck by desecrating a pillar of the Christian music scene. Over and over you hear these redos on Christian radio which gets sickening after a half hour of listening. It is my opinion leave the music alone and let the beauty of its original wording and orchestrations still move people like the day it was written.

btw...the person standing in the picture with me is, Eric Clayton of "Saviour Machine." My fav. group that does Christian goth...think Wagner meets Pink Floyd.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oddly Conservative: Church Attendance

Tonight, I begin a series that will last one week entitled: Oddly Conservative. Many people have me pegged as a pretty liberal pastor which is not all bad. One of the best compliments I have gotten as a pastor is “you are very worldly.” Now before we shoot that through our “Christian filter” they were not talking “worldly” in the way fundie refers to the word. Rather they were talking about how I am savvy on things going on around the world and within pop-culture. So…with that said…some of my blogs may offend and some may love them. This should not change what you think of me because I am quite sure if I sat down with you and a cup of coffee for an intelligent conversation…there would be some quirky things I would find out about you.

I think the first thing I am conservative about given my upbringing is church attendance. I truly believe there is still hope for the church. Yes I understand many people have been hurt by the church…I HAVE BEEN THERE in a very real way and can relate. But for me to write of church because I had a bad experience would be like me writing off “Noodles and Company” because I had bad service at one location. That is simply crazy.In our study at church on Wednesday nights I love that N.T. Wright still finds this concept to be a great thing.

The argument out there is that “we are the church” and I get that. I do not believe you need a building to have church. I believe you do not need the building to have a certain look in order to be “the church.” I honestly do not care if you meet in a school, home, pub, etc. In my humble opinion I think today’s Christians has made church a weekly decision and not a lifestyle decision. To be completely honest with you I am grateful my parents made sure we were at church every Sunday morning (and Sunday night because that was the trend) and Wednesday nights. The programs were great and I think all in all I turned out alright. This is the same thing we are doing with our kids. Being a pastor, I am required to be at church more often but that will not be required of my children. Sunday’s and midweek will work for me. I find the statistics interesting with parents that try to be "the cool parents" and don't take there kids to church vs. the ones that do. The ones raised by "the cool parents" are statistically more likely to not even attend a church gathering of any kind.

No doubt people need a weekend here or there because they are sick or on vacation or just want to stay home after working…I get that. In the broad spectrum though I think it is very healthy to role-model church attendance to our children and quite honestly it is good for us as adults. I can already hear parents saying, “you just wait until your kids are in sports or are teenagers and don’t want to go.” My response for that is going to be in another blog ;-).

I believe in Hebrews 10:25(NIV) “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” There is certainly a push you get when you can meet together with other people on a weekly basis. No doubt we get fellowship in other places but there is something to be said about being with a church (however that may look for you) and making sure if you have kids…they attend. I love Facebook but I need to physically be with people.

Well…there is the first thing I am oddly conservative about. Did I scare you yet? You will find I am actually old fashion in some ways over the next week. Don't worry though...though I am conservative in some not so conservative Christians....I am with you as well!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steeple Envy

Luke 6:45(NIV) "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks"

Today I was reminded once again of how full of hate select pastors can be while throwing it under the title of “anointed” or “righteously indignant.” I heard another message that was pointing right at me and things I used to do as a youth pastor. It never ceases to amaze me when much of a pastors message is about how wrong everyone else is and how right they are. These kind of messages truly reflect a speakers heart that “for out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” and what is being spoken is nothing less than jealousy and insecurity. These are the people who don't have much of a message so they must tear down everyone else to make themselves look and sound good.

There is a simple way a person can tell who is insecure in a group of people. Usually the insecure person is the one that points out of the flaws of everyone else. Why is this? Are they sad they are not like the thing/person they are pointing out? Do they feel inadequate? Are they compensating for the lack of stuff they don't have? The world will never know. What I do know is usually the ones that do this kind of thing are the ones who claim to be the least judgmental. However, all a person has to do is sit back and listen to a message and I am quite sure you will find more spiritual fruit from a re-run of Beavis and Butthead than you would from a message like these.

What I find amazing and I make a conscious effort not to do is talk about other ministries in my messages. What is it going to accomplish? Nine times out of ten if I do talk about the Catholics or Lutherans or SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW it is to pray for them or wish them well. What kind of pastor would I be if I kept talking about other ministries through my messages only to try and escalate my own ministry. The message that would send is “basically my church/ministry is so wrong and off base that I have to tear down other ministries/ministers in order to make mine look better.” This is what I would call “steeple envy.”

Over and over I hear people tell me to “just let it go and move on” when I hear my name referenced in messages that bash me. Some ministries have begun to wise up and not use my name because of backlash. However, I believe it is important to talk about. IN FACT I would encourage those that attend a church like this to re-examine what is being taught. I think people prefer to be taught Biblical principles and study deeper things rather than putting down other ministries so that theirs would be exalted. It appears that attitude does reflect leadership because in a church where this is the common practice (just listen to any podcast from a pastor/leader to figure out if it is true or not) than it is safe to assume the leadership is insecure and has quite a bit of steeple envy therefore causing it to over compensate.

Yes the day will come when I visit these churches unannounced. What a day that shall be.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

10 Things I learned Writing a Book

So it has been almost two months since the launch of my first but not last book. It has been quite a learning experience and so I will share with you ten things I have learned about the book writing process.

(If you are married) It is very important that you have the support of your spouse. I am fortunate enough to have that. There will be those times where 10:00 p.m. you are all of a sudden feeling creative…it is great to have a spouse that understands that.

2. If you are not writing about something vanilla then don’t expect to get the endorsement from people/organizations you would have thought or asked. People get very nervous around people who are not afraid to look at things differently and truly share their opinion. This point was and remains a huge let down for me. Unreturned emails and phone calls are something I would never expect but it happens.

3. You can expect to get endorsements from those you least likely expected. I was amazed and blessed by those who are simply jazzed by authentic conversation and opinions. From missionaries to those would call themselves atheists, I got endorsements from these people. Awesome.

4. Be sure to get a great publisher. I am blessed to have one and it makes the process all the more easy.

5. People automatically assume because you wrote a book then you must be rich. Quite simply put….NOPE. I went the route of self-publishing and that is no different than an independent artist…lots of leg work.

6. Surprisingly those who you thought as near friends will end up bailing because your thoughts are not their thoughts. Again…people get very nervous around people who are not afraid to look at things differently and truly share their opinion.

7. It is amazing how many people mention “I am not sure about your book…would you mind giving me a free one?” What?

8. Don’t release your book too soon. As my friend, Darin Hufford told me “There is a lot of preliminary work that needs to be done before you launch your book.” I now know that to be true.

9. Self-publishing is a great route to go. If you do get picked up with a book deal stay true to who you are.

10. No matter how silly or irrelevant something may be that you are writing…use it. I am simply amazed at the comments I get from people on entries in my book that I thought were actually kind of goofy.

Fact of the matter is that the book writing process is long, fun, hard, great, difficult and yet rewarding. My biggest let down has not been lack of sales. The fact is I gave away many copies. My biggest let down is with those who I thought would have supported this project. Ah well…the things you learn to make the journey all the sweeter. I sure have made many new friends through the process and for that I am so grateful!