How Amos Might Speak to Today’s Fractious Church

The prophet Amos was an unlikely spokesman for God. A shepherd from South Judah, he delivered a series of stinging messages in North Israel. To say that his words were out of step with the typical “prophetic messages” of his day is an understatement, for he delivered sermons no one believed or even wanted to […]

Romans 14 and Judging Others As They Reopen (Or Don’t)

I wish judging wasn’t such a big thing, especially in the church. But it is. It’s human nature to compare. People judge other people. Ministers judge other ministers. Churches judge other churches. The kingdom of heaven is a world without this kind of judging, just as Eden was a comparison-less world. Adam wasn’t worried about who had the […]

This Pandemic Is a Chance to Rethink Your Church’s Mission

Pandemic reveals who you are and what you’re made of. It scours away the pretenses under which you operate. It unearths the true character of your church. The covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is already an unprecedented disruption. While some are hoping for a quick return to normal, realistic models show nothing less than eight weeks of […]

Investing in the Church’s Interior Health

The present condition in Churches of Christ looks bleak. I have a three-part thesis as to how we got here. It’s more complicated than this, I know, but this informs what I think is (and isn’t) needed at this crucial juncture. First, Churches of Christ thrived in the can-do era of post-World-War-2 America because we […]

God’s Mission Requires Radical Prayer, Fasting

If your church is like mine, then you likely spent the past 25 years deconstructing the unhealthy elements of your faith. You slowly and painfully stripped away the toxic lies. A previous generation had taught a legalistic view of faith, and you needed to undo that. You finally realized that salvation was not dependent on […]

The Dark Side of Grace in Churches of Christ

Jack Whittaker’s huge Powerball jackpot cost him just about everything. The drawing was on Christmas Day 2002. The Powerball lottery had reached frenzied proportions for what would be the biggest, undivided payout in history. Occasional gamblers like Jack Whittaker only played when the jackpot was a couple hundred million or more. At his regular morning […]

The Power of Naming

You cannot change what you will not name. I do not know the origins of this quote, but I have full confidence in its truthfulness. The dysfunction of our individual lives and of our entire society becomes increasingly worse when we fail to acknowledge the pain that lies beneath the brokenness. No one is exempt […]

One Word for the Church: Mission

Jesus. Love. God. All great one-word messages for the church. Hard to argue against those. If I had one word for the church, though, it would be something else. Yes, we need Jesus. Yes, we ought to be defined by love. Yes, our allegiance has to be to God above all other powers. I don’t […]

Combating Fear with the Parabolic Power of Disruption

There’s a reason why Jesus told parables and not myths. An example of a myth is “Beauty and the Beast.” In its simplest form, the story resolves all inherent problems. The tension of the drama concludes in the most ideal fashion. The beast is released from his beastliness and becomes a beautiful prince. Together with […]

2017, Rom 15:4-13 & A Plea for Unity (part 4): Welcome Each Other!

In the 1980s the Black Student Association at Fresno State displayed this slogan, “We have a SIN problem, not a SKIN problem.” It’s a true statement that sounds overly simplistic. Skin problems are still here because sin is still here. Some briefly thought we might be living in a post-racial world. We now realize that sin hasn’t gone […]

2017, Rom 15:4-13 & A Plea for Unity (part 3): Paul’s Fictional Turmoil

If the Book of Romans is Paul’s most important letter, then we ought to hone in on passages such as Rom 15:4-13. These ten verses summarize the entire message of book: The good news is that ALL are God’s chosen people—both Jews and Gentiles. Glory be to God! Paul’s universalist-sounding message brings up a key question. […]

2017, Rom 15:4-13 & A Plea for Unity (part 2): The Divider-in-Chief

Does religion divide people? Is it race, socioeconomic status or politics that separates us? Is our world and are the churches that inhabit that world hopelessly divided by things that we are helpless to control? As a Jew trained by the prominent Jewish teacher Gamaliel, Paul had learned that what divided people was religion. Jews […]

2017, Romans 15:4-13 & A Plea for Unity (part 1): Intro

As we leave behind the acrimonious year of 2016, can I make a plea for unity among God’s people in 2017? Paul made a similar appeal in the first century. His letter to the Romans provides us with clear markers for how to get there. In particular, Romans 15:4-13 is a text that summarizes the complex message […]

Defining Your “We”

The Mennonite professor stood in front of his Christian Ethics class at a local seminary. It was the first day of class. “Take out a sheet of paper and answer the following question: What should we have done after 9/11? Quickly write down what you think we should have done.” Students scribbled furiously for a […]

Rhetorical Violence & The People of God

To illustrate how far down the wrong path many Christians have gone, consider the following not-so-far-fetched, hypothetical situation: Christian protesters stand in opposition to one another. All carry picket signs that read, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” One group is against abortion. The other is protesting the death penalty. But get this. Each group is opposed to the other’s issues. The […]

Dialing Back the Ministry of Division

Can’t wait until my “loving Christian brothers and sisters” weigh in on this issue and trash our president. They’ll no doubt refer to those pardoned as “scum of the earth who deserve to rot in jail.” This zinger caught my worship minister’s eye in a recent Facebook conversation. She was initially shocked by the words. […]

Blind Bartimaues and the Upside-Down Disciples

An upside down world? Or an upside down church? Where we sit determines not just our perspective but also decides whether or not we need to be turned upside down in order to effectively live out the good news of the Kingdom. If you spend any time reading Mark’s Gospel, you can’t help but feel […]

A Changing World, A Frozen Zoo & The Need for Adaptive Change

“Frozen Zoo Offers Last Chance for Some Species.” This was the headline from a February 12 Fresno Bee story. According to the article, San Diego Zoo researchers have spent 40 years amassing genetic material from 1,000 different species. These are all preserved in nitrogen-cooled, stainless steel vats—thus the Frozen Zoo moniker. One of the most critical […]

The Empty-Hands Approach to Being a Missional Church

Emil Brunner famously said this in the 1930s: “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” In other words the very essence of the church is to be mission. Just as a fire that is no longer burning is no longer a fire, so too a church that is no longer living […]

The Problem with “Winning”

The World Cup’s in full swing in Brazil. To most people, this is the greatest sporting event on earth. Correction: It’s the greatest event (not just sporting) for most of our planet. For what other reason would one billion people tune in to watch 11 guys from Croatia or Ivory Coast? But it’s unimportant to […]