Sunday, March 27, 2005

Blog Break

Christ the Lord is risen today! Three great Easter services at Grace, SLO this morning!

Our family is taking a week vacation which will involve a total media blackout. . . .no phones, no computer and no blogs. So life together will officially be on break until Monday, April 4. Have a great week!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Recommendation: William Lane Craig

As we come upon Easter weekend, it's a good time to reflect upon and review the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Check out some of these great articles by Willaim Lane Craig. . . .

William Lane Craig Articles: Historical Jesus

Craig is a Prof and Apologist at Talbot School of Theology, where I went to seminary.

If Jesus Christ didn't rise from the dead, then Christianity isn't true and it doesn't work. . . . we are of all men most to be pitied!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Psalm 22: A Cry from the Cross

I encouraged you to read it before the Good Friday Service. I thought I would make it easy for you. Here it is, NAS version. Here is the basis of our "life together". . .

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.

Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them.

To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.

All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,

“Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.

Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.

They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;

They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.

Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog.

Save me from the lion’s mouth; from the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.

I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.

You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.

For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You.

For the kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, all those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive.

Posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.

They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

You never know who is reading. . . .

Its true. Blogging is a crazy thing. You never know who is reading. I received the following email yesterday from Steven Smith, the webmaster over at Crossway Bibles, publisher of the ESV, in response to my Hymnals & Pew Bibles Series (keep reading below). He, like me, likes the open diaolgue we're having. Thanks for logging in Steven. . . . Oh and yea, I'll take a look at that complementary pew Bible you mentioned. . . .


I’m the webmaster for Crossway Bibles, which publishes the ESV. I’ve read your ongoing Hymnals and Pew Bibles saga on your blog, and I want to let you know that if you have any questions about the ESV I’d be happy to answer them for you.

Some of your commenters have hit the nail on the head about why we like the ESV--that it is “word for word” accurate but retains the literary character of the King James. It’s not as tough to understand as a strictly literal translation might be. Obviously, we think it strikes the best balance between accuracy and readability, but we recognize that people prefer other translations--and in fact we think that’s great.

As to the cost issue, one of the commenters mentioned that we sell the ESV pew edition for $6.90 each if you buy them in packs of 24, which you might do if you’re planning to give them away.

Finally, the ESV’s popularity in the marketplace is something we grapple with. All I can say about that is that sales are growing strongly--they were up 114% over the last year. Obviously that growth comes off a small base, but we’re hoping to sustain the growth.

If there’s anything I can do to help you with your decision, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I would be happy to send you a free copy of the pew edition so you can examine it.

Finally, I want you to know that we plan to start an ESV blog in the near future, and this blog entry (#5) is one I’d like to link to. Even if you decide not to pursue the ESV, I think the discussion is valuable for visitors to our site to know about. A lot of churches are going through the decisions you’re facing; you’re just doing it in the open.

Stephen Smith
Good News / Crossway


New Posts on the Mission's Blog

The GraceSLO Mission's Blog is starting to work! Check recent posts from the Mocks, Rob Gunn and the boys in Nigeria.

Where are the rest of the those Grace missionaries and how do we get them blogging?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Easter Email to the Grace Family

Here's an email I am trying to send to our church family. Apparently, we are having some problems with our large email list. I thought I would post it.

Also, if you live here on the Central Coast of California, consider this your invitation. We would love to have you join us for Good Friday or Easter Sunday Services. Details below. . . .

Beloved Grace Family,

It's Holy Week and I hope we are moving toward Good Friday and Easter together. I know some of our Grace family will be heading out of town for the weekend. Have a great trip, be safe, and know that you will be missed. May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Others of us have friends and family coming to the Central Coast for the holiday weekend. For those of us who are staying around, I wanted to drop you a line and encourage you to be prayerfully inviting friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to come and worship with us at our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. My experience is that the Central Coast continues to be a relatively spiritually open community. Let's take advantage of that fact, as we seek to faithfully BE the church, sharing and showing the Good News of Jesus to our broader community. Remember, too, that people are most likely to respond to a personal invitation from a friend, not a newspaper, TV or radio ad. Ask them to come and tell them you will save them a seat! Be warm and bold!

Here's a preview of what will be happening this weekend, so you can effectively invite a friend. . .

Good Friday Service, 7:00 PM: Childcare will be provided through 2 years old. This is the darkest, most contemplative service of the year for obvious reasons. As is our tradition, the service will feature readings based on the "Seven Last Words of Christ." I will give a short meditation based on Psalm 22. I want to encourage you and your family to read and discuss Psalm 22 ahead of time. This service will be approximately one hour long.

Easter Sunday Services, 8:00, 9:30, 11:00 AM: Sunday School will be held through kindergarten. It's Resurrection Sunday! We celebrate in big style with a full orchestra and choir performing selections from Handel's Messiah. The title of my message will be, "Is there really life beyond the grave?" This will be the first in a four part Heaven series that will be preached by nearly 40 other churches throughout the Central Coast. This first message will tackle the question from Biblical, intellectual and emotional angles. I will show what the Bible says, what the resurrection evidence says, and what the human heart and history say about the question of life after death. I will work hard to speak to the mind and heart of the believer and non-believer alike, but my primary focus will be on engaging the unchurched and unconvinced. I hope you will feel both safe and bold to invite non-believers in your sphere of influence. My goal is not too necessarily to make them feel comfortable (the Gospel is anything but comfortable!), but very warmly welcomed. These services will be right around one hour long as well. Remember the change in service times. . . 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00!

Last Sunday, we included Easter Sunday invite cards in your worship folder. Use them and if you need more just come by the church office. I have also attached an electronic version of the card below, so that you might invite folks via email. Just cut and paste the graphics into your own email invite and forward to your friend. Also, look for our Easter ad in the Tribune this week!

I will be praying for you as you step out in bold and winsome faith. Please be praying Ephesians 6:19 for me, as I prepare.

With great expectation and anticipation,

Pastor Tim

AWANA Yacht Races

Many thanks to our faithful AWANA Commander, Larry McCrigler, to James Borland and to others for the terrific 2005 AWANA Yacht Races last evening. There were some great designs and some built simply for speed.

I am convinced some of the parents enjoy this more than the kids. I heard a rumor that a local fire station crew even got into the action, but I promised not to spill the beans. My lips are sealed.

AWANA is a pretty neat program.

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 6

Now we are getting some good dialogue going!

I had a great conversation with Dave McShea last night about Bible translation. Yesterday, I also encountered a great example of how Bible translation can impact the meaning of the text in my preparation for Good Friday. Let me show you. . .

I am working on Psalm 22, which is truly an amazing text. (Take a look before Friday!) The passage can be neatly divided into two sections: 1. A Cry of Agony in 1-21, and 2. A Cry of Victory in 22-31. I'm convinced there is a significant turning point, a shift, a transition at the end of verse 21, but not all English translations show it. Consider the four English versions we've mentioned. . . .

New American Standard (NAS): Psa. 22:21 Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.

New King James Version (NKJV): Psa. 22:21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.

New International Version (NIV): Psa. 22:21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

English Standard Version (ESV): Psa. 22:21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Do you see the difference? James Montgomery Boice says this in his commentary on the Psalms:

The climax of the first part of Psalm 22 and the turning point between part one and part two comes in verses 19-21, as the suffering Savior finds his communion with God restrored. . . . The verb translated "save me" (in v. 21) literally means "you have heard," and it is held to the end so that the final couplet should actually read

Rescue me from the mouth of the lions,
from the horns of the wild oxen. You have heard me!

This is a cry of triumph, not despair. It marks the moment at which the period of darkness passess and Jesus, having sufferend a true alienation from the Father as a punishment for our sins, becomes aware of God's presence and favor again.

So, the NAS and NKJV both capture this idea, whereas the NIV and ESV both miss it. In the NIV verse 21 looks like a continuing cry for help rather than a recognition that God's presence has come. The ESV is better, but still not as good as the NAS or NKJV. In fact, I think I like the punctuation of the NKJV best.

Now this is not a huge deal, but I show it to you just to illustrate the fact that interpreation is always happening with translation. (Note, this is not a textual variant issue, but a translation issue.) I thought it was interesting that this came up yesterday as we have been discussing these issues. Personally, I buy Boice's argument!

Do you get it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 5

Earlier posts have established that Grace is committed to purchasing new pew Bibles and to giving them away as needed. We want to be "missional" in this way, posturing ourselves toward the unchurched and helping them enter in.

The outstanding question is, "Which version?"

The New International Version (NIV) is far and away the most popular. It's the version that's in our pews now. It's a good and useful translation. Why not just go with it?

Different versions are based on different theories of translation. The NIV is a "concept for concept" translation, rather than a "word for word" translation. The intent is to make the Bible more readable and English friendly.

I prefer an English translation that is as close to the original Greek as possible. I prefer a "word for word" translation. Why? Do the individual words matter that much?

Jesus said. . . Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. --Matthew 5:17-18 (Listen to the sermon!)

The smallest letter and punctuation mark mattered to Jesus, not just the concepts. They should matter to us, too.

The Apostle Paul said . . . All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; --2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture, not just the concepts or ideas of Scripture. I believe that inspiration (and inerrancy) extends to the very words of Scripture.

Whenever we translate from one language to anotother, there is interpretation that happens, but I believe that interpretation is minimized with a "word for word" translation. I desire as accurate an English version as I can get my hands on, even if its more wooden and less readable. (I am not saying that the NIV and paraphrase translations are worthless. Please don't hear that! I am not bashing the NIV. Rather, I am sharing why I don't prefer the NIV as a choice for our pew Bibles.)

I currently preach from the New American Standard Version, updated edition. I do so because it is an excellent "word for word" translation, but also because I have used it since I was a child. I have memorized a ton of Scripture from the NAS. Its what I know and love. (OK, so this is personal and emotional.) Since I arrived, many folks have followed my lead and gone out and purchased their own NAS Bibles. I haven't asked them to do it, but they've done it on their own. The NAS would be an easy and natural choice for a pew Bible.

I have been intrigued by the introduction of the new English Standard Version (ESV). Along with others, John Piper has switched over and has communicated his commitment to the ESV (Worthwhile read!). The ESV is also a modern "word for word" translation. It's not as familiar to me, but I could live with it. If I thought the ESV was the hot new translation that is on its way to becoming the standard English translation, I would not hesitate to switch over and purchase ESV Pew Bibles. But from what I hear, the ESV is not yet really catching on. Steve Potratz, at the Parable, informs me sales have not been great. I also understand that there is not yet an affordable ESV pew bible available. Not yet.

So because of my personal investment and other's investment in the NAS, it is difficult to justify a move to the ESV for Grace Church, SLO. Once more I find myself swimming against the tide of our culture. (I don't think that's a personality thing, but I could be wrong.) Its a big decision and a significant financial investment. I would love somebody to convince me that the ESV is the way to go. Anybody want to try? At this point, I'm still leaning in the NAS direction. Your comments and convincing are welcome.

NAS or ESV? Any New King James folks out there?

We'll leave the forum open for a week!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Jana Alayra Concert Feedback?

We had the privilege of having Jana Alayra and her band with us here at Grace Church, SLO last evening. What a fun evening of ministry to kids and young families! Jana does an excellent job involving the audience and even got moms and dads involved throughout the evening. I appreciate how Jana's music is so grounded in Scripture and Biblical truth. My own children had a blast!

In an attempt to try and determine who is reading life together and also evaluate the value of an event like this in the future, I want to encourage you to leave a feedback comment about the Jana Alayra Concert. Can you take a couple of minutes now?

• Should we have Jana back? How soon?
• Should we do other events like this at Grace Church, SLO?
• Would you invite others to experience Jana if we were to have her back?
• Was the ticket price reasonable and worthwhile?
• What did you like and dislike about the evening?
• Any other suggestions or comments?

Many thanks to Pastor Al, Children's Director Dori Iunker, and Ted and Penny Malley for the their hard work in organizing and hosting this neat event. Thanks also to Evan Chechopoulos, David and Dede Leece, our Usher Team, and our Boy Scout Troup for their help and involvement last evening.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wednesday Evening with Grace, SLO Youth

I had a neat time with the High School and Junior High Youth Groups this last Wednesday. The evening was designed as a "Get to Know the Pastor" night. I came away encouraged by their heart-felt, God-centered worship and the many great questions that were asked. I shared pieces of my story, how I ended up in full-time vocational ministry, about my family, what movies I am watching, what books I am reading, and a bunch of other stuff.

I tried to leave them with the simple truth that there are basically two ways to live our lives. . .

We can live BY self FOR self


We can live BY faith in Jesus and the Gospel FOR God.

We are right now, and every moment of our lives, living in one of these two ways. Each morning we wake up and we begin to live in one of these two ways. I think they heard it.

I hope your youth came home and shared even just a little bit about our sweet time together!

The longer I am here, the more I am getting know names and faces. I am so grateful for Pastor Ken and Judi Peet, Intern Steve & Nikki Dauphin, and the many adult staff who are faithfully investing their lives in the next generation. And I am so encouraged by the better integration I see happening between our youth group and the larger church body.

Shout Out to Grace Youth: You are such a valued and important part of Grace Church, SLO. We love you and give thanks for you. I'll see you in church on Sunday! (Will someone tell them they've been BLOGGED?)

I miss playing foosball!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Donny & Danny off to Nigeria

Donny Valliere and Danny Edwards, two dear brothers and Grace, SLO congregants, have just set out for Nigeria for ten days or so. This week the Missions Team and Elder Team both had the privilege of laying hands on these men and praying for them as they step out in faith (ala Acts 13). Danny has posted a preview of their trip and few details on the Grace, SLO Mission's Blog. And they have promised to send some updates from the field. We'll post them when we get them.

We love these men and are excited about their obedience to the Great Commission!

Blog Recommendation: JOLLYBLOGGER

On Fridays I tend to make film, book or blog recommendations. Check out JOLLYBLOGGER, whom I have just added to my blogroll on the right. Jollyblogger is written by a sharp and witty Presbyterian (I'm guessing PCA) pastor in Maryland. He's been at it a long time and is cranking out the posts.

Here are two posts that I thought were interesting and worth reading. . .

Blogging is Good for Your Brain. . . .are you experiencing the benefits yet?


Are Christians allowed to do anything just for the fun of it? . . . Three ways to watch movies: morally, redemptively, and just for fun. I would like to read the original posts referenced, but couldn't find them.

Let me know what you think of JOLLYBLOGGER.

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 4

Check out the very spirited comments in response to yesterday's post! I am not surpised that some feel passionate about these matters. I like that conviction. I also like this blog as way to float balloons and test the waters as we make decisions and try to move forward by God's grace and for His Glory. Fun stuff.

Ok, so I thought that my idea to give away pew Bibles on an ongoing basis was an original brainchild! So much for that thought. Several series commenters suggested the same idea and refrenced churches that already are doing this.

That's our vision, albeit apparently not original. Grace Church, SLO has so many visitors each Sunday. It kind of blows me away. I came from a much more static environment. Grace is much more dynamic. I love this about Grace. Add it to the list! Its exciting to know with confidence that each Sunday I am preaching to many who have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Its also a unique challenge. . . . to edify and evangelize at the same time all the time. . . . to put Biblical material on every shelf and across the spiritual maturity spectrum. We have folks coming who don't know how to use a Bible and perhaps don't own a Bible. Do you realize that? Do you think about that? What can we do to equip them and put God's transforming Word in their hands?

In an attempt to be "missional' in our minsitry, we will purchase pew Bibles and include in them a bookmark that says something like the following?

Do you need a Bible? Please accept this one as a gift from Grace Church, SLO. We believe that God's Word is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of God for salvation and transformation for all who believe. (Rom. 1:17) We're glad that you are here with us and would welcome the opportunity to answer any spiritual or life questions that you might have. Please feel free to contact any one of our ministry staff at any time. Thanks for worshipping with us at Grace Church, SLO.

(Also included on the bookmark will be an explanation of why we use the version we use. . . .foreshadowing a future post, but I can't spill all the beans here, can I?)

We were considering softcover pew Bibles that would be given away, but have come to the conclusion that soft covers will get chewed up pretty quickly. We've discovered that modest hard cover Bibles are actually quite affordable and will last. . . . a better investment and a better giveaway.

Helen has suggested in an earlier comment that "by replacing the hymnals with Bibles you are defeating your purpose to get people to bring their own Bibles and take notes in them. People will be less likely to bring their own because they will be so easily accessible." She could be right. Time will tell. That's the last thing we want to see happen and we work hard to see that it doesn't through continual and intentional communication. In addition, I believe that the long-time core of Grace Church, SLO is accustomed to bringing and using their own Bibles and will model this value along the way.

So what do you think?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 3

Well, hopefully I didn't scare you away with the length and oddity of the Absolue PowerPoint post yesterday. Very few of you commented on the content and original thinking of the article. What's up with that?

Let's switch over to the hymnal side of the question and deal with this one. . .

Should we not purchase new hymnals since we project slides of 99% of all lyrics we sing together?

I have appreciated your comments. Pastor Al and I have had long discussions over this one. We both grieve the declining numbers of folks culture-wide and at Grace Church, SLO who know how to read music and properly use a hymnal. (I grieve my own lack of training, experience and knowledge in this area of music. No lessons growing up. I don't know how to read music.) We don't see a reversal of this trend on the horizon.

I am passionate about teaching folks to use their Bibles as an expression of our vision and mission. I am not as passionate about teaching people to use a hymnal. Maybe I should be, but I am not. There are places where we should buck the trends and put a stake in the ground. I don't believe this is one of them. I believe that teaching people to read music is a great ambition, but beyond the scope of our vision and mission as a church. Others are free to disagree.

That's not to say I don't value the singing of hymns and the historical music of the church. The very opposite is true. I believe we should be singing the best of the new and the best of the historical music. Not either/or, but both/and. Susie and I want our children to know and appreciate hymns, so we teach hymns to them in our home. And along the way they learn doctrine, because hymns are so rich and full of great stuff about who God is and what He has done. I am not worried about them learning the new music of the church, because most of it is so simple and easy to sing that they can pick it the first time through. (Incidentally, my kids are also learning to read music and play musical instruments.)

So, if we're committed to singing hymns and holding on to this rich heritage and connection to the "communion of the saints" throughout history, must we do it with a hymnal? Not in my thinking up to this point. I remain open to both Biblical and rationale arguments, but unconvinced.

We are instructed to study God's Word individually and together, so we try to reinforce the actual use of the Bible in our services. (Turn in your Bibles to. . . .etc.) We are instructed to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, but I don't think that using a hymnal reinforces that priority in any way. A parallel argument does not apply.

In this case, I believe projection technology serves us well and we should use it. In this case, I think we must examine our traditions and why we are committed to them. In this case, we must ask ourselves why we are bound to the book.

Together and somewhat sadly, our staff (even Pastor Al) and Elders have determined that we will not purchase new hymnals. We will keep the ones we have, remove them from the pew racks, but have them available for those rare times when we want to use them. We will fill our racks with more pew Bibles.

I understand that this decision will not be popular with all, but we believe it is the wisest decision given all the factors involved. Your feedback is welcome and valued, as always.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Absolute PowerPoint

As I was reflecting on the whole PowerPoint thing last night, I remembered this article originally published in the New Yorker a few years back called Absolute Powerpoint.

Read it and let me know your reactions. If you absolutely can't make time for the whole article, here are a couple of thought provoking quotes. . .

But PowerPoint also has a private, interior influence. It edits ideas. It is, almost surreptitiously, a business manual as well as a business suit, with an opinion-an oddly pedantic, prescriptive opinion-about the way we should think. It helps you make a case, but it also makes its own case: about how to organize information, how much information to organize, how to look at the world.

Today, after Microsoft's decade of dizzying growth, there are great tracts of corporate America where to appear at a meeting without PowerPoint would be unwelcome and vaguely pretentious, like wearing no shoes. In darkened rooms at industrial plants and ad agencies, at sales pitches and conferences, this is how people are communicating: no paragraphs, no pronouns-the world condensed into a few upbeat slides, with seven or so words on a line, seven or so lines on a slide. And now it's happening during sermons and university lectures and family arguments, too. A New Jersey PowerPoint user recently wrote in an online discussion, "Last week I caught myself planning out (in my head) the slides I would need to explain to my wife why we couldn't afford a vacation this year." Somehow, a piece of software designed, fifteen years ago, to meet a simple business need has become a way of organizing thought at kindergarten show-and-tells. "Oh, Lord," one of the early developers said to me. "What have we done?"

Still, it's hard to be perfectly comfortable with a product whose developers occasionally find themselves trying to suppress its use. Jolene Rocchio, who is a product planner for Microsoft Office (and is upbeat about PowerPoint in general,) told me that, at a recent meeting of a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, she argued against a speaker's using PowerPoint at a future conference. "I said, 'I think we just need her to get up and speak.'" On an earlier occasion, Rocchio said, the same speaker had tried to use PowerPoint and the projector didn't work, "and everybody was, like, cheering. They just wanted to hear this woman speak, and they wanted it to be from her heart. And the PowerPoint almost alienated her audience."

This is the most common complaint about PowerPoint. Instead of human contact, we are given human display. "I think that we as a people have become unaccustomed to having real conversations with each other, where actually give and take to arrive at a new answer. We present to each other, instead of discussing," Cathy Belleville says. Tad Simons, the editor of the magazine "Presentations" (whose second-grade son used PowerPoint for show-and-tell), is familiar with the sin of triple delivery, where precisely the same text is seen on the screen, spoken aloud, and printed on the handout in front of you (the "leave-behind," as it is known in some circles). "The thing that makes my heart sing is when somebody pressed the 'B' button and the screen goes black and you can actually talk to the person," Simons told me.

PowerPoint was developed to give public speakers control over design decisions. But it's possible that those speakers should be making other, more important decisions. "In the past, I think we had an inefficient system, where executives passed all of their work to secretaries," Cathy Belleville says. "But now we've got highly paid people sitting there formatting slides-spending hours formatting slides-because it's more fun to do that than concentrate on what you're going to say. It would be much more efficient to offload that work onto someone who could do it in a tenth of the time, and be paid less. Millions of executives around the world are sitting there going, 'Arial? Times Roman? Twenty-four point? Eighteen point?'"

In the glow of a PowerPoint show, the world is condensed, simplified, and smoothed over--yet bright and hyperreal--like the cityscape background in a PlayStation motor race. PowerPoint is strangely adept at disguising the fragile foundations of a proposal, the emptiness of a business plan; usually, the audience is respectfully still (only venture capitalists dare to dictate the pace of someone else's slide show), and, with the visual distraction of a dancing pie chart, a speaker can quickly move past the laughable flaw in his argument. If anyone notices, it's too late--the narrative presses on.

PowerPoint could lead us to believe that information is all there is. According to Nass, PowerPoint empowers the provider of simple content (and that was the task Bob Gaskins originally set for it), but it risks squeezing out the provider of process--that is to say, the rhetorician, the storyteller, the poet, the person whose thoughts cannot be arranged in the shape of an AutoContent slide.

My brother, Chad, who works in the corporate world, originally referred me to this article because he experiences "PowerPoint Burnout."
I think I could be a great PowerPoint presenter, but I don't think I will be. I'd rather be a preacher.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hymnals & Pew Bibles, Part 2

Very busy day today. . . . Just finished doing dishes after getting the kids to AWANA and dropping in on the Missions Committee meeting. . . . but my commitment is a post a day during the week. No guarantees on the weekend. So lets see if I've got anything left in the tank . . .

Very niiice response and discussion going on yesterday's Hymnals & Pew Bibles post. Some closet readers coming out of the wood work. Thanks for logging in! I sense some passion and conviction on these matters, which is very encouraging to me!

Let's start with this one:

Should we not purchase new pew Bibles and move toward printing or projecting all Scripture we reference in our services? (This seems to be the trend in most churches these days.) Just because we can, should we? What's at stake here?

I was just asked this question about projecting Scriptures by one of our elders. Its clear that he does not know what's at stake. Just because we can print or project all Scriptures referenced in our services doesn't mean we should! "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable" (I Cor. 6:12). I believe that what's at stake here is folk's basic knowledge and ability to use the Bible. I so want my kids to know where Isaiah 61 is and how to turn there. I want the people of Grace to have their eyes down on their open Bibles in their laps as I am preaching. I want them to look for the words and phrases and the verses I reference. I attempt to preach in such a way that folks are driven back toward the text. I want fathers in our services to point to verses as their sons and daughters sit beside them and look on. As a couple of comments mentioned, I too want folks marking up their very own Bibles, so they can come back to the text in their devotions or with their Growth Group. If we don't open and use the Bible in church, do we really think that folks are going to open and use the Bible at home?

It's not that the technology of PowerPoint projection is bad. After all, we use it for our calls to worship/responsive readings, for song lyrics and for ministry updates. There is nothing at all wrong with the technology. But in this case, what is lost in using the technology (knowledge and ability to use the Bible) is greater than what is gained (convenience, user friendliness, ease of use). Sometimes less is more.

Also, from my perspective, while there is nothing magical about the printed page, there is something a bit more artificial about the projected slide. I don't want church to feel like the board room or the movie theatre. Preaching is not entertainment.

While I'm on the topic, why don't I use PowerPoint in other ways when I preach (fill-in-the-blank outlines, quotes, cartoons, movie clips, other fun stuff)? Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, its just not my thing. (I want to be very careful to not be critical of those who choose to use these visual tools. After all, I am the odd man out here.)

I believe that preaching is fundamentally an oral medium, not a visual medium. To "preach" means "to herald." "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Hearing, not seeing. "How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" (Rom. 10:14) I believe that when God's Word is really preached then Christ's voice is really heard. This is the great mystery of preaching. Christ speaking by His Spirit through the preached Word. I believe that PowerPoint almost always alters/tweaks/detracts from the true and biblical oral nature of preaching. ("Why provide a printed outline?", you may ask. Answer: Because I am not a very good preacher. But I am working at it!)

I preach not because its the best means of communication for today's audience. It may not be. PowerPoint may be a more effective means of communication to today's visual learners. No, I don't preach because its the best means of communication, I preach because its the God-ordained means of communication. "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: PREACH THE WORD; be ready in season and out of season. . . "(2 Tim. 4:1-2) The message and the medium of the Gospel is foolishness in the eyes of the world!

Sorry, those last three paragraphs are really off the point at hand. It's late.

All that to say. . . .at Grace Church, SLO, for now, we will continue to encourage folks to bring and open their Bibles. If they don't bring one, then we will urge them to grab one of the pew Bibles and follow along as we study God's Word together. To encourage and teach folks how to use their Bibles, we will not regularly (I didn't say ever) project Scripture using PowerPoint, even though it seems like an easy, convenient and hip thing to do.

So, I guess we need to purchase those pew Bibles. But what version?

I am so "old school", aren't I?

Monday, March 14, 2005

What should we do about hymnals and pew Bibles?

When I have the rare opportunity to sit in one of the pews beyond the front row here at Grace Church, SLO, I am always a bit embarrassed by our shabby hymnals and spotty Bibles. Likewise I, and others, have been frustrated by the disconnect between the New International Version in the pews and the New American Standard I preach from. For two years, I have been ruminating on these issues, discussing them with others, and prayerfully trying to determine our direction for the future. We are talking about a potentially significant financial investment and a decision we'll live with for five years or more. Here are some important questions/issues that have arisen in the discussion . . .

• Should we purchase new hymnals and/or Bibles? Why or why not?

• Should we not purchase new hymnals since we project slides of 99% of all lyrics we sing togeteher?

• Should we not purchase new pew Bibles and move toward printing or projecting all Scripture we reference in our services? (This seems to be the trend in most churches these days.) Just because we can, should we? What's at stake here?

• Should we continue to encourage people to bring their Bibles and open their Bibles in our worship? Why or why not?

• Which version of pew Bible should we purchase and does it matter? Are some versions to be preferred over others?

• How can we put the Bible in the hands of those who don't have a Bible? Is there a way to be "missional" in our pew Bible vision?

• How do we affirm our commitment to the Scriptures in our handling of these issues?

Before I share my own convictions and conclusions on these matters, I thought I would let these questions hang out there for while. I would like to hear your thoughts. I'd like to know what other churches are doing. Share some ideas and leave some comments.

I will tell you that the Elders at Grace Church, SLO have recently affirmed a vision and direction in these matters. I am eager to share it with you and even more eager to see it implemented! Is the suspense killing you? I think perhaps, this week, I'll share my thoughts on one issue a day or so. Consider it my first blog series!

The Answer to all the Riddles

Yesterday's message, from Matthew 11:1-15, was focussed on doubt and how to deal with it. We noticed that John the Baptist teaches us how to deal with our doubts by: 1. going to his spiritual community, 2. by getting his questions answered, 3. by going to the Lord and 4. by going to the Word. Actually, in John's case, Jesus takes him to the Word in Isaiah 61:1-3. And there we discovered a bolt of lightening. . . .

Is. 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;

Is. 61:2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

Is. 61:3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

Here's the riddle in v. 2 that John couldn't answer. . . .

How is the first coming of Jesus the proclamation of the favorable year of the Lord AND the day of vengence of our God? Where in the coming of Jesus do we see the Lord’s favor and God’s vengence come together?

John thought that Jesus had come to proclaim the day of vengeance by EXECUTING God’s judgement. Jesus the Messiah came to proclaim the day of vengence not by EXECUTING God’s judgment, but by ENDURING God’s judgement! The cross is the answer to the riddle. The cross teaches us how to interpret Isaiah 61. The cross is what John couldn't foresee. Because He bore God’s judgment on the cross of Calvary, Jesus secures for us all the benefits of verse 3. . . comfort for those who mourn, a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. We become oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that brings Him glory!

Do you see? Jesus is the answer to all the riddles. It's all there in Isaiah 61. . . .the Gospel. Gods vengence poured out on His Son, the Messiah, to accomplish our beauty, gladness, praise, righteousnes, and His Glory. The favorable year of the LORD!

I'm still meditating on the wonder of God's Word this morning and how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures. The Gospel is everywhere! Our Lord's Day morning was a sweet time together, worshipping, hearing, feasting at the Lord's Table. I hope God's Word was confirmed in your heart and your identity was affirmed in Him!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Are you reading Al Mohler yet?

Its Friday and its my day at home. What a gorgeous day it is! This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Zeke and I went to get a haircut this morning and then to Sunshine Donuts for our cherished "mantime." I helped Sage a bit with her homeschool geography and got lunch on the table. I have lots more to do, but have to post one more. . .

Are you reading Albert Mohler yet, whom I recommended earlier this week? Yesterday and today's posts are both RED-HOT. . .

Truth's Assault on Modernity . . . a great explanation of the "5 reformation solas", which define what it means to be an evangelical.

Compromise and Confusion in the Churches . . . argues for doctrine and expository preaching contra the "emerging church movement."

My only beef is that Mohler is a bit longer than I am used to in the blogging format (but then some would say I am bit long on Sundays).

Enjoy and tell me what you think!

Film Recommendation: Blindspot: Hitler's Secretary

I enjoy the exercise of watching movies and then evaluating them from a Gospel-centered worldview. Has anyone seen Blindspot: Hitler's Secretary? Susie and I watched this chilling DVD last week and came away kind of speechless. It's actually a subtitled documentary, basically an interview with the woman who served as a personal secretary for Hitler during WWII. After 60 years of wallowing in her guilt, she agreed to tell her story. She died very soon after the footage was shot.

Take Away: There is none righteous, no not one. The heart of man is decietfully wicked, who can understand it? We are more sinful than we ever dared believe. Fascinating, but really sad.

I would love to know your reactions to the movie. Go watch it and then leave your comments!

Note: Blindspot could be hard to find at your local video store. We got it from Netflix.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

5 Things I Love About Grace Church, SLO

I had an opportunity to visit another vibrant and growing church in SLO county a few weeks back. I was encouraged and challenged in my time spent with the pastor, a friend and fellow-laborer for the Gospel. But as I departed there and walked back to my car, I said to myself, "I am so glad that I get to serve Grace Church, SLO. God has me in just the right place."

Here are 5 things I love about Grace Church, SLO:

1. Our People: I love the people of Grace. We have so many faithful and gifted brothers and sisters that serve together. We have worked hard to open up our leadership over the last few years, by expanding our leadership and ministry teams and creating room at the table. People keep stepping forward to fill important spots. Not only do people serve faithfully and sacrificially, but Grace is a very caring and loving church! Our family has been loved and others who are entering into the church are feeling loved too. I love our faithful ministry and administrative staff teams. Grace Church is the people. This is our greatest strentgh.

2. Our Diversity & Unity I love the spectrum of people at Grace Church. Multiple generations and folks across the socio-economic spectrum worshipping together, learning to love and care for one another. I love that more and more college students are finding us. I love it that we have homeless folks who are worshipping with us regularly. I love the diversity of our worship and the way we bear with one another's musical tastes and preferences. I love our seniors and the wisdom and experience they add to our fellowship. I love our many young families and all the children that are learning to worship together. I love the unity of our faith in the power of the Gospel. I love what is happening in Growth Groups. We are committed to the study and application of God's Word. We are committed to serving and building up one another through the gifts that God has provided. We are committed to caring for one another. We value our diversity, yet celebrate our unity.

3. Our History: I love the fact that we are part of a body of believers that has been worshipping in this community for almost 75 years. I love it that we are surrounded by a "communion of saints" who have run their race before us. I am in awe of who and what Grace has been in the past, I am delighted about who and what Grace is in the present, but I'm most excited about who and what Grace will be in the future. We are here for a little while and then gone. Our role is to be faithful in our day and among our generation. What will Grace Church, SLO look like at its 100 Year Anniversary, in the year 2031, if the Lord should tarry? I don't have any idea, but I am eager to find out!

4. Our Location & Facilities: I love it that Grace is a "downtown" church. This is unique and rare and it brings with it certain responsibilities and a whole lot of opportunities. I love that we are in the middle of the action, in the center of the county seat. A church doesn't need a space to do effective ministry, but it sure is nice. God has entrusted us with abundant debt-free facilities in an incredible location (except a parking lot of our own, but that's ok!). To whom much is given, much is required. These facilities are not for us alone, they are given to us so that we might serve our broader community. And we will give an account for our stewardship of them. I love it that the Little Theater, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mozart Festival and many other churches and organizations are using our facilities on a regular basis. What a privilege it is to serve!

5. Our Vision & Mission: Our vision (the "what") is to see lives, families, our community and the world transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission (the "how") is to celebrate, proclaim and live the Gospel on the Central Coast and beyond. I love how the Gospel, the life-saving and life-changing message of Jesus, is at the center of all we do. I love it that we are teaching the Gospel of God's grace to our children and youth. I love it that we are actively looking for ways to apply the Gospel in our community. I love it that we are actively supporting and sending folks all over the world with this same vision and mission.

I love Grace Church, SLO! I probably don't say it as often as I should, but hopefully it shows. We sure haven't arrived and we don't have it all figured out, but we are on a journey together. We have a long way to go, but we are moving forward by God's grace and growing together.

I am right where God wants me to be. I hope you feel the same. . . .

What do you love about your church?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Emotion in Worship

In our call to worship this last Sunday, I mentioned our call to worship the Lord with all that we are. . . with our heads, our hearts and our bodies. Pastor Al forwarded this to me this morning. It's written by Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries as part of his email column, Worship Matters.

Are displays of emotion in public praise unbiblical? Should a Christian feel moved when singing songs to God? If you do feel moved, should you hide it? How do we know whether or not feelings in worship are honoring God or simply gratifying a craving for personal experience? What part do emotions play in the worship of God? To answer these questions, we need to look at the place of emotions in Scripture. From there we'll look at what, if anything, our feelings reveal. Finally, we'll seek to establish some biblical guidelines for emotions in congregational worship.

Our attitude toward emotional expression can be influenced by a number of factors including our culture, family background, temperament, and what we've been taught. For instance, extroverts are often the product of outgoing parents. People from Western cultures tend to be more expressive than those from Eastern cultures. However, Scripture seems to allow for and even encourage many different kinds of emotions. Joy, fear, awe, sorrow, anger, and love all seem to merit God's approval at different times. We see in Jesus Himself an example of varied and intense emotional expression. He wept. He rejoiced. He raged in righteous fury at those who turned God's house into a den of thieves. He also felt compassion for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd.

Probably the most helpful biblical teaching on emotions in worship is the book of Psalms. There we find David and other writers pouring out their hearts to God in a way that many of us would find problematic, if not disconcerting. Talk about a range of emotions! One moment we overhear the worshiper pouring out his heart to God in despair, grief, and anger. The next moment, we find him in another place exuberantly celebrating the goodness and faithfulness of God through shouting, clapping, dancing, and loud singing.

Given such evidence, it would be difficult to argue from Scripture that emotional expression is out of place in the worship of God.

I think its fairly safe to describe Grace Church, SLO as on the more stoic end of the spectrum when it comes to expressions of emotion in worship. But I think we are growing in this area, too. Let's keep growing.

I want us to think great thoughts about who God is and what He has done, but I also want us to feel strong emotions toward God too. Worship should be grounded in Biblical truth, but it should also be passionate. God wants us to love Him and worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength!

What are some of the emotions you experience in corporate worship? Do you feel free to express your emotions in our worship services at Grace Church, SLO? If not, why not?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Why Pastors/Leaders Don't Blog

As a follow up to my Why I Blog . . . and Why Other Pastors Should Too post a couple weeks back and as I have been thinking about the startling statistic that 27% of online adults read blogs, I have been asking myself, "Why don't more pastors or other organizational leaders blog?" Here's what I have come up with so far:

1. Lack of Vision: They don't get it. They don't see that blogging is a simple, quick and easy way to connect and communicate to their people. Maybe they don't see themselves as leaders who others follow.

2. Lack of Time: Pastors/leaders are some of the busiest people around. There are tasks, people, fires that constantly demand their time. Because they lack the vision for blogging, they can't imagine carving out the time for it every day.

3. Lack of Knowledge/Information/Skills: Some pastors/leaders are technically challenged and would like to blog, but don't know how to get there. They're intimidated and don't know where to start. (I started my blog in fifteen minutes by following the step by step instructions at You can do this!)

4. Lack of Confidence: Some pastors/leaders probably feel they have nothing to say and think they don't have an audience for their blog. If they have an audience for Sunday mornings they have an audience for their blog. The trick is getting folks to the blog on a habitual basis.

5. Lack of Vulnerability: One of the most common responses to my blog has been, "I enjoy seeing a side of you I don't see on Sundays." I am not sure exactly what that means, but I do know that blogging is a "casual" medium that allows me to express myself in unique and apparently fresh ways. Pastoring/leading happens through personality and people want to see who a pastor/leader is. (Trips me out sometimes.) Perhaps, some pastors/leaders are afraid to open themselves up in this transparent way.

I think these are real issues. Believe me, I have plenty to do. But blogging is proving to be a valuable way to connect and communicate to the people of Grace Church, SLO. Each week, I am pleasantly surprised by the various people who comment, email and approach me in person to tell me they are enjoying life together. Thanks for reading along!

I came up with 5 reasons why I think pastors/leaders don't blog. What do you think?

Al Mohler: The End of Marriage

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Seminary, writes a great blog that I read regularly. Yesterday's post is a "must- read" entitled No Fault Divorce--The End of Marriage.

I agree with this statement . . .

Divorce has become so common that many Christian leaders fear creating a tidal wave of offense and resentment if they deal honestly with the issue--or address it at all. Accordingly, successive generations of Christians have now grown to adulthood believing that divorce is simply a lifestyle option.

In a church our size, there are always struggling marriages. Sadly, we often are conformed to the world in our thinking about our individual happiness and fail to see that marriage is bigger than us. As my good friend David Hegg said last year. . . Marriage does not exist to make me feel good, but to make God look good.

In my estimation, most marriages fail because of a lack of brokennesss on the part of one or both parties. Brokenness is the key to our relationship with God and with one antoher. Be praying for struggling marriages at Grace Church, SLO. Work hard on your own marriage for the glory of God and your own good!

Monday, March 07, 2005

SLO Tribune: Fired for Blogging

Today's SLO County Tribune had an interesting AP article in the Personal Tech section entitled, Fired for Blogging.

This jumped out at me. . . .

Currently, some 27 percent of online U.S. adults read blogs, and 7 percent pen them, according to The Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Wow! And Microsoft, like Sun Microsystems, encourages blogging and has 1,500 unnoficial blogs.

You won't find any suggestive photos of me in my corporate uniform here! Aren't you relieved?

How do I get 27% of online folks here at Grace to read life together?

GraceSLO College Blog: The Source

Phillip Moses, one of our great college adult staff, has started a blog for the Grace Church, SLO College Ministry called The The Source. Today's post, a recap of his lesson yesterday, is great. . . .

The Source: Three Responses to the Call of God

Keep up the great work and the great integration!

The Words We Most Want to Hear

Awesome post again this morning by Tod Bolsinger. . . It Takes A Church...: The Words We Most Want to Hear. I wish I would have written it!

Makes me think about all the banquet/feast language in the Scriptures.

For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes. --Luke 22:18

C.S. Lewis: What We Want

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even this is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. --C.S. Lewis

I was contemplating Clive's words as I drove up the California coast with the munchkins on Saturday toward William H. Hearst State Beach. The hills are alive with the sound of music (Sorry, Julie Andrews is a staple in our home. . . ). Luminiscent green grass. Bright blue sky. Waves crashing, one after the other. Breathtakingly gorgeous.

I believe C.S. Lewis is right. I want more than to see, I want to experience deeper. Seeing is part of experience, but it feels like there is something more beyond a barrier I can't get through. Perhaps it is my fallen faculties that keep me from it. There is yet an unsatisfied longing. I know that this beauty of the Central Coast is but a derivative beauty, a reverberation from the Source, an echo of the one who is truly BEAUTIFUL.

In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. --Psalm 16:11

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD. . . --Psalm 27:4

One day. . .

The C. S. Lewis Foundation, as part of the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute, is hosting a conference this summer, July 24-August 5, entitled Making All Things New: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the 21st Century. Susie and I so badly wish we could go, but alas, this is not the season for such frivolities. Not with three little ones and another on the way. Someone should go!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Matthew 10: Joining Jesus in His Mission

My message this morning was out of Matthew 10, entitled Joining Jesus in His Misson. I focussed on three themes that emerge from this big passage. Joining Jesus in His mission involves. . .

RELIANCE: God will Provide
REJECTION: God will be Present
REWARD: God has promised

I had some tension about covering such a long text this morning, but there is a method to my madness. I would like to get through chapter 11 by Easter Sunday, when we cut away from Matthew for a 4 part Heaven Series in partnership with the Central Coast Evangelical Pastors Network. I have to tell myself that, God willing, we'll have other opportunities to pick up some of the material we missed.

Growth Groups will be discussing some of these issues this week, but I wanted to throw out a couple of questions here. . .

• Reliance: How are you relying on God as you serve Him? How has he led you into deep water, beyond your comfort zone and beyond yourself?

• Rejection: How have you experienced rejection as a result of your identification with Jesus Christ?

• Reward: What kind of rewards have you experienced in serving Jesus?

I would love to see a few responses posted. Sermon audio should be posted online in MP3 format by Monday or Tuesday morning. Complete outline is there now.

I love Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Wise and winsome. Strategic and submissive. Bold and humble. Lord help us to be so as we join you in your work! Help us bear the cross, so we might wear the crown!

The College Worship Team did a great job today. Thank you for serving us and leading us! Full house today. Lots of visitors. When are we going to three services? Beautiful day here on the Central Coast. I'm going surfing!

Friday, March 04, 2005

GraceSLO Elders: What's a Blog?

So I was both encouraged and teased a bit about this whole blog thing at our Elders meeting last night. A couple asked, "what's a blog?" (Short for web log, a log was something the captain of a ship kept to record the events of a journey. I'm assuming you're figuring it out. Hugh Hewitt's BLOG is a good, quick read if you want to know more!) I was encouraged because the elders are tracking and reading along.

As usual, last night's 3.5 hour meeting was a blessing as we discussed matters ranging from the Big Buddies mentoring program, to the need for a new bus or two, to the vision for new pew Bibles. There is a ton going on and much around the next corner. The Elders are united and expectant about all that God is doing among us at Grace Church, SLO.

Did you know that our Elder's meetings are open and you are welcome to join us at any time? Robert, a Poly student has sat in on the last two. Take advantage of the chance to get to know these Godly men and how the church works!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

21st Century Reformation

Its encouraging to see lots of other bloggers exploring the nature of Christian community. . . .like Brad Hightower, the pastor at Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Artesia, CA. Brad blogs at 21st Century Reformation. I love that name. We need to be "always reforming!" There are some great recent posts. Check it out!

Note: I am 100% Dutch and come from a family with a CRC background. My mom grew up on a dairy farm in the Artesia/Bellflower area and grandma still attends another CRC in the area, Rosewood Church. Some cousins attend yet another CRC in the area. Little known bio facts about me. . . .

Why life together?

Why is this blog titled, life together"? One commenter figured it out. Life Together is the title of a great little book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, where he insightfully contemplates the nature of Christian fellowship and community. In the book, he argues that we haven't given enough thought to the value, power and mystery of what it means to be in community with other Christian believers. We at Grace Church, SLO need to keep thinking about this. I gave this book to our Elders back at our retreat in October 2004 and I would love to see others join me in the exploration, contemplation and pursuit of "life together" in Christ.

Occasionally, I'll be including quotes from Bonhoeffer's little book to give you taste until you can get your own copy. Here's one for today. . .

It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went "with the multitude. . . to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday (Ps. 42:4) But they remain alone in the far countries, a scattered seed according to God's will. Yet what is denied them as an actual experience they seize upon more fervently in faith.

Let us enjoy the grace gift of visible fellowship. Cyberspace is great, but face to face, flesh and blood, is far better. We take it for granted.

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." --Hebrews 10:24-25

I look forward to and relish our times of worship together!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Ideal Church & The Death of Athiesm

Another blog I read is It Takes A Church..., written by Tod Bolsinger. Tod is the Senior Pastor at San Clemente Presbyterian Church, located in my old hood. I don't know Tod well personally, but our wives worked together for a time some years back. I enjoy Tod's pastoral approach in his blog. Here are two recent posts that I thought were insightful and worth reading. . . .

Church Musings: What’s Missing from the “Ideal Church”?

CT Article: Atheism is waning because it can't form community

Both posts relate to what folks are looking for in a church and what we are trying to do here at Grace Church, SLO. This is why Growth Groups are so important. Everyone wants the benefits of a large church, but the feel of a small church. People want to belong, not just believe. I do, don't you?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A List of SLO County BLOGS

Richard Boult, webmaster for San Luis Obispo County Web Pages, aka "slo pages," has created and maintains a list of SLO County BLOGS. He informed me yesterday that "life together" is the only church-focussed blog in SLO county to date. This ought not to be! Second shout out to Central Coast Pastors: Start Blogging!

I think regional blog lists are really important. They "shrink" the worldwide web which can be quite overwhelming. I want to connect with people in my local community. Keep up the good work, Richard!

Hugh Hewitt references "life together"

I'm not sure how it happened, but he who is called "the Godfather of the blogging movement", Hugh Hewitt, referenced "life together" yesterday afternoon. WOW! Thanks, Mr. Hewitt!

2 Years Down, 25+ Years to Go

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. --I Corinthians 15:58.

Today, March 1st, 2005 marks our 2 year anniversary here at Grace Church, SLO. (Thanks Stella Nuncio for remembering!) Its been a fantastic and exciting two years. Make no mistake about it, I am still in way over my head, but I'm having the time of my life. Many thanks to the people of Grace who have welcomed us, loved us and opened their lives to us. If the Lord should will it, we hope to be here for a long, long time.


Because there are certain things that can only happen over the long haul in a ministry. Some fruit takes time to ripen on the vine. There's something powerful about seeing children born in a church family, dedicating them to the Lord, watching them grow up and then having the chance to marry them off. There is something wonderful about living life together with a group of people through the seasons of life. There's something delightful about marrying, burying, preaching, and loving over the long haul. I believe there's an intimacy that develops between pastor and people over the years. The flock learns to hear the voice of the shepherd. There is something deep about knowing and being known.

We live in a day and age when everything moves quickly. Its easy for those in ministry to move quickly too. As John Piper has said, we begin to see ourselves as professionals. There are ladders we climb in ministry too. We speak so little of perseverance in our day. Pastors need to persevere. When we're tempted to leave, we need to stay. In a world where everything is changing, people need pastors who will stay. . . pastors who will be "steadfast" and "immovable." There are certain things that need to happen in a church, that can't happen in year 5, or year 10, but will only happen in year 20.

The Lord can do whatever He wants. The Elders can ask me to leave at any time, and I will do so quietly. I serve at their pleasure. But so far as it depends on me, I'm staying. I am committed to "life together."