I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Such as..." (still funny 3 years later)

Aimee Teegarden “Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

Miss South Carolina Lauren Caitlin Upton

“I personally believe, that U.S. Americans,

are unable to do so,

because uh,

some, people out there, in our nation don’t have maps.

and uh…

I believe that our education like such as in South Africa,

and the Iraq,

everywhere like such as…

and, I believe they should uh,

our education over here,

in the U.S. should help the U.S.

or should help South Africa,

and should help the Iraq and Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future,

for us.”

Host Mario Lopez “Thank you very much South Carolina.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why is it?

Why is it that...
  • Sororities & fraternities can create life long bonds in a few years but many churches remain fragmented, disconnected and detatched?
  • Cults (often without "paid staff") can mobilize so many people to action while churches struggle with commitment and doing the most basic stuff?
  • Numerous organziations are flexible enough to engage a changing culture yet churches remain stagnantly committed to the same old thing?
  • Bars & clubs are full on Saturday night and church buildings have plenty of room on Sunday mornings?
  • Social/Politcal movements seem to garner intense participation yet so many church folks are satisfied with the staus quo?
That's what I'm talkin bout.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Have Life?

In John 5:39-40 Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." This rebuke was delivered to the hyper-manmade-religious elitists of Jesus' day. One of these guys memorized more Scripture than entire congregations do these days, yet Jesus administered a huge smack down on them instead of an honorary degree from Jerusalem Bible College. Why? Because their advanced studies were all for nought. Sure, there are plently of folks who need to dramatically ramp up their time in the Word, but it's not always that simple and it doesn't always resulting in finding life in Jesus. As Jesus points out you can be quite accomplished in Bible study and COMPLETELY MISS THE POINT. They took the book and added to it a some extras like moralism, legalism & nationalism and came up empty! So,what is the point of the Scriptures? JESUS! Jesus is the point. The whole book glorifies and honors Him. It all points to Him! We need to read Scripture with that overarching thought in mind. Life is not in the Book; it's in the Author and perfecter of our faith.

That's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The irony of it all...

Yesterday I preached from John 5:1-15. It's a powerful passage about dramatic life change (one of my favorites too). An invalid (for 38 years) is healed by Jesus after Jesus asked the resounding question: "Do you want to get well?" I pointed out that the religious leaders of the day seemed to be oblivious to the man's healing and instead chose to focus on his perceived violation of their law against "mat carrying" on the Sabbath. I noted that in my observation there are many churches more concerned about maintaining tradtions while being conspiciously inattentive to the lack of life change in their congregations. Following Jesus is about life transformation not human traditions - at least that's what I thought.

Now let me insert some observations from our congregational meeting after the service. I really don't enjoy these meetings for various reason that I won't mention here. We were way behind in our giving (versus spending) throughout the year yet significantly closed the gap  in the last two weeks. Yet we still finished in the red. We carry a large building debt along with the usual bills and expenses. We run a very lean budget too. Mid-year we changed the format of our "service" where we no longer "took up the offering" but instead allowed people to drop it into one of several boxes around the "sanctuary". It was asked in the meeting if our drop off in giving corresponded to the change in the method of receiving money. Not a bad question in itself. The answer is yes & no. Yes it did - actually giving always drops in the summer. We've also had our attendance drop too. People have died, people have moved, people have lost jobs. Additionally, those who count the incoming money have also told me that the regular givers are still regular givers. Now let's go post meeting...

In the hallway a long time member approaches me a says that we need to go back to the bags going around the room. (perhaps not the exact phrase, but close). Do we really need to do that? Is that the solution to our debt & financial challenges? Or is this just an opportunity for those who want to return to the predictable comfort/tradition of the way we used to do it (in spite of the fact that the offering has been declining for the last few years). What are the other alternatives to generate funds? BINGO would work, but, we prefer car washes, yard sales and suppers around here! I wonder if we shouldn't send people bills? Or maybe we should have each aisle come forward and give (I've seen that it one church). Or maybe we should count the offering and pass the bags or plates again in order to make budget (seen that too). Why do collect an offering at all? Is is to help poor saints somewhere? Nah, it's almost exclusively to pay for our debt, our stuff and the services we expect from those on the payroll.

One of the issues unbelievers often have with the church is our financial dealings. So the solution to our debt & budgets woes is to thrust a bag into the lap of everyone in the our presence on Sunday morning? So will we go back to old way? I don't know yet. If we do we can be sure that we will get the occasional guy quickly digging for his wallet and dropping in a 5 spot so he doesn't look bad in the eyes of the saints, but is that what we want?  Maybe so - if the offering is about getting instead of giving...

That's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sunday Jobs

This post isn't about folk working on Sunday instead of showing up "at church". It's about all the jobs we give people on Sundays "at church". Most church growth gurus teach that is necessary to get members involved in mininstry/service as part of a healthy church growth strategy. On the surface this seems right - Christians being servants. Yet, wnen you think about it for a while it seems (to me) that there's something below the surface AND it isn't necessarily healthy. Most Sunday church jobs in medium size congregations involve things like greeting (or "guest services" if you're sophisticated), nursery, serving communion (unleavened chiclets & non-alcoholic mini-shot glasses), collected the offering, etc. I got to thinking..... and I wondered how many people show up on Sundays BECAUSE they have a job to do. Sure that's gets them "there" but is that really what it's all about. I could come up with some prety creative ways to get people there. How many people wouldn't come without a job? How many realize Saturday night that they "have to go tomorrow" because they are passing out bulletins this Sunday? Maybe that's why we create more & more "minstries" so that we can get people to show up. Contrast that with the early believers in the book of Acts and you'll get my point (maybe). Fellowship, the Apostles teaching, breaking bread & prayer. Nowadays that's not good enough, at least for some people in certain places. IMHO, the modern church continues to devolve resulting in ever increasing efforts like the aforementioned strategies (often unrelated to biblical fellowship or discipleship) being employed to manufacture attendance thereby creating an allusion of a healthy church. Of course I might be wrong, but that's what I'm talkin 'bout.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I'm Back (at least for now)

I had  3 different people mention my blogging absence in 24 hours. So, I thought I'd test the waters again. I like this blogging thing - I like reading other blogs, so why stop?

1. Sometimes (you may have noticed) my blogs can be rants. I like a well written rant, but some of my rants were moving potentially close to some of my readers, fellow church members, or even friends. Of course I could post the random, inoffensive "what I had for lunch" kind of stuff, but that seemed silly & trite. (Not that I'm above that all the time).

Also, I got into Facebook and that cut into my internet time. I got sidetracked there and it got easy to just one line post rather than try to compose something semi-thoughtful here. Ironically, I've gotten a little tired of FB latley too.

Finally, I've been some introspection lately and my current focus isn't eligible for public consumtion, at least not yet.

So what's up with me these days? I've been doing some serious personal analysis and long term thinking. You know the "where will I be in 20 years?" kind of thinking. I'm trying to balance reality and my idealism. Been thinking about church, the bible, etc. a great deal too. Maybe I'll blog about that ... one day.