Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Top Five: Door-To-Door Tips

Few phrases invoke as much fear in a congregation as "door-to-door". It conjours up images of snarling dogs, sore feet, unbearable rejection, and being mistaken for Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. That's probably why I've been doing all of the door-to-door inviting for an upcoming church program by myself.

I've been doing door-to-door most of my life; probably because I'm just wierd enough that I don't care if people like me or not yet not so wierd that I put people off. The funny thing is that the more I've done it, the more I've enjoyed it. Today I just did three hours worth in -15 C weather, froze my kiester off, and it was the best ever.

I admit, there were times when I thought that I should pack it in and go home, but every time that happened someone would show such interest in the program that I would have to keep going. I find it hugely rewarding when some one smiles and says "Yes, I know that church; sounds interesting; I might come."

So in the spirit of the pseudo-expertise that permiates the blogosphere, here's five things I've learned over the years that can make door-to-door a rewarding experience.

"Top Five Door-to-door Tips"
  1. Whenever your not talking to someone, pray silently. If you do this, the worst afternoon can be a positive spiritual experience.
  2. When in doubt, smile.
  3. Practice what to say, and keep it short, to the point, and non-threatening.
  4. If you're turned down, move on graciously and quickly.
  5. Dress like you're going to a casual party at a friends house.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Book: Escape From The Flames

Escape From the Flames: How Ellen White grew from fear to joy--and helped me do it too is the latest offering on the topic of inspiration by the sometimes controversial Adventist scholar, Alden Thompson. In this book he approaches the topic from the questions surrounding the writings of the Adventist prophet Ellen White and his own experience with them and those about scripture. I emailed Thompson and asked him for an interview about his book, and he was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with me this morning.

DH: So should I call you Dr. Thompson, Alden...Mr. T.?
AT: Whatever you feel comfortable with.
DH: I still remember the conservative uproar over Inspiration: Hard questions, honest answers from my college days. What has been the reaction to Escape From the Flames?
AT: At this point, I have heard no negatives. Of course that could be because the Adventist sub-culture that is not good at disagreeing openly. There were a couple of comments that came out of advance readers copies that were encouraging. Retired secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, Bob Olsen, said he wished he'd read the book 40 years ago. But in general, it is amazing how much mail I don't get.
DH: Your books that I've read (Who's Afraid of the Old Testament God, and Escape from the Flames) have a strong autobiographical component, especially Escape From the Flames. Why did you decide to include so much of your personal experience in this book?
AT: I'm hoping that it will make it possible for some of the ideas to be more palatable. The German translator of Inspiration said he was hoping to read a book about Ellen White but instead read a book about Alden Thompson. But Americans seem to appreciate that style.
DH: The main question the critics of your ideas seem to have is How can I retain the authority of inspired writings in my life while applying the casebook approach? That approach, as I read it in Escape from the Flames, sees scripture as primarily descriptive as opposed to prescriptive.
AT: I see The one [law of love], The two [greatest commandments: love God; love your neighbor], and The ten [commandments] as the umbilical cord. That's where the line is drawn in Deuteronomy 4:13,14. The enormous change I would like to see take place is recognition that the whole purpose of scripture is practical application. The law is our anchor, Jesus is the wind in our sails, and the rest are illustrations that point us toward the kingdom.
DH: When negotiating moral dilemmas with the help of scripture and spirit of prophecy, should we look to those cases which represent the highest possible standard or those that best fit our current context?
AT: What I would like to see is that we consult all the cases that have possible application; this gives us parameters and data. Identify the ideal, and then you plot a course from where you are. Acts 15:28 provides a model where the apostles say, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that...", so community needs to be involved in the process.
DH: Escape From the Flames seems to build on the ideas presented in Inspiration. How can someone who missed the boat the first time around get a copy of that book?
AT: The Review Publishing Association decided not to reprint it, even though it has gone as high as $135 for sale on the internet. But they took a lot of flack for that book. I am hoping another publisher will pick it up.
DH: Are you working on any other projects that we can look forward too?
AT: Escape is the first in a four-part series on Ellen White. The proposed title of the next one is "Small Bonnets, white bread, and strong cravings: Ellen White and the Adventist Life Style". After that will be one about Ellen White and scripture called "But Sister White Says..." And the final book will be about Ellen White and doctrinal development.
Escape From the Flames is a valuable contribution to the current Adventist debate about how inspiration works and the kind of writings it produces. Thompson articulates a theology of inspiration that can withstand critical attacks on scripture, while keeping it relevant to the church. I would not recommend this book to someone who is not yet asking the questions it addresses, because many have lost faith over these issues. But for those who do have serious questions about scripture or Ellen White it is not to be missed.

UPDATE (2-27-06): Corrected the proposed title of Thompson's next book. The post originally read: "I'm next one will be on Adventist lifestyle, and the title will probably be 'Tight Bonnets, White Bread, and Strong Cravings'." Apologies to Alden for butchering the title and his articulate diction.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Meditation On Reconciliation

Reconciliation: An adjustment of a difference, a restoration of relationship
Forgiveness: Giving up the right to revenge
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him - work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.

"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"

Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!' The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid.

"When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."
(Matthew 18:15-35, The Message, emphasis supplied)
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-20, NRSV, emphasis supplied)
Lord, help us to understand the magnitude of debt you have released us from, so that we can learn how to forgive each other.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Diligently Resting

So tired...can't think...must write post.

Is there a time in the Bible where the temple suffered from over use? Because that's how my body-temple feels right now.
I believe that the church that claims to have the best theology of the Sabbath ought to have be best rested clergy.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall.... (Hebrews 4:9-11a, emphasis mine)
And with that, I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Blog: Just Pastors

Introducing...Just Pastors! My first collaborative blog project, with Josue Sanchez and Marty Thurber, is now ready to launch. The tagline is "conversations behind the pulpit"; the idea is to provide a place for pastors to unwind online and for the rest of you to find out what pastors are really like.

The blog was Josue's idea, and he invited Marty and me to join him. Josue's a super-energetic Spanish pastor in Vancouver who provides inspiration and webmastery. Marty's an old army helicopter pilot who pastors in North Dakota. He tells stories and provides metaphor-mastery.

My regular readers know that my content varies with the direction my brain decides to take at a given moment. But on Just Pastors I'll be posting my stories about pastoral ministry and doing a weekly column called "Mo-Pomo" on the interplay of modernism and postmodernism as it relates to pastoral ministry. You won't see my column on apokalupto, because I need some shameless gimmick to get you over to Just Pastors. Now scoot!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Adventist Blogs

[For those seeking an up-to-date list of Adventist blogs, Ken McFarland at the Right End of the Telescope blog claims to have the largest Adventist blogroll "on the net". As near as I can tell he's correct.]

I've been talking with some online friends about the Adventist blogs I've 'collected' by serrching the term on Technorati. I have about a hundered mostly forgetable ones. Here's a complete list of the ones I check semi-regularly to daily.
  1. 3T3RED - Pastor Marty Thurber - Fargo, ND, USA
  2. adventrevival - a homeschooling mother - Marshal, AR, USA
  3. Adventist Pulpet - a homiletics blog - Nashville, TN, USA
  4. Adventist Thoughts - Adventist News - Cape Town, South Africa
  5. Aussie Adventures - Singaporian PR assistant - Sydeny, NSW, Australia
  6. blog by dee - student Religious VP at Southwestern Adventist University - Keene, TX, USA
  7. Blog the Future - criticism of Adventist church structure - North America
  8. Christian Management Skills - working toward book about it
  9. David Escobar - a biochem student - Urbana, IL, USA
  10. Eternity Checkpoint - a high school student - Toronto, ON, Canada
  11. Faith and Shadow - a graphic designer - Sacramento, CA, USA
  12. FEG 2003 - 2006 - an animation student - Toronto, ON, Canada
  13. A Historic Adventist In The 21st Century - traditional Adventist views
  14. I Know He Is Able - devotionals - USA
  15. Impressions of Life - a spiritual journey - Freeport, TX, USA
  16. Jake's Corner - a Finnish theology student - Thailand
  17. Jim Blog - a high school religion teacher
  18. Joie de Vivre - a media producer - Singapore
  19. Jonothan Wold - an internet entrepreneur
  20. Just Josue - a Spanish pastor - Vancouver, BC, Canada
  21. Just nod if you can hear me... - a college student - Orlando, FL, USA
  22. kb-adventist - a com/media guy - Aarhus, Denmark
  23. Kevan Against the Machine - a college student - Tacoma, WA, USA
  24. LaChanda's Sisterlock Express - hair in locks - Dallas, TX, USA
  25. Lady Be Good - an opera student - Warsaw, Poland
  26. My Credo - Dave Escobar's religion blog - Urbana, IL, USA
  27. My Life Beyond A Brain Tumor - Briget-Jonesesque blog - California, USA
  28. Non-denial Denial - a Danish law student - Southhampton, UK
  29. norman's blog - a medical resident - Loma Linda, CA, USA
  30. Paul Whitting - a theology blog - Christchurch, New Zeland
  31. Pearl - a student - UK
  32. Pr Dave Online - Pastor David Edgren - Claremont, Tasmania, Australia
  33. prez update - Conference President Ken Denslow - Willowbrook, IL, USA
  34. Resonance - a lawyer on politics - Knoxville, TN, USA
  35. Reciprocity - vegetarian recipies - Ithica, NY, USA
  36. Roger's Blogs of The Adventure - Pastor Roger Walter - Colorado, USA
  37. Scatter Joy - a graphic arts coordinator - Kentucky, USA
  38. Sabbath School for a New Generation - liberal Adventist views
  39. Sabbath School Insights - a sabbath school commentary - Chicago, IL, USA
  40. Sherman Cox - an Adventist divinity student - Nashville, TN, USA
  41. Simply...Shimona - a college student - Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand
  42. Southern's Belle - a single nurse - Chattanooga, TN, USA
  43. The Adult Sabbath School Class - Pastor Greg's sabbath school commentary - Lincon City, OR, USA
  44. The Daily Cowbell - an American assistant dean - Nairobi, Kenya
  45. The Information Bank - a pharmacy student - Chattanooga, TN, USA
  46. The Ministry of Living - a theology student - Lacombe, AB, Canada
  47. The Oregon Adventist Pastor - Pastor Greg Brothers - Lincon City, OR, USA
  48. this aboundant life - a grad student - Grand Forks, ND, USA
  49. Twins - A Matched Set - a mother of twins
  50. Thought Screams - stream of consciousness - Tacoma Park, MD, USA
  51. Words Are All I... - thought snippits - Lacombe, AB, Canada
  52. Zarkoff - a high school student - British Columbia, Canada
Wow! That took a long time. We should really start an Adventist blogroll. Hope it helps some Sevies connect on the web.

Please let me know if any of the links are faulty.

UPDATE (4-7-06): Published some updates to this list.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Top Five: Fast Food Franchises

Ah, fast food, savior of the lazy, unprepared, or just plain kitchen illiterate. I cast myself at it's mercies for sustenance at least once a week. Without it I would be a hungrier and grouchier, albeit healthier and skinnier, person.

Top Five Fast Food Franchises
  1. Quiznos - grilled sub times guacamole equals double goodness
  2. Taco Bell - home of the 7-layer Burrito
  3. Taco Time - Taco Bell with better ingredients (and higher prices)
  4. Pita Pit - hummus, tzatziki, falafel, and babaganoush!
  5. Bad Ass Jacks - Kick a** Canadian subs and wraps (try the Kathmandu Curry)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spiritual Example

eNCDine | The Pastor As Spiritual Example

Petr Cincala wrote an article in the Natural Church Development (NCD) blog that was troubling to me. One of the questions in the Natural Church Development survey asks the respondent to mark on a scale of 0 ("to a very great extent") to 4 ("not at all") whether they agree with the following statement: "Our pastor is a spiritual example to me". In his article, Petr compared the average mean of the survey results on this question across continents, countries, and denominations; and then demonstrated that this question has a profound correlation to the local church's overall health.

Guess which denomination was the lowest on the average mean? It was the Roman Catholic church (41.9%). The second lowest? That would be the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 46.4%. The highest on the average mean was the Foursquare Church at 54.9%.

My first thought when I saw these results was Ouch! My second was Ok, now how do we fix it? I must confess, I've known these statistics for a few months now, but I still have only a few rough ideas on how to go about improving the situation.

First, I need to look at myself. Am I living an authentic Christian experience in front of my congregation, or am I putting on a show. Maybe churches want to see a pastor who has it all together, puts on a smile as easily as his necktie, and goes around solving everyone else's problems. But my hunch is that what churches need to see is a pastor who struggles with some of the same things they do and yet gets the victory through Christ's power, not his own.

Second, I think perhaps we need to look at the way we structure the training, hiring, and firing of pastors. Both the Adventist and the Catholic churches have a strongly academic approach to training pastors, and both have a structure in which an organization other than the local church/parish has the ultimate decision over who their pastor will be. These factors may be present in other denominations as well (the third-lowest Lutheran Church actually had the closest score to the Adventist Church), but it is my hunch that they play a role in my denomination's poor performance.

I guess I don't really have the answers on this one. What do you think could be done about this situation? Is your pastor a spiritual example to you? Are you a spiritual example to your church?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bible Studies: 14 Church Unity

I'm teaching my Bible Study class on the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Adventists again, so I'll be continuing the series on apokalupto as well. This one is very short, as is the doctrinal statement, but very important. You can look up scripture references at Crosswalk.com, and the 'answers' are at the bottom. As always, comments and constructive criticism are appreciated, since these studies are a work in progress.

Study 14: Unity in the Body of Christ

  1. God'’s plan is for the church to experience u______ with follow believers and with God. (John 17:20-24, Eph. 4:1-6)
  2. Unity is the natural c___________ of loving one another. (John 13:34,35; John 15:12-14; Col. 3:12-15)
  3. The Holy Spirit gives us unity in diversity by e_________ us for ministry toward a common goal. (Eph 4:7-13, 1 Cor. 4:11-14)
  4. Christ unifies us through our common d_________ on a relationship with Him. (John 15:1-6; Gal. 3:27,28)
  5. There is no place for d______________ in the church. (James 2:1-9, Rev. 7:9,10; Rev. 14:6)
  6. What can you do to make your church more unified?
1. Unity. 2. Consequence 3. Equipping 4. Dependence 5. Discrimination

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

News: Evangelical Environmentalists

BBC | US evangelicals seek green laws

Conservation is a conservative notion after all.

So what would Jesus drive? My guess is he'd take the bus and hoof it from there. He also rode a donkey, but only on special occasions. Bear in mind that in his day all modes of transportation were bio-degradable, but they did produce greenhouse gases.
"And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth."
(Revelation 11:18, NASB, emphasis mine)
For more information check out whatwouldjesusdrive.org.
For the Adventist take check out this blog post.

Article: Star Wars

Slate | Star Wars: Episodes I-VI - The greatest postmodern art film ever

Did Lucas intentionally design his films that way? I don't think so, and even if he did it would be better to call it a deconstructionist film. After all, it's hard to call a story with a metanarrative, moral categories of light and dark, and the para-religious "force," "postmodern."

Nevertheless, the article is a good read for any Star Wars fan, of which I am one. And it gives you a way to 'explain' why the last three movies were so terrible and still cling to your aesthetic dignity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Answering The Right Questions

A lot of hay is made on the importance of asking the right questions. As a pastor I am expected (and paid) not to ask questions, but to answer them. And this is a difficult thing to adjust to for someone like me who prefers his theology open ended rather than nicely packaged. One of my pitfalls is that I often end up answering questions that are important to me, but not so important to my people.

I recently had some pre-baptismal Bible studies with a young adult who grew up in the Adventist church. One of the topics was the millennium, and I spent about an hour that night walking him through Revelation 19:11-21:8. At the end I asked if he had any questions, and he said, "You just answered a bunch of questions I didn't even know I had."

Last night in one of my churches we presented episode four of The Appearing, a five night series on the second-coming with Shawn Boonstra, and it deals with the exegetical weakness of the secret rapture theory. The Appearing is geared towards a non-Adventist audience, but that was our first night when no visitors came. After the presentation I asked, "How many of you learned something new tonight," and to a person they said they had not known the reasoning behind secret rapture theory until that meeting.

I think that there are two ways we can go about answering the wrong questions. One is to pick topics we have a sound understanding of and present them whether they are relevant or not; the other is to seek out the holes in your (or your church's) theological theories and patch them before the people even realize there is a hole. That does not mean that there is no profit in seeking greater understanding or affirming good understanding; these are necessary preparations if we are to help people find answers to questions they might have in the future. But when it comes preaching, teaching, and ministering the word, it is vitally important to scratch that spiritual itch and not irritate healthy faith.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

News: Embassy Imolated

BBC News | Danish embassy in Beruit torched
Lebanese demonstrators have set the Danish embassy in Beirut on fire in protest at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad....The violence came a day after mobs in neighbouring Syria torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus.
I can sympathize with the Muslim protesters; it gets my goat when I see satirists making light of my Lord and Savior. And yet I wonder if this is because sometimes the humor has more truth to it than we believers would like to admit (e.g. the 'God' episodes in "The Simpsons"). However crass and insensitive a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb-like turban may be, the underlying message is certainly valid.

I believe that the right of publishers to make these sometimes offensive statements is necessary in a free society, but I also think that better judgment could be used in getting the message across to a sensitive population. And I believe Christians ought to be among the most sensitive in the world with regard to respecting others beliefs. It only makes sense to not needlessly antagonize those whom we are trying to reach.

UPDATE (2-6-06): Not all Muslims recognize a taboo against depicting Muhammad. Check out the Mohammed Image Archive (contains some offensive images) (via Higgaion).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Spiritualizing

There's a semi-popular tactic of Christian preaching and devotional writing that I despise. I call it spiritualizing, that is, taking a real-word problem and drawing a spiritual analogy. Let me give you a generic example.
Brother's and sisters, today more than 40.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, 96 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Western drug companies are refusing to allow inexpensive copies of patented drugs to be sold there, making the mortality rate much higher than in Western countries. You know...sin is like AIDS, but God offers his cure for free.
I wonder how people dying
of AIDS in Africa would respond to this homily. Perhaps they would appreciate the analogy between sin and AIDS, but it's more likely that they would wonder how such shocking information about their plight could pass through our ears without us being motivated to do anything about it. This rhetorical device may work in small doses, but in large quantities it leaves the listener wondering if Christians are able to make a practical difference in today's world.

We need less spiritualizing of problems and more motivation to do something about them. After all, the Kingdom of Heaven is not only something we proclaim will come, but also something we seek to implement in the here and now. Therefore, we should be at the forefront of proclaiming and implementing practical solutions to the pressing problems the evil brings into our world.
But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help--how can God's love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.
(1 John 3:17,18, NLT)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Top Five: Things About Pastors Meeting

I attended Pastors' Meeting from Sunday to Tuesday at Foothills Camp this week. It's basically a time for the conference officials to get together with the pastors to give us updates and inspiration. Pastor Greg has a great list of Ten things to do during a boring Pastors' Meeting. Rather than copying his format, I though I'd focus on what I actually liked about our Pastor's Meeting.
  1. Dan Jackson's inspiring vision casting presentation, "Tell Canada"
  2. Sharing, joking, and chillin' with my buddies from CUC who, like me, somehow managed to find employment
  3. Liberty editor Lincon Steed, who is opposed to both gay marriage and 10 commandment displays in courts of law
  4. Our conference's new Vision statement
  5. The ABC's 10% pastor's discount (I bought Escape from the Flames)
Sometimes pastors can start to feel isolated, especially when it's just you and another guy plugging away in the far-North. So even though Pastors' Meeting include boring lectures on the pension plan and pointless arguments about the employee handbook, I'm willing to tolerate these necessary evils for the sake of feeling connected to something that's bigger than me and my challenges.