Shane Hipps on Rob Bell Leaving Mars Hill

Last night I saw that Shane Hipps, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI posted some thoughts on Rob Bell’s departure from the church. There were some thoughts that were very poignant for pastors and leaders in every profession.

He writes,

I learned when I became a pastor that it is a unique vocation.  Becoming a leader in any profession can be a lonely experience.  This isn’t always bad, in many ways it forces you to grow up fast.  In time you learn to allow the loneliness to become a divine ingredient in cultivating depth and resilience. Over the years I learned to befriend it as a teacher.  And as I’ve said here before, there is a difference between being alone, and being lonely.

It’s a really great reflection. I’d encourage everyone to read it. You can find it here.

Cheers,
Eric

What We Have Gotten Wrong About Faith

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket,
when of course it is the cross.” – Flannery O’Connor

I was in Barnes and Noble last night perusing the Christmas deals (like ya do) and I went to the “Christian Inspiration” display table set apart from the rest of the religious books as the “bestsellers”. There was the typical Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyers on the front side and then around back was all kinds of paraphernalia for this book Heaven is For Real. Now, admittedly, I have only read the first chapter of it (as that is all I could get for free on my Kindle).

This kind of emotive faith doesn’t do much for me. It seems to only offer comfort to the comforted. We focus so much on the afterlife that we neglect to do the work of God in this life. Any faith that doesn’t say “Take up your cross and follow me” isn’t anything I want to be a part of. We think of following Jesus only in our expectation of the still waters and green pastures of Psalm 23. We fail to realize that if we actually follow Jesus, it will be far less comfortable than that.

Now, far be it for me to equate a person’s faith life with the types of books they read, but I think it certainly impacts it. You are what you read. By all means, if you are afflicted and need comfort, read something that will give you comfort. I’m not that sadistic. But for a lot of us, myself included, our faith only grows by being pushed and stretched. I doubt reading Heaven is For Real or Every Day a Friday really pushes you beyond the call to simply have more faith.

For a lot of us, the answer to a lot of life’s (more troubling) questions isn’t “if God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it”. But the answer to many of life’s questions can be found in the ancient command to “take up your cross and follow me.”

Cheers,
Eric

*I don’t mean any offense to people who have read Heaven is for Real and found a lot of encouragement in it. I’m sure it’s a very encouraging book. I only say what I say because I think we can do better.

My Deepest Fear


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

I was recently reading a wonderful book that talks about minuscule shifts in the way we operate on a daily basis that can cause monumental change within the communities we live and work. Combine that with all of the TED talks that I have been listening to lately and inspired would be an understatement. There are so many people doing so many incredible things in the world. The more stories I hear about people’s adventures and things they learn, there is one thing that keeps rising to the top in my thoughts:

The impact that one person can have can be extraordinarily powerful.

I just read Blake Mycoskie’s memoir about how he started TOMS. Same thing. He was traveling in South America and noticed how few kids were wearing shoes. And he decided that he should create a business that opened up people’s awareness of the world while simultaneously helping the kids in this village. I think so often we get caught up in pursuing awareness to an extent that we don’t actually do anything to help the situation.

With almost all situations we face on a daily basis, most people see themselves as confronted with 3 options:

  1. You could do something to make the situation better.
  2. You could do something to make it worse.
  3. You could do nothing at all.

I would actually say that doing nothing is the same thing as doing something to make it worse, so I think there’s really only two options. You can either do something to make your situation better or worse.

In all situations, there has to be progress. There has to be evolution or whatever it is that we’re fighting for will die. We are capable of way more than we give ourselves credit for. Even if the change is so incremental it’s hardly noticeable, it’s moving in the right direction. It’s moving up the hill rather than sliding back down.

However big or small your shot may be… Take it.

Be powerful beyond measure.

I look forward to seeing you in our journey up the hill.

Cheers,
Eric

Shane Claiborne’s Devotion for Wall Street

Shane Claiborne had a great piece for the Huffington Post yesterday. I haven’t really written anything here on the Occupy Wall Street stuff, mainly because I just don’t know what to think about it. Clearly there’s a problem with the distribution of wealth in this country, but I’m just not sure that these protests will amount to much. Then again, people probably thought Dr. King’s marches wouldn’t do much either. I’m caught on it. I’m not sure what to think, but I do think that this piece from Shane is incredibly important as we reflect on these last few weeks of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Check out the full text below.

A reporter recently asked me, “As a Christian leader, does your faith have anything to say about Wall Street?” I said, “How much time do you have?” My faith has a lot to say about Wall Street.
Theologian Karl Barth said, “We have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” For too long we Christians have used our faith as a ticket out of this world rather than fuel to engage it.

In his parables, Jesus wasn’t offering pie-in-the-sky theology… he was talking about the real stuff of earth. He talks about wages, debt, widows and orphans, unjust business owners and bad politicians. In fact Woody Guthrie breaks it all down in his song “Jesus Christ”. The song ends with Woody singing, “This song was written in New York City… If Jesus were to preach what he preached in Galilee, they would lay him in his grave again.”

The more I read the Gospels, the more they seem to confront the very patterns of the world we live in. At one point Mary, pregnant with Jesus cries out: “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly… God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty…” You can’t help but think if she were alive in contemporary America some folks would try to accuse the Virgin Mother of being Marxist or promoting class warfare. But all through Scripture we see this – over 2000 verses about how God cares for the poor and most vulnerable.

What would Jesus say about Wall Street?

It doesn’t get much better than Luke chapter 12. Jesus begins by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And then, as per usual, he tells a story. The story is about a “rich man” whose business makes it big. He has so much stuff he doesn’t know where to put it all. So he decides, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones… and I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'” But Jesus says God looks down and is not happy. God says to the rich man, “You fool! This very night you will die — and what will happen to all your stuff?” And Jesus ends the teaching by saying this is how things will be for folks who store up stuff for themselves.

It does make you wonder what to do about 401k’s and pensions. But it seems pretty clear that Jesus isn’t a big fan of stockpiling stuff in barns and banks, especially when folks are dying of starvation and preventable diseases.

One of the constant threads of Scripture is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1% of the world owns half the world’s stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, “Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.”

Maybe God’s dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God’s dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.
Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.

What did you think of this? Did any image or wording stick out to you? What’s your take on the Occupy movements?

Cheers,
Eric

The #1 Problem in Youth Ministry

When I was working as a volunteer with senior high youth at a church back in Fargo, one of the young people pulled me aside one night at a lock-in and asked if he could talk. As we started talking, he told me about all kinds of bad stuff happening with his friends at school and with some family stuff at home. There was a girl he liked, but she didn’t like him back. This guy had a lot on his mind.  I could see that he was really struggling with these things, and that he wasn’t able to have a good time because of all of his worrying. I kept listening to him and as he finished his story, he looked up at me and said, “That’s why I started coming to church. I heard you guys can fix these things.”

Ummm… What?

I’m not going to tell you what I said to him, because it frankly sucked too much to remember. There were a lot of uneasy pauses and me saying “yeah, that’s hard”. But I had no idea what to say to this kid who had heard from someone that I had the quick fix to all of these really hard things that were going on in his life. I think this is the main problem with youth ministry as it’s viewed by the wider church. A lot of times, we can be so quick to diminish or explain away the very real challenges and difficulties of young people, because we’re afraid to exist in that space of darkness. We can’t deal with that darkness, because that means that we don’t have the answers. This is where some pretty lame platitudes can come into play. We can say things like “Everything happens for a reason”, but that gets us nowhere fast.

There’s a really great video that talks about a solution to this problem. What would our ministry be like if it was primarily characterized as a group of people who aren’t afraid to sit in the darkness with other people? We don’t have to have easy answers. We don’t have to give cheap platitudes to escape dealing with the pain of the person next to us, but rather we can take that pain into ourselves. Check out the video. I think it’s truly inspiring. Shout out to Mike Friesen for introducing me to the video. Check it out!

What did you think of the video? Was it helpful? What bits in there caught your attention?

Cheers,
Eric

%d bloggers like this: