Archive for the 'Community' Category


Tragedy in Tucson

This month, our nation experienced the pain of a senseless shooting in Tucson. People were gathered to hear Congressional Rep. Giffords speak at a super market. Seventeen were shot and six died died. Since the shooting, many have been calling for more civility in politics. Do we really need to talk about putting our opponents on our target, in our cross hairs, in our gun sights? Isn’t there a more civil way to describe those whom we’re running or competing against? Not only have 17 people and families been directly affected by this action, but so has our whole nation.

I like what a newspaper story in West Hawaii said today:
The months to come will determine the lasting impact of those wounds, not only for the residents of Tucson but the country itself, which has spent a week reflecting on whether a divisive political atmosphere, angry rhetoric or loose gun laws might have intersected with a dangerously mentally ill young man in Tucson.

I also like the inspiration a cartoonist drew from the words of John Lennon:
Peace Cartoon

Let us be in prayer for those in Tucson, as well as for our nation, and its leaders.

Books / Readings, Change!?!, Community, Leadership, Missional, Understanding Context

Happy New Year or Happy Crisis Year?

I’m reading a book for my Doctor of Ministry program called, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe (Broadway Press, 1997). The authors of this book predict that we’re about to enter a time of extreme crisis, like the world last experienced in World War II. It does this by introducing us to the idea that history is cyclical, with four seasons of life within every 100 years or so. They trace this back to Roman times and call it the Roman Saeculum. Within each of the four seasons, a generation of people are born who experience through the same lenses, attitudes, or points of view.

The first season, or period of time is called the “High”. The major world crisis is over and the future is bright. This has been achieved by a united group of people working against the crisis. “Prophets” are born during the “High”. For our time, this is the Boomer generation.

This season last existed between 1946 and 1960. During this period, our nation rose to become a global super power and the middle class grew tremendously. Society was united, didn’t question authority and was very modernist.

The second season of the saeculum is a time of “Awakening”, or spiritual introspection. Here, it is more important to explore the inner world than the outer world. People start to defy institutions, leaders or culture which helped win victory during the Crisis. Nomads are born during this season and our represented by the Gen X.

The last “Awakening” occurred from 1964 to 1984. It began with campus riots, Viet Nam war protests and a rebellious counter-culture. (Remember the ‘hippies’?) It gave way to more violent crime, family break-ups, and many ‘movements’ which eroded the unity of our nation.

The next season is called a time of “Unraveling”. People have lost their unity. Personal satisfaction is high because, “it’s all about me.” There is great personal expression and personal fulfillment. All the flaws of institutions are exposed and not much gets accomplished by society as a whole. Hero’s are born during this season are are the Millennials in our life time.

The authors date the latest Unraveling from 1985 to perhaps 2005. Society continued to fracture and individualism grew. Mistrust of institutions continued to grow and leaders are constantly questioned and criticized rather than being respected.

The last season of the saeculum is call “Crisis”. This is often a time of world war or other type of major conflagration – everything is a mess. The generation born in this season are called “Artists”.

This book was written in 1997. But in the mid to latter part of this past decade the authors predict that the world will fall back into some type of major crisis. Though no major world war appears to be on the horizon, the world is definitely struggling through financial crises.

So, if we are entering a “Fourth Turning”, or time of “Crisis”, what are some of the implications for the church? How might this impact local congregations, denominations in this country, as well as the church globally?

One way is financial. Few churches have been holding their own financially or growing in resources over they last three years. They often mirror the financial conditions of the community. However, there are upsides to financial problems. They can cause a congregation to rethink its purpose and mission. Congregations who are more vision-driven may pause to seek and discern from God what it should be about during this financially-challenging time. This refocusing effort, if it is based upon the values of the members, can strengthen their commitment and faithfulness to achieve what their vision of God’s calling is.

One result of the “Unraveling” might be the reason why people lost their sense of unity in and responsibility to the denomination and instead see the flaws of the institution. Many congregations now prefer to give to local mission endeavors vs. sending their money away to the denominational headquarters.

For the established church to survive the Fourth Turning (or season of Crisis), locally, denominationally or globally, it will need to refocus its vision and be focused on how to meet the needs of those around it. Over the past thirty years, there has been a big shift from congregations existing to meet the needs members and supporting the denomination, to churches who are equipping members for ministry and sending them out locally to meet community needs. Today, people want to be a part of an organization that’s making a difference they can see. They desire to support change that helps the lives of others or improves their community. Thus larger bodies, denominations, or communions need to help the local congregation with resources which will help them achieve greater success in their local ministry efforts.

Has anyone else read or heard of this book? What are your thoughts for the season or time period we’re entering? How do you think it affects the church?

Community, Spiritual Formation

God Grew Tired of Us – Christmas Thoughts

It’s getting close to Christmas 2010. For many, their thoughts are focusing more on family and how the holy day will be spent. Pastors and church leaders are also getting more concerned about Christmas Eve services. For many, is this as far as their Christmas thinking gets?

Last night, I watched the movie about the lost boys of Sudan in, God Grew Tired of Us. This movie was made in 2006 and was a Sundance Film Festival award winner. It is a documentary about the history of Sudan, its violence in recent decades, the thousands of young boys who left their families behind in trying to “live” by migrating first to Ethiopia and later Kenya, and for some, to America.

Their story is more incredible than I previously knew! At one time, 27,000 children were traveling and living together. They were the only family that they had. The group divided themselves up into smaller units that were led by the older boys, 11-13 years old. How they survived their incredible journey to Kenya is unbelievable!

Of the hundreds of boys accepted into the U.S., the film focuses on three: Panther, Daniel and John. It shows their departure preparation, travel, initial introduction to America, and follow-ups for three years. When they first arrive, you can see how big their eyes get to experiencing how to use electricity, running water, toilets, refrigerators, supermarkets, and Christmas trees.

One of the boys questions, “Why do we have Christmas trees? Are they in the Bible? Is Santa Claus in the Bible?”. They are very respectful of the culture of this country, even when they can’t hardly fathom it.

At this point, it made me rethink the meaning of Christmas. It is one thing to say, “It’s all about Jesus’ birth!”. Yet, how do we bury that thought by all the preparation of things that are not about Jesus’ birth? How would a Christmas celebration here be experienced if it were planned and led by the “lost boys”? Would our faith and joy be increased?

The movie ends by telling how some of the boys reunite with family members whom they thought were dead. Some travel back, some send money to the refugee camp in Kenya, and some continue to work 3 jobs in order to raise as much as possible to help those left behind.

I can’t help but think, “Did our nation do them a favor by helping them migrate here?” The culture shock they went through is obviously HUGE! But in addition to learning about the items listed above, the boys were spread-out into 23 states and separated into small groups of 3 or 4, instead of the larger groups they had grown-up in. The movie points out how they lost “community” by being split-up and working so hard to make ends meet. Because of their work, they were not even seeing those whom they lived with. Could our nation’s money had made a bigger impact by improving the refugee camp’s conditions vs. bringing hundreds of them to America? Will our nation do more to secure peace between the North and Southern parts of Sudan?

My mind is filled with questions. But I’m grateful for this — my mind is also expanded to think of others around the world at this Christmas season, who experience life very differently than we in this nation. May God bless them with peace and joy! May God bless us with a deeper understanding of the real meaning of Christmas.

Change!?!, Community, Worship

I HATE Altar Calls….

I have long hated altar calls… since a boy in growing up in church… they seem so manipulative. And frankly, I don’t think they work anymore these days. In fact, let me say that stronger… they DON’T work!

Here’s why I say that so strongly… three weeks ago on Feb 22, I offered an altar call in both of our worship gatherings… NO response. None… Nada… Zip! Then the very next Sunday – March 1, I introduced a response card in each bulletin. I got 7 responses that day from people wanting to commit their lives to Christ, be baptized, and/or join the church. The very next week, I got 3 responses.

Go figure!

I think the day of the altar call in USAmerica is over!


Community, Special Announcements

We’ve lost a saint – Art Gish

Today, I read in Newsline (see below) that Art Gish was killed in a farming accident at the age of 70. What a saint and prophet we’ve lost! I first got to know Art at NYC in 1971. He was one of the speakers. I thought he was nuts! I didn’t understand what it meant to be a radical Christian at the time. As NYC ended, he gave me a ride to Pennsylvania. Over several hours, we got to talk and I realized that he’s just a normal person with a lot of passion.

A few years later, Bethany Seminary flew me from La Verne College to be on campus to check the seminary out for a few days. Art and Peggy invited me and the other La Verne students over for lunch. I was really hungry and was disappointed when I learned they were serving soup. Until this time, I had only had the “Campbells” variety. By the time I finished my soup, I was stuffed! It was fantastic, with all the fresh vegetables and other ingredients that Peggy put in.

Art and I haven’t had much contact over the years since then. But knowing how he loved Jesus, and how his faith moved him towards “radicalism”, I’ve been touched and inspired!

Thanks, God, for saints like, Art!



Church of the Brethren peacemaker and activist Arthur G. (Art) Gish, 70, died in a farming accident yesterday morning when his tractor rolled while he was working on his farm in Athens County, Ohio.

Gish and his wife, Peggy, have been organic farmers, life-long workers for peace, and members of the New Covenant Fellowship in Athens, Ohio, a communal church affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. Peggy Gish currently is serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq.

“We have lost a person important to the Church of the Brethren who has been a visible witness to Christ’s peace around the world,” said Stan Noffsinger, the church’s general secretary, remembering Gish’s strong witness for active Christian peacemaking. “It is a true loss to the church and the thousands of people he served…. We mourn this loss.”

“He has been a formative influence for so many people,” said Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace. Gross and his family were part of the New Covenant community along with the Gish family for some years beginning in the 1970s.

Gish is remembered for his participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the protest movement against war in the 1970s, and for his work for peace in the Middle East in more recent decades. He was a speaker, preacher, and writer with “incisive and frequently controversial views,” as characterized in an interview with “Messenger” magazine published on Aug. 13, 1970. Up until recently he had worked in the Middle East for periods of time with Christian Peacemaker Teams, beginning in 1995, often as a part of the CPT teams in the West Bank city of Hebron and in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani.

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