Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Don't Be Thicke

Some people are asking why Robin Thicke isn’t taking the heat that Miley Cyrus is for their raunchy performance at the VMA show. And quite right—he should be taking heat for the performance and not just from his mother, who has been quoted as saying, “I can’t unsee it.” That fact is, you don’t put on a show like that without a lot of planning and practice. Based on her comments, it appears that Robin Thicke’s wife was forewarned about the raunchiness of the performance. In a nutshell, Robin Thicke is every bit as responsible for the performance as Miley Cyrus is.

One comment I saw online summed it up for me, “I don’t know who Robin Thicke is.” The reason Robin Thicke isn’t getting hammered in the media is because he hasn’t alienated his fans (other than his mother). Miley Cyrus, on the other hand, has turned her back on the fans she gained from Hannah Montana and those fans are mourning that loss. So many people thought they knew her. She was that kid who found plenty of ways to make mistakes, but she always did the right thing by the end of the episode. And her father was there to support her in doing the right thing. But who is Robin Thicke? I don’t know—just another singer born in California.

So, let me just say to you guys, Don’t be Thicke. Even though Robin Thicke isn’t taking the heat for the situation and some people are saying he won’t suffer any consequences for what happened, what he did was wrong. I may come across as a male chauvinist for saying this, but it is my belief that we guys have an even greater responsibility to take a stand and say, “This isn’t what we ought to be doing.” In the home and in churches, God has placed us guys in a place of leadership. That’s not to say that we get to decide what we want to do and then make everyone else do it. If we think that, we’ve misunderstood God’s concept of leadership. As men, we have a greater responsibility to learn the will of God, to do it, and to encourage others to do likewise.

Don’t be Thicke, guys. Don’t put a woman in a compromising position. Don’t go along with a woman who wants to put herself in a compromising position. Don’t encourage it. Take a stand and say, “No, this isn’t what we should be doing.” Encourage things that are pleasing to God instead.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Man Looketh on the Outward Appearance

By now, you’ve probably heard about Jase Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame being kicked out of New York City’s Trump International Hotel. [1] The story is that Robertson asked one of the staff where the restroom was and the staff member showed him the way out the door instead. Robertson attributed it to “facial profiling.” The staff member assumed Robertson was a homeless man. I don’t know that we can blame him. They probably encounter several unshaven men who are homeless and if not shown the door, would hang out in the lobby.

I believe the lesson we can learn from this story is that how we dress is important in our interaction with other people. In the Bible, we see the statement, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but he Lord looketh on the heart.”[2] We tend to look at that statement and say something along the lines of “we should all look past the outward appearance.” So we should, but let’s not miss the truth of the statement, “man looks on the outward appearance.” At best, only the most godly among us will look past the outward appearance completely. And even if we have that ability, consider the statement, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” [3] Maybe our looking at the heart isn’t such a good thing. In any case, when the less godly among us look at us, their opinions will be based on our appearance, not on what our heart is like.

So let me ask you this: When you walk out the door each day, do you look like the child of the King, or the servant of the devil? What do people see. Do they see someone who dresses modestly? Do they see someone who dresses in such a way that they will respect what you have to say? Or do they see someone who dresses inappropriately? Do they see someone who dresses like an object to be possessed, not a person to respect?

And what about when they come through the church doors. In the past, people have argued that we shouldn’t make “seekers” uncomfortable by dressing up better than they dress. While that is a compelling argument, we must also remember that people’s ability to listen to a speaker is influenced by their respect for the speaker, and their respect for the speaker is partially based on the appearance of the speaker. A man in ragged blue jeans is more likely to respect what a man wearing a tie says, than what a man in a suit is likely to respect what an man in a shaggy beard has to say.

I’m not going to say that we should always walk around in tuxedoes. Depending on the situation, it is possible to be over dressed. But there is something to be said for us dressing better than what most people do these days. Instead of the freebee T-shirt, wear the polo shirt. Instead of the polo shirt, were the dress shirt. Instead of just the dress shirt, add a tie. Instead of just a tie, wear the suit. Step it up a notch and people are more likely to respect what you have to say.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Organic Church

How the Organic Church People See Themselves

I’ll admit it; I don’t keep up with all the latest fads. When the organic church came up in a conversation with my pastor the other day, I was pretty clueless and then showed my ignorance by opening my mouth. So, I went looking to see what I could find out about this thing called, the organic church.

The first thing I came to realize was that the words in the name have little meaning unless you understand how the people using it are defining the terms. As a friend pointed out, to be organic, something has to contain carbon compounds. That’s probably not what is intended by the use of the term. Neither can we use the etymology of the word church. The word originates from a word used to refer to a place of worship. (In other words, a “church” is the building, not the people.)

In looking for a definition I found the statement, “an Organic Church is born out of spiritual life, not constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs.” [1] Frank Viola contrasts the organic church with what he calls the institutional church, “To put it in sentence, organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle-a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples in close-knit community.” [2] He continues:

An organic church can be contrasted with “institutional church.” By “institutional church,” I mean a church that is created by human organization, chain-of-command styled leadership, and institutional programs. It’s marked by a weekly order of worship (or mass) officiated by a pastor or priest. It’s controlled by a top-down hierarchical organization and human social conventions (called “offices”) that people fill. The institutional church has often been called “the traditional church,” “the organized church,” and “the audience church.” Congregants watch a religious performance once or twice a week, and then retreat home to live their individual Christian lives. [3]

How the Organic Church People See the Church

Another writer states, “We are the ekklesia, the called out ones. We are here to make a difference in the world, not hide in church buildings. Jesus was all about sharing God's love and ministering to peoples needs to show that love.” [4]

I find this last statement particularly interesting because it expresses how the writer defines the word church. You will recall that in most English translations of the Bible, the Greek word ekklesia is simply replaced with the English word church. As a result, the KJV mentions “the church in the wilderness.” (Acts 7:38) So, the writer above is defining church as “the called out ones.” This is a common view today, even among institutional churches. When a person uses the word church to refer to all saved individuals, he is applying the same meaning.

When we apply the primary meaning found in Strong’s Concordance, we find that a better interpretation of the word ekklesia is assembly or congregation. Acts 7:38 makes much more sense when it reads as, “This is he that was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”

This disconnect between the “all saved individuals” interpretation and the “gathered assembly” interpretation may explain the relationship between organic churches and house churches. If I view the church as “all saved individuals” then there’s really nothing particularly special about the group that meets down at the church building. They are just a small subset of the worldwide church, so if I want to create a gathering in my house and do worship the way I think best, then I have just as much of a right to do that as they do.

On the other hand, if we consistently apply the definition “gathered assembly” in each place we see the word church in the Bible, we are forced to apply much more of what the Bible says to the local assembly. That’s not to say that a group meeting in a house is not a church, but rather is causes us to apply what the Bible says about the leadership of the churches to all churches, including those meeting in homes. When Paul wrote concerning the apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. that God has set in the church, this would mean that he as placed them in each local church. When Paul mentions that a pastor is to “take care of the church of God,” it means something totally different when we apply it to the assembly, rather than to all the saved.

Problems With the Organic Church

On the surface, the organic church concept seems good. What could possibly be wrong with allowing our worship take us wherever the spirit leads? What could be wrong with spontaneous, participatory worship? But when we look closer, we see that the organic church attempts to have church without a pastor. This certainly doesn’t model the New Testament church. The New Testament has much to say about pastors/bishops/elders, all words for the same position. It outlines the qualifications of pastors and deacons. It gives pastors the responsibility of seeing to the doctrinal and spiritual wellbeing of the assembly. Deacons have a responsibility take on the more practical matters, so that the pastor has more time to study.

The end result of the organic church concept is that something won’t get done. Without someone having a responsibility to pastor the assembly, those who attend may spend a lot of time talking about what they believe God wants, without having first studied the Word to discover what God has said. Without people responsible for seeing to the needs of the members, the practical needs of the members may go unmet, when work obligations get in the way. With anyone being able to go out and start a new group and without an official group leader, those who lead the group may not meet the qualifications God has given us.


I see problems with both extremes. There are institutional churches that have so much structure that they have no worship. Organic churches are missing so much structure, that they are weak. What we need is a church with pastors and deacons who fulfill the responsibilities the Bible has laid out for them, but a church that removes the divide between clergy and laity. Leadership within a church is necessary, but the only good leader in a church is one who places the needs and the good of the other members above his own. He should lead by example rather than command. All members should have the freedom to voice their opinion. All members should participate in the work of the church. The leaders in the church should be gentle with those who disagree, but the member of the church should always recognize the need to respect the leaders within the church, because those leaders have a responsibility to see to the wellbeing of the members of the church.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Can Churches Do to Train Future Leaders?

Picture this scene: a group of people are gathered in a room. Someone, the president, gets up and calls the meeting to order. A few reports are given. Some miscellaneous business is discussed. Then the people begin getting up and giving ten-minute speeches on various topics. What organization is that?

If you are in the business world, you might say, “That sounds like Toastmasters.” And in fact it does sound like that well respected organization in which people learn leadership and speaking skills by doing. But the scene I described comes from a monthly youth meeting I attended when I was a teenager. The churches of the Cane Creek Baptist Association held these meetings (still do) and called it the Youth in the Harvest.

At one point or another, I held most of the jobs within the Youth in the Harvest. I had to give “a part.” I was elected treasurer. I led the singing. I was vice-president. I was president. And not once did I think, “I hope they elect me.” Not once did I think, “I hope our church is on the program next month, so I can give a part.”

Just as I never appreciated the beauty of the where I grew up until I moved to Texas, I never appreciated the Youth in the Harvest until I could look back and see what it gave me. As much as I hated participating, I look back now and realize that the Youth in the Harvest shaped the way I conduct myself in business meetings, in committee meetings, in teaching situations, in meetings at work. What a wonderful gift to have been taught as a youth what adults are seeking to learn through Toastmasters.

I’m a member of a larger church now and it is a member of a smaller association than the Cane Creek Association, so things are different. In some ways, they are better, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re failing to teach some of those things that I learned from the Cane Creek Association’s Youth in the Harvest. Because of the size of our church and the size our youth group, we don’t have the need of a monthly association sponsored youth meeting. But that also removes opportunities to learn to conduct meetings, to learn to teach a lesson, and other things we hope they will do later in life.

Association sponsored youth meetings are far from perfect. It is hard to get some churches to attend. Some pastors end up giving “the part” when their youth refuse. The value of the business meeting comes into question when adults become too involved in it. But I believe there is a need for churches to develop ways to hone the leadership skills of their youth. I don’t know what that should look like when it takes the form of a church ministry instead of an associational meeting, but I believe it is worth pursuing.

So let me ask you, what can medium sized and large churches do to prepare their youth for the leadership roles they will have in the future?