Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Triangle

I don't know how James did this with a straight face.

Tim Stevens talks a lot about redeeming culture for God. That is, taking popular culture and using it to get into people's minds and relating it back to God.

I think this video is a great example of how to do that. Sesame Street took a song that had no redeeming value for their audience and turned it around to lead people in the direction they were trying to point them. For Sesame Street, obviously, their purpose was to teach kids about geometry. For the Church, our purpose is to lead people to God. But I think the premise is the same - and the method can be the same.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "God has made everything beautiful in it's own time." That means everything. Everything can be redeemed for God. How do we do it?

What are some ways that the Church can redeem culture to make it relate to God?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where are you?!

Yesterday I had a very interesting phone conversation. It went a little something like this:

Me: "Hello."

Irate woman on the other end: "Where are you?!?!"

"Excuse me?"

"Who is this? Where's my husband?"

"This is Patrick Sievert, I think you have the wrong number."

"No I don't! This is my husband's number."

"I've had this number for over a year."

"This has been his number for two years!"

"Well, I'm sorry, but I've had this number for over a year and have never received any calls for him. What number did you dial?"

"580-606-##27." (she knew what number she was dialing - and it was my number)

"Well, I'm sorry, but this isn't your husband's number."

So, apparently this woman's husband had a different phone number for at least the last 15 months and she never knew about it. Which made me think. How can two people who are that close to each other (even if only in proximity) go that long without communicating something like that? Did the husband just assume she knew his phone number? Did she never once call him on that phone in that time?

How do you think closeness to someone hinders your communication with them?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Church Looks Like to the Unchurched

This is one of the most powerful articles I have ever read.

An independent newspaper in Seattle (one of the most unchurched cities in America), The Stranger, sent thirty-one writers to thirty-one different churches one week to record their experiences.

These are their thoughts:

A few excerpts (I've changed color when the author/church changes):

If you're thinking of attending a church, I beg you not to attend the CFC—find one that understands humility and grace and charity. I'm an atheist, but the CFC brings Bible imagery to my mind. Standing in all the gaudy sound and tacky fury, all I can think of is the perverted temple that Jesus Christ ripped to pieces with his bare fucking hands.

At that point, Pastor Tim's worship band got back onstage and they started the whole booze and crackers thing—but I bolted. I could see all the single guys scanning the room for single ladies—and the last thing I need is some sissy Christian boy trying to knock me up.

On the front wall, where one expects Jesus to dangle, there's a large photograph of a mountain lake at sunset. "Lake Wenatchee," it reads, "January, 1986." Just to the right is a tiny door with no doorknob, which could only lead from the adjacent chaplaincy. The door has a peephole in it. Is the chaplain in there behind the peephole? Is he peepin'? Can he peep all the atheism that fills my cold, doomed heart?

I lower my head and pray to Lake Wenatchee. I get the overwhelming feeling that Lake Wenatchee doesn't give a shit. And even if it did, what could it possibly do for me? Or my family, or the hobo taking a nap, or all those people terrified to get on all those planes? How awful, to blame your misfortunes on a personal failure to pray persuasively enough. Anyway, at least Lake Wenatchee exists.

I slept badly the night before church: I was scared because I had never been before, and everything I know about Sunday services comes from David Lodge novels and Garth Ennis's Preacher series. "Are they gonna make me confess my sins?" I asked my boyfriend. He promised me they would not. "Can I eat beforehand? Can I get up to pee?" I was sure I would stick out.

There was only one point when I felt totally out of place: Toward the beginning, the pastor asked those of us who were guests to introduce ourselves. You're not likely to find someone more reluctant to speak up than a bashful Jew at Sunday morning church services. So I didn't, but the church is small enough that everyone knew I was a stranger, and that made my heart pound.

Two things worried me: how to dress, and the dread of singing. Dress is not normally a dilemma. Nor is singing. But in this instance both were concerns. I craved anonymity.

I stood out like a sore heathen thumb. To complete my sense of alienation, the sermon began with a pop quiz.

"What was Nebuchadnezzar's Folly?" Pastor Sam asked.

I stared at my neighbor's hands to avoid eye contact.

A toothy beard in back spoke up: "He didn't take the tree stump seriously." Pastor Sam nodded and expounded on the disrespected tree stump. I put on my thoughtful face.

After the show I chat with the main pastor, Ken Hutcherson. I confess to him that it’s practically my first time in a church. He announces it loudly and excitedly to the people around us. Then he puts a firm grip on my shoulder and steers me to a table where some women take my information so they can follow up with me later. Luckily I have Christopher Frizzelle’s e-mail address memorized.

Finally, a couple of positive ones:

This place is fucking gorgeous: 50-foot ceiling; stone-slab floors; white concrete pillars bookend the altar; light-pink, yellow, and off-white stained glass filter the morning light; and the piano-and-flute-heavy ensemble croon away.

In an era when Christianity is marketed as a sort of rock concert meets Gatorade commercial—with TV-screen preachers beamed into makeshift houses of worship in high-school gyms—St. Mark's splendor is awesome. I understand the populist impulse of the evangelicals, but God deserves some gentle beauty.

The words from prayers I thought I'd long forgotten rose to my lips unconsciously and there was something soothing in of it all. I'd expected to feel a lot in my return to church—hypocrisy, boredom, and unease at least. What I hadn't expected was the sense of calm and goodwill that enveloped me the rest of the afternoon. Nostalgia? Father-son bonding? That delicious BLT I had at our postCommunion lunch? I don't really know, and I don't think I'll go next Sunday, but now I'm wondering if church might be something more than church after all.

What impression does your church give to its visitors?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

What's in it for me?

I'm currently reading Mark Batterson's In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In it, Mark makes the point that no one can ever sacrifice anything for God. Any time we do anything for God, any time we make any "sacrifice," we always get more back from God than we give.

Now, it may not always look that way at the time, but in the end God's reward for obeying Him always outweighs what we have to give up in obedience. I'm not just talking about rewards after we die either, but in this life.

The whole point of Mark's book is that we, just like Benaiah did in 2 Samuel 23, must chase our lions - that is, that we must take risks for God. We mustn't sit on the sidelines, but instead we must actively pursue obedience, even when it's dangerous. That danger, though, has its rewards.

Mark writes:

"You've never sacrificed anything for God. But let me push the envelope even further: If you were to always act in your greatest self-interest, you would always obey God." (emphasis mine)

I have a lion that I've been scared to chase for quite a while now - and honestly, it's the kind of lion that, until recently, I would have simply chalked up as an unattainable lion. But now, by God's grace, I have received the courage to chase.

What lions have you been scared to chase out of your own self-interest?

Subscribe in a reader