Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How we do church

A long time friend of mine asked me this week about our church. One of the questions he asked was "why we do church the way we do at Lighthouse?"

In our church, we meet primarily in homes. Sunday morning, we have groups in homes. We have children's Bible study at someones house. We have our ladies group in a home. We meet as men at someones house. Much of church life is expressed in homes, restaurants, and other real life settings. We do meet once a month for a corporate service so that all of our people can be together in one setting, but that is more of the exception.

So why do we choose to practice church like this?

There is a lot to it, but I would begin by saying that it is not out of a belief that meeting in homes is the only way that church should be done. I believe that the traditional methods of church in the west are good options.

So here are a few of the reasons that I gave as to why we have chosen to practice church in this way:

  • It costs less money. (We are a small church on the west side of Chicago with few resources. We just feel that what we have should not be spent on a building. Those resources are better used for us by investing in people.)
  • We value people more than programs. (Church being practiced in homes is by nature very relational. We emphasize the "one anothers" of scripture. We emphasize church as "family".)
  • We want to reach the lost and those who have a reason to not like "church". (Some people are looking for something that doesn't seem like church. They want something that feels more authentic and not like a show. These tend to be the people that we attract.)
  • We want to develop leaders. (We are an elder led church, not a senior pastor led church. We have a goal of turning people into leaders. I have seen our style of church allow for all types of people to feel comfortable leading.)

These are a few of the reasons that I shared. All of them have much more to the explanation. There are a number of other reasons why we do things the way we do. It is not perfect, but it is the reality that we feel that God has called us too.

What types of things has your church done to be effective in your context? What would you change about the way church is done? Do you think that new forms of church are becoming more common?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New swingset

Our kids, the neighbor kids, and kids from our church have already been enjoying the new swingset.

Thanks to TGBC

Thanks to the Trinity Grace Brethren Youth Group of Northwood, OH for all of their hard work this weekend.

When did slavery end? Or has it?

In today's Chicago Tribune, columnist Leonard Pitts writes that slavery did not end in America in 1865. He shares some of the methods of slavery that existed long after slavery was officially abolished. He references a new book called "Slavery by Another Name".
Here are just a few of the examples that he shares:
"...the system was so elaborate that businesses could put in orders with local sheriffs to arrest the number of men they needed."
" the antebellum years, a slave represented an investment of up to $2,000, but in this new economy, slave labor was cheap, which made slave life cheaper still."
"...white men were openly buying and selling black men under this system until after World War II."
It is easy to paint hard lines on history. It is easy to say, "that was a long time ago". As we do that, we often ignore what is really going on. We ignore the systems of slavery that still affect our society today. We turn our heads as slavery in its cruelest forms is still practiced around the world.

Do you believe that slavery still exists in America? How should a Christian respond to slavery?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You must die

"Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. These may be taken from us at any time in the path of Christ-exalting obedience."

John Piper - Don't Waste Your Life

Are you ready to die?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Life lessons

Here are some humorous, but with some truth to them, life lessons that I came across today.

Life’s lessons (and ages at which the person learned them)
-Lending money to friends and relatives causes them to get amnesia. (32)
-No situation is so bad that losing your temper won’t make it worse. (41)
-You shouldn’t leave your fork on the plate when you reheat food in the microwave. (13)
-When you’re too busy for friends, you’re too busy. (48)
-Life is like a 10-speed bicycle—most of us have gears we never use. (59)
-When parents say, “It doesn’t matter what we think—you are the one dating him,” they hate the guy. (24)
-Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them. (38)
-The more mistakes you make, the smarter you get. (13)
-If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven’t done much today. (21)

I found some good nuggets of truth in there. I especially relate to the fact that you get smarter from the mistakes that you make. A lot of my learning has come by doing.

Do any of these life lessons relate to something that you have learned?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Goodbye to Starbucks

Many of you have heard that Starbucks is closing around 600 stores nation wide. Our local Starbucks here on the west side is being closed as a part of that. The Chicago Tribune wrote about it today. The Tribune states that the nearest Starbucks is 2 1/2 miles away.

This Starbucks opened less than two years ago. To many on the west side it was a sign that investors were finally willing to start their businesses here as well. It was a sign of hope. And now it is leaving. It may just be a financial decision to headquarters in Seattle, but glimpses of hope that are then quickly removed is a story all to familiar to Chicago's west side neighborhoods.

On a more personal note, this Starbucks has been the site of our weekly elders meeting for our church. I guess, we will be looking for a new meeting place.

Anyone else affected by a closing Starbucks?
Why do you think that businesses refuse to invest in neighborhoods like mine?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


It has been disappointing to me to see the steady drift in our culture towards all out acceptance of homosexuality. Many states have now passed laws allowing some type of gay marriage. The media promotes tolerance. It is an aggressive and in your face agenda. But I can expect these things from the world.

What I have been the most surprised by is the move by many within the "church" to accept this type of behavior as normal. Churches are not only teaching that homosexuality is OK, but they are going to the point of appointing leaders who are open about their involvement in this lifestyle. This breaks my heart. The "church" looks so much like the rest of society instead of like the spotless bride.

Is not Romans 1 quite clear about this perversion? Doesn't the Bible consistently (OT & NT) show homosexual practice to be offensive to God? Why is this clear issue so easily ignored today?

Does anyone else have strong feelings about the way many in the church have handled this issue?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sounding like a conservative

Barack Obama is continuing to champion the message of personal responsibility. Speaking at the NAACP convention in Cincinnati last night he said "...we also have to demand more from ourselves. Now, I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch – none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives". You can find the entire speech here.

This type of talk does not sound like the typical rhetoric of liberal politics. If you didn't know better, you might think that I was quoting Bill Cosby, Shelby Steele, Armstrong Williams, or some other conservative voice.

Barack is specifically responding to Jesse Jackson and others who have accused him of "talking down to black people". He is saying that he believes government is responsible to help provide opportunities, but ultimately individuals must take responsibility for things as well.

How do you feel about Barack's call to personal responsibility? Do you feel that he is "talking down to people"?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Images of Obama

When does "freedom of the press" become propaganda? This is the cover of the newest issue of The New Yorker. Barack and Michelle Obama in the oval office. Barack as a Muslim. Michelle as a gun carrying militant. Flag burning in the fire place. Osama Bin Laden on the wall.

The sad thing is that there are many in America who believe this type of image to be the real picture.

How do you feel about this magazine cover?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Shayna's Birthday

Today is my daughter Shayna's 10th birthday. She is growing up to be a lovely young lady.

Today, I am reminded how fast time flies. I am wondering, "how did she get so old so fast?".

Are there things in life that remind you how quickly life passes?

Wedding day

I am attending a wedding this afternoon. This will be the first wedding in the past year and a half that I get to attend as only a guest with no responsibility. The last six weddings that I have attended, I have officiated three and had some part (prayer, speaking, etc.) in the other three.

It has been an honor to be a part of so many people's special day, but I am looking forward to sitting back and just enjoying the wedding today.

Are you ever glad to not have any responsibility?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I thank God for the gift of friendship.

I spent yesterday in Lima, OH where I grew up. I spent time catching up with several friends that I went to high school with. I rarely see these people since I haven't been back to Lima in years, but they are still valued friends.

Right now, I am in Panera bread in Dayton, OH waiting to see a friend from college. I haven't seen him since his wedding many years ago.

Everywhere that God has taken me in life, He has blessed me with friends. I hope that I have also been a good friend to others. Having a family now, it takes more effort to establish and maintain friendships. I hope that in the time that I have, I value people more than my wants, my desires, and my agenda. That is a lot of being a friend. Thinking of others.

What kind of friend are you? What are ways to be a good friend to others?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Three tests

We have been going through I John at church. John tells us that this book is written to those who believe in Jesus "so that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13) John offers three tests throughout the book. He keeps coming back to these three ideas.

I would label them the truth test, the love test, and the obedience test. John tells the saints to put themselves to the test to help them find assurance of their salvation.

I have been putting myself to these tests as we have journeyed through the book. They could be asked in the form of three questions.

Do you believe the truth about Jesus according to the Bible?

Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Are you obedient to God's commands?

How are you doing? Truth, love, obedience.

Seeking to learn

I have appreciated Dawn Turner Trice as a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She has been facilitating a dialogue on race through the Chicago Tribune website and through her newspaper column. Today she posted some questions for dialogue. I am always working hard to be a learner of how to better relate to people who are not like me. Trice is one writer who can be helpful to me in that process.

I also appreciate reading Ed Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blog. He too pushes for people (especially Christians) to learn how to better relate to each other. This spot has been a great learning place for me as well.

As much as these places and numerous books and articles are helpful, the place that I learn the most is from my friends. Through getting to know people who are different than me, I have learned so much about myself and the world.

I have a lot to learn, but I am enjoying the journey.
What do you do to learn how to better relate to people? Who do you learn from?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Can I have some change?

Have you ever had someone who appeared to be homeless or desperate ask you for money? Maybe you were at a stop sign, coming out of a store, or walking on the sidewalk. If you live in a city like Chicago, then you know this is an everyday occurrence.
What is your response? Do you lie? ("I have no money") Do you ignore them? Do you engage them in conversation? Do you give something to get rid of them? Do you give because you care?
What do you think is the right thing to do in these situations? What should your response be as a follower of Christ?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

To God be the glory

One year ago, I began serving with Vision Nehemiah to start P.U.R.S.U.E. I did not know how it would all work then, but I knew that God could provide. Looking back, I am thankful to see how God has worked.

God has provided good networking opportunities.
God has provided excellent students to scholarship.
God has provided people to give financially.
God has provided wisdom from others for direction.

As I look forward, I am trusting God to provide.

I thank God for helping me move forward with P.U.R.S.U.E. when it was only an idea in my head. I pray that He helps me to be consistently stepping out in faith as I see Him leading me to act.

Is there anything that God is asking you to do right now that requires you to step out in faith?