BIG NEWS for StretchyChurch!

StretchyChurch has officially moved to WordPress! Why? Just because WordPress makes it a little easier to customize StretchyChurch.

So from now on, StretchyChurch will be located at www.stretchychurch.com. I'll probably be fine tuning it for the next several weeks, but everything is fully functional.

If you have a link to StretchyChurch using the old blogspot URL, I'd appreciate it if you could update that URL to reflect the change!

I'm looking forward to continuing what I've been doing as always--just with different software!


Church Website = Church Growth

A friend of mine alerted me to this article entitled Churches with Websites are More Likely to Grow. It's an article definitely worth checking out.


What Kind of Person am I?

I’m reading a book right now called The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California and a Christian.

I gotta tell you, this book has been pushing me and challenging me theologically more than the past ten books I’ve read combined! And I’ll tell you why.

The Divine Conspiracy focuses largely on The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and 6. Most of the time, when we read these teachings of Jesus—teachings like: do not be angry, do not lust, do not swear an oath, love your enemies, etc., etc., etc.—when we read these, we assume that Jesus is giving us laws to obey. But Willard argues that these are not laws; these are illustrations of how a certain kind of person lives.

And what kind of person is this? A person whose life is completely submitted to God. A person who lives and breathes the life of God. A person whose feet are covered with the dust kicked up by Jesus’ feet because they are following so closely.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not be angry with your brother or sister” (and, by the way, Jesus doesn’t exactly say this, but this is how we often understand Matthew 5:21-22). The kind of person that Jesus is talking about does not get angry or bitter because their life is filled with the love of God.

This kind of person does not simply obey a law that says “do not lust” (again, not exactly how Jesus put it). This kind of person will not objectify anyone sexually because they understand a person’s value the way God understands a person’s value.

This kind of person will not merely obey a law that says “do not swear.” This kind of person will be a person of integrity and honesty; a person who does not need to swear or promise or make an oath because this person always means what he or she says—and follows through.

I hope this makes sense. I’m still learning to grasp this way of reading Jesus’ words. And I’m struggling with this question: “Am I that kind of person? Or am I just trying to obey what I think are the rules?”

Let me end with these two paragraphs from The Divine Conspiracy:

Is it then hard to do the things with which Jesus illustrates the kingdom heart of love? Or the things Paul says love does? It is very hard indeed if you have not been substantially transformed in the depths of your being, in the intricacies of your thoughts, feelings, assurances, and dispositions, in such a way that you are permeated with love. Once that happens, then it is not hard. What would be hard would be to act the way you acted before.

When Jesus hung on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing,” that was not hard for him. What would have been hard for him would have been to curse his enemies and spew forth vileness and evil upon everyone, God and the world…. He calls us to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.


Hip Hop Yoda

Just another fun treat from the Star Wars geek!


Post-Easter Treats

If you're anything like me (a pastor) you were incredibly busy last week! And that's my excuse for not posting for a couple weeks... Heh heh...

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Easter! I came across a couple things that I wanted to pass on to you:
  1. 10 Ways to Keep Me From Discovering Your Church - This blog post at Church Redone is a great tongue-in-cheek description of ten things churches should do keep people from finding them. Good for a laugh; better for some good insight.
  2. Mr. Deity - Our Interim Pastor told me about this one. Really funny! Not always the best theology, but still good for a laugh. There are ten episodes so far, and I'm including my favorite right here. To see the rest of the episodes, click here.


How Should Churches Use Their Money?

To follow up on my last post, let me ask the question that Steve asked in his comment: Is this what God wants from his church? That is, does God really want churches giving their money to gas stations so that people can save money on gas?

That's a really good question, and one that I've been wrestling with for the past hour or so (I was already in bed, but had to get my thoughts out in writing). In my last post, I say that it's "awesome" that a church would do something like this. Is it awesome, or should churches spend their money on more significant causes?

So, here's what I'm thinking....

Steve (I hope you don't mind that I'm quoting you, Steve) suggests that "we're playing up to our consumeristic mindset." That may be. Without a doubt, we live in a consumeristic society. I'll admit it--when I see cheap gas, I pull over and fill up!

But what on the one hand may seem like "playing up" might on the the other hand be a contextualization of the gospel.

I know, I know... I can hear a bunch of you already saying that this isn't quite the same thing as contextualization. Point taken.

But how does the church get people's attention in our culture? More specifically, how do we get the attention (I'm talking about positive attention) of suburban, middle-to-upper class people who think they don't really need anything? Well, heck... Do we even need to get their attention?!

Believe me, I'm sure there are billions of people who could be better served by $1500 than those in West Chester, Ohio. But can we say that this is something that God would not have us do?

We could also say that a church should never spend money decorating its worship space. Is it wrong to spend $1500 on a beautiful, decorative cross to enhance one's worship experience?

Y'know, I don't think God is utilitarian when it comes to money. I don't think he looks at money and thinks, "How should we use this to make the most impact on those who need it most?" And here's why I say this.

In John 12, we have the story of Jesus being anointed with perfume by his friend Mary (the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had just raised). She comes into the room, pours perfume on Jesus' feet, and then wipes his feet with her hair.

And this perfume wasn't the cheap stuff. How do we know? It was worth a year's wages! So, let's say it was worth $40,000--that's expensive perfume!

Here's how the conversation goes from this point:
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."...

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

Now, I'm not saying that donating money to a gas station is the same as anointing Jesus with perfume. And I'm not saying that Jesus doesn't care about the poor (I don't think that's the point of this passage).

What I'm saying is, Jesus doesn't think about money the same way we do. And I think each church (and each person) is responsible to hear God's leading in how they are being called to use the money God has given them. They may not be using the money the way we think they should, but lucky for them we won't be judging them on the Last Day!

God Gas!

No, I'm not talking about flatulence! I'm talking about plain old gasoline.

Last night I saw a news story on one of the local Cincinnati channels about a gas station where the price was only $2.07 per gallon. I was floored when I saw that because gas prices have been hovering at around $2.45 for the past week or so.

Here's what was so cool about this: the reason the price of gas was so low is because a local church donated $1500 to the gas station so that people in the community could save money! That's awesome! And while people were getting gas, church members were checking people's fluids, washing windows, etc.

What a great way for a church to bless its community--with no strings attached!

Click here to see one of the news stories that aired (you'll have to watch the commercial first; then the story will play). Check out the church's website here and the pastor's blog here.