Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

An age-old question among Christ followers revolves around… the lottery.

I know, don’t you feel dirty reading that? And why? Because while you have been told gambling is a sin, you’re all ridden with angst that you can’t get some of that money.

No worries. I hate lotto players too.Vehemently.

In Mexico, visit this house of the... drug Lord?

This story from the USA Today creates a different conundrum: If a drug kingpin builds a church, will God inhabit the praises of those people?

“We know that the narcos … look for a way to redeem themselves in religious terms, by doing some good work. Obviously, sins cannot be washed away by a donation or a collection,” said the Rev. Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, the country’s largest.

This is a legitimate house of worship in the village of Tezontle. A place for Mexicans to glorify the Lord. You think they know how this modern church was built?

Well, the story continues to tell us that on a wall of the nouveau riche chapel, a plaque says it was donated by the leader of the violent Zetas cartel.

“Donated by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Lord, hear my prayer,” reads the bronze-colored marker, which says the chapel was built in honor of Pope John Paul II. Lazcano, who is wanted in both Mexico and the U.S., has more than $7 million in reward money on his head.

I’m sure there are some who believe this was Lazcano’s (or Lazcano Lazcano’s) mea culpa. Others may say this was his opportunity to show goodwill to the country that wants him incarcerated… or worse.

Either way, how would you feel worshiping in this house? Better yet, going to confession?

You know, you’re sitting there reading the hymnal and these beautiful red and blue swirling lights are seen outside during mass. The priest breaks out an AK-47 from under his robe. And the altar boys dawn bandannas while shouting with clinched fists to the congregation.

Sounds like a quaint Sunday to me. Sweet. Only one thing, with the holidays looming, stay away from the mules in the Nativity scene. I’m sure they’re not what you think they are.

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote on the Wall about a quaint church in Beaumont, Texas making international news by calling themselves, “A bunch of jerks.”

They addressed the hypocrisy among the faithful, the stigma in the Church and the elephant dropping bombs in the room.

If it ain't broke, buy another one.

It was a bold move because the biggest cause of Atheism would be Christians who do not reflect Christ. Great idea, right? Apparently so, because it’s been cloned according to the Christian Post.

A megachurch [NorthRidge Church] in Southeast Michigan is making a lot of people uncomfortable with its new billboard campaign that proclaims that the church is for hypocrites, losers and liars.

Well, of course, they are making a lot of people uncomfortable… the formula worked once before. Why not do it again?

“The reality is all human beings are the same. They’re flawed. We’re all the same inside [the church] and outside. We too are failures, losers, … hypocrites,” [Pastor Brad Powell of NorthRidge Church] continued.

“Jesus didn’t put up higher fences in heaven to keep the bad people out,” he said. “Rather, Jesus came down to earth and dwelled among the people. When you look into God’s word, He never turns inward. He turns outward.”

Don’t get me wrong… he’s right. Regretfully.

However, just because the word changed from “jerks” to “hypocrites,” does not make this an original idea. There’s no such thing as an original idea anyway, but at least give it a few months before you poach it?!

It’s no secret I don’t have much affinity for stereotypical Christian marketing. I mean, how difficult must it be to take a well-known brand and make an evangelism hack job out of it?

Christian marketing usually means copied marketing.

Oh. The scripture. That'll make us forget about the familiar logo.

Consider God: There was nothing but his idea. He imagined with vivid detail, molded the earth with complete ingenuity and relished in the unique nature of his creation.

He didn’t copy a logo. He didn’t “borrow” an invention. Everything he did was an original.

And that’s why it baffles me that marketing and advertising professionals who love the Lord and have dedicated their lives to him can’t at least go about their trade with a tad more originality.

Brands like ‘Not of this World‘ have taken what ‘Affliction’, ‘Silver Star’ and ‘MMA Elite’ has done for the mixed martial artist crowds and brought it to the Church. Bravo.

And then, there is the status quo that believes take what is known, plaster a verse on it and call it “divine providence.”

We can do better. We must do better.

Pastor Brad (imagine, he doesn’t like being called that) understands this whole “jerk” thing is lightning in a bottle. Everyone is looking at this. Everyone appreciates this. Because everyone agrees with this… except for the folk who are this.

A thought for all pastors: Be unconventional. Be daring. And most importantly, try to be original. You tend to make more news that way.

Just ask the little church in Beaumont, Texas about that one.

In Hollywood, where doth my help come from?

“Christian Movie.” It’s a phrase that has plagued both Hollywood and the Church for decades because the two sides don’t really talk, even if there was the awkward Thanksgiving dinner.

Separate: The two don’t have an inkling enough knowledge of the other to understand what the market demands. Together: Former “celebs” who get real with Christ are considered sellouts because the first that happens is TBN fawns all over them and gets them preaching.

So, what does it mean to be a “Christian Movie”? Is it focus on the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” because honestly, if you have seen the movie (aside from the meaning, people), it really is not the greatest. Not even Top 10.

The one that changed Christian film making was not “The Omega Code,” which looked like the IRS came and repossessed the movie set halfway into the film. No, it was “The Passion of the Christ.

Real. Violent. Authentic. Visceral.

And an A-list celeb created it, without the aforementioned megalomaniac drool from Paul and Jan. Then, of course, that A-list celeb went off the deep end and offending every Jew, black person and woman on the face of God’s planet. So much for his clout. Next?

Sure, Kirk Cameron made a nice swim through a resurrection (of his career) but that was short-lived, and short-marketed. “Fireproof” was nice, really nice, but it lacked the big Hollywood backing.

No one was really 'running' from the Church to catch this one

Recently, Disney saw a glimmer of hope in this once forgotten Christian market, and put out a movie that had all the makings of the next great “Christian Movie.” To use the introduction from a riveting BrandWeek article:

On the face of it, Disney’s feel-good drama Secretariat seemed to have all the makings of a hit with the God-fearing crowd: Its writer and director are devout Christians, it opens with a lengthy Bible quote, it uses an earnest spiritual tune at a key emotional moment and it’s uplifting. Then there was a specific marketing campaign to the faith-based audience, spearheaded by filmmaker Randall Wallace, who has legitimate street cred in those circles.

Quick show of hands for all the Christ followers who saw this flick? Yeah, me neither.

This is a movie that supposed to be the feel-good hit of the summer and Hollywood was counting on the Church. Only, it wasn’t marketed to the Church, so who knew?

Therein lies the rub.

The Church either goes one way or the other when it comes to movie selections:

  1. We are either incognito at Rated-R flicks – Groucho Marx glasses and all – and only be seen watching Pixar movies with the kids.
  2. Or, we go see any horror or drama made with a staunch “So what” to anyone in the Church that has an issue with your film-viewing pleasures.

Then there are those in-between who really want to see God show up in films outside of anything dealing with the crucifixion, resurrection or anything starring Charlton Heston.

Why? According to this story, Christians aren’t as naive and sheepish as Hollywood thinks:

Any movie that has a happy ending or a hopeful message gets peddled to Christian leaders and faith-based media. That crowd may be conservative, but they’re not dumb, said entertainment industry veteran and marketing consultant Mark Joseph.

“The traditionalist audience is far more savvy, post-’Passion,’ and is tired of being told that ‘Polar Express’ or ‘Rocky VI’ are actually allegories about Christ,” said Joseph, also a film producer who’s worked on The Passion of the Christ and other marketing campaigns. “This group is suspicious of Hollywood.”

Not only is this group “suspicious” of Hollywood; they are also lazy to demand otherwise from it.

Yes, I paid good money to see “Inception”, “Iron Man 2″ and “Robin Hood” this summer. And why? Because I am a child of God that can see a movie that doesn’t exalt Christ and still find pleasure in it. Sure, I wish it mentioned, alluded to or flat-out praised him, but if it doesn’t, I’ll go for a gripping storyline and stimulating writing any day.

And no, I didn’t pay a dime to see anything else from TBN studios, the “Veggie Tales” movie or “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.” Why? Just because the American Family Association gives it two crosses up doesn’t mean it’s good; it just means it’s sanctified.

Jesus made the ministrel of music. We should own it.

Amen!

It’s the same old problem that has plagued Christian music and fashion. We demand quality too.

When the world had old-school hip hop, the Church had D.C. Talk. (Sure, later came DII, SFC, PID and Freedom of Soul… but toby Mac and the guys pretty screwed that up for the rest of them). When the world had friendship pins, Swatch watches and Coca-Cola shirts, we had cheaply made Garanimals with an icthtus emblazoned on the crest.

Sigh.

In short, just because you have a fish on your business card, doesn’t guarantee me doing business with you. It only means I am leery of you because you expect a hand-out or a hand-up. We need to earn our keep in Hollywood, and not be afraid of the backlash just because we admit we love Jesus in public circles.

It’s happened with music (e.g. Hillsong, Mercy Me, David Crowder, anything alternative that has made the crossover, and on and on and on). Now, it’s time to stop trying to remake the Passion and just get passionate about evangelism with a great movie.

We need to vote with our dollars, in addition to our prayers. (And please, we do NOT do that).

So my definition of “Christian Movie”? It’s a great movie that happens to talk about Christ and sticks to the meaning of his message.

You know, rather than a lukewarm message of love and hate, right and wrong with a crappy script, a couple of has-been actors and something that goes straight to DVD cloaked as a movie.

Think about it people. When we demand more, we will get more. Peace.

A look inside of the Crystal Cathedral

File Chapter 11 and this is what a church probably looks like, from the inside out

News hailing from the Orange County Weekly and Reuters reports what we only knew was just a fleeting moment away: the nation’s first megachurch, the Crystal Cathedral, has filed Chapter 11.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, founded by Dr. Robert Schuller, best known for its weekly “Hour of Power” television program that it claims has 20 million viewers, listed assets and debts of between $50 million and $100 million each, according to documents filed on Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, California. Its largest creditors include several U.S. television stations.

What began as a sticky family divorce is now a nasty separation of church and state. Pity.

This is a guy who created more than a trend; he established the genesis of the modern church – run like a business, looks like a corporation and “feels” like a church. Oh yeah, that one.

There is a microcosm forming here, only I wish more megachurch pastors would pay attention the tsunami it is creating. I’ve thought about it, and typed as much for years, but I will cite a source from the OC Weekly instead:

Maybe if Schuller had ditched the endless tours and paid more attention to his church, the Crystal Cathedral wouldn’t be in this situation today. Or maybe he understood that it’s Christ’s message that’s more important, not so much paying bills on time.

MEMO to the Elder Schuller: You know, if  you weren’t kicking your son out of the pulpit, making your church into an Amway convention, skipping town on your bills and deciding the only way to save the place is give those same tired motivational messages (instead of sticking to the power of the Gospel that got you there in the first place), perhaps you would still have a church.

However, there you are blaming the recession or whatever else sounds biblical in the face of a tragic decline in giving and church participation. Take it from all the talking heads on the national networks. These are the days of a persnickety shopper. If you don’t give them a reason to invest their money, they won’t.

Moral of the story? The secondary opportunities that come up as a result of your ministry are just that – secondary.

Tend to the greater vision at hand and all those other things will happen. Don’t worry about sheering out a TBN contract when you should have been tending to your flock. Oh, and your family.

Today is September 11, Patriot Day, a moment in time that will also live in infamy.

On that day nine years ago, religion didn’t matter, race wasn’t an issue and your political party was a moot point. What was important was birthright – we were all Americans, united by God.

Captain Dale Goetz

Capt. Dale Goetz (1967 - 2010)

This week, a tragedy happened during war that has not happened since the Vietnam War and brought back the concept of this being “God’s Country” – a Chaplain died in the line of duty, for his country and for Christ.

U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz, 43, was killed in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan, when the convoy he was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense. Four other soldiers also were killed in the attack. Goetz was serving as the battalion chaplain for the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment.

What was once a unifying issue has now become a political one. Dead soldiers are no longer symbols of bravery and honor; they are unwilling pawns in a slothful, apathetic game of Congressional chess. Case in point – this story.

Did you catch it? Anywhere?

It was news because of its calamitous significance, but hardly made a ripple in the sea of polluted water known as “breaking news.” And why? There was no political leverage to be made. He was a Chaplain.

In the Christian media, that was a different story (take this blog, for example). Christian Post and Christianity Today both did a nice job covering statements and testimony of the Army chaplain:

“He had a great burden for the soldiers,” recalled Jason Parker, pastor of High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs. “His specific prayer request was to see 300 soldiers come to Christ. He was also praying for God to call ten of those soldiers into the ministry. That was one of his specific prayer requests.”

Get that. The man was more than a Chaplain to our stalwarts overseas; he was their pastor encouraging God’s calling to manifest in – and through – their lives. Now that’s news.

Goetz joined the Army one year before the disastrous events and today, his life serves as a stark reminder to the Body of Christ that there is a lot more to this drama in Afghanistan than some nappy bearded, extremist recluse that no one can find. Well, except for every TV camera working for Al Jazeera.

There is a dire need for prayer. We need to pray for our country, our troops and our government. That’s a trinity that needs to be held in the highest regard, saints. What is going on over there has nothing to do with politics; it’s all about purpose. We should be mindful of our troops more than on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and 9/11. They need prayer. They need God’s people.

Pray for our troops for protection and peace

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121 NIV)

May God bless all the men and women who serve our country with valor… and the men and women who serve them for Christ. Never forget… remember?