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Reach Out (Ur...but do we really have to?)  

Time out for some buzzkilll.  As in, I'd like to kill a buzz word...or at least reduce its heavy usage.  Call me a skeptic or cynic if you will, but I strongly reject the stampede toward bizz babble.  You know—expressions like....

“Paradigm shift”

“Tee it up”

“Over the Wall”

“grabbing the low hanging fruit” or...

“get together and blue sky”

“getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.”

Now some of those are older expressions, for sure.  But one I've been seeing a lot of lately is “reach out.”  America is now practically daily overdosing on “reach out.”

Internal emails invite us to “reach out” with any questions about corporate policies.  Public service announcements on TV implore us to “reach out” and express our compassion.  Junk mail is full of offers imploring us to “reach out” and get the help or goods we need (ur...for a price, that is).   With all the “reaching out” that's going on, it's a wonder we all don't bang arms merely moving down the hallway, as we “reach out”--whether at work or at home.   And don’t forget about church—where board meetings and committees now invite us to “reach out” with our thoughts.

Now is it just me or are more and more people sucked into the expanding world of meaningless corporate speak? Even in churches and ministries? I suspect the answer is yes.

People are so desperate to “fit in” they'll happily take up the language of biz-babble.  But why must we be like a herd of mindless elephants  ….?  Why must we all use the same trendy talk?  Why can't we learn to express ourselves uniquely?  You almost pick up on a “Hey, bro—I really get you” kind of look that passes between brethren and sistern who insist on speaking biz-babble.

In a world of wars and woes, I suppose my complaint is a small one.  Yet...please...could we all just STOP reaching out....and simply say what we mean?

I wouldn't try to build a theology on it, but I can't help wondering if Jesus' advice in Matthew 5:37 is something we ought to consider in our corporate—and ministry-- dialogue: “Let your yes be yes…and your no be no.”

Thanks for letting me...ur...reach out ...with that thought!     :-)

 
Our Tower Has Gone Wobbly!  

If you've never played Jenga, you ought to give it a shot. This challenging game starts you off with a tower of wooden planks.  Each layer is made up of three planks that lay right against each other.   So it's a loose—but solid—tower to start with.  Plenty strong.
 
Everybody takes turns removing one of the three planks that make up a layer...and placing it on top of the tower—to make it grow taller. You quickly learn that if pulled out slowly and carefully, the tower can stand on a layer of just two...or even one plank.  The net effect, of course, is that as the tower grows taller, the thing grows wobblier.  And you don't even notice the transition from sturdy to wobbly.   But eventually it collapses with a crash. 
 
This is exactly what has been happening to issues of morality in America.
 
Within the lifespan of most anyone able to fully comprehend this little piece, sex outside of marriage was viewed by the majority culture (not just the Bible, but the culture) as wrong. Same for divorce.  Same for homosexuality.
 
NOW, the most vocal (though NOT the most numerous) segment of our culture blazingly insists that to DENOUNCE homosexuality is wrong.  That sex outside of marriage is a RIGHT....that it's WRONG to repress sexual urges of most any kind.  Do you see how the planks have been removed?
 
Previously, these things definitely went on: divorce, cohabiting, gay marriage....but now they are being touted as normal.  Good.  Even noble.  And anyone who would oppose them is bigoted, close minded, stupid, and narrow.  Not to mention boring.
 
I'm not suggesting that these kinds of behaviors didn't go on 30 or 50 or 100 years ago.  But there's an enormous moral difference between a culture that tolerates these things as opposed to a culture that celebrates them.
 
Said another way, our culture's truth tower has gone wobbly.  To the point we are approaching a certain collapse.
 
It's odd how those in the very act of making the tower weaken are least able to see the wobble.  All of which illustrates the biblical claim, “There is a way which seems right to a man.  But its end is the way of death.” 

 
Rethinking Church  

Are we sure we're doing church right?

Let me cut to the chase.  I'm uncomfortable with the way we've divvied up the typical church service.  In an average 75 minute service, we American evangelicals typically do 5 minutes of announcements, at least 20 minutes of singing, 30-40 or more minutes of preaching.  Throw in the offering, a greeting time and benediction... and that leaves about 5 minutes for a pastoral prayer and two minutes for a closing payer.  Meaning we spend about as much time on announcements as we do on prayer.

Does that strike you as out of whack?  Don't answer until I respectfully remind you that I Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to “Pray without ceasing.”   Philippians 4:6 instructs us that “in   everything by prayer and supplication” we ought to seek God.  Could I further gently add that despite our modern penchant for worship music, Jesus never said, “My house shall be a house of singing.”  But Jesus DID say, “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

Let me take in a breath...possibly freak you out...and suggest that we need to do less singing—perhaps even drop a few illustrations from the message—and do more praying in church.

There's only so much space in a given church service.  And if we've assigned so much of it to music that it squeezes out prayer, we're out of biblical balance.  Search the book of Acts—the most complete blueprint we have for doing church—and you'll find a heavy emphasis on prayer, on breaking bread, on fellowship, on instruction in the Word.  But what you DON'T see is a huge emphasis on music.

That's not to say we shouldn't sing…or have sermon illustrations.  Of course the biblical precedent for worship music is clearly there. And illustrations provide a window into understanding God's Word. But not to the extent that they upstage significant prayer. 

Truth is, it's tough to honestly study Scripture and disagree with the conclusion that in general, we're not praying enough. 

It's time we gave prayer in our Sunday assembly the same emphasis the Bible gives it. A given church service has only so many slots...so many minutes.   It's time our church services emphasized more of what the Bible emphasizes more of:  prayer.  

 

 

 
A View from the Portico  

As I write this, the nation’s third largest city is under siege.  Or, perhaps more accurately, under sieve.  To use the adjective, “rainy” is to describe the sun as merely warm.

Schools are closed. Streets are clogged.  And announcers on radio and television beg us to “Please stay home!”  But crises large and small have a way of yielding defining snapshots.  I saw one the other day.

As gallon-sized drops of rain blasted the army of downtown commuters, we besieged soldiers bolted the last steps of our maneuvers toward the train station portico. Safely under the cover of stone and cement, our soggy platoon holstered weapons of defense—umbrellas dripping impressive rivers of their own.

Only then did I notice our ranks had been infiltrated.  The peddlers and beggars who normally position themselves on high-traffic corners just outside the station had come inside the station.

The guy with the cardboard sign asking for help to—quote—“keep my place”…he was there.  Then I saw the young blind man who jangles his cup on the corner.  The familiar cast of panhandlers was all present and accounted for.

The scene was mildly humorous and profoundly telling.  Here were bankers and lawyers and high flying business folks of every stripe with hair and clothes as matted and soggy as…the homeless people who shared their space.

For the briefest of moments, the labels and assumptions and baggage were stripped away.    There under that merciful portico, we were all just survivors.  Human beings equally wet—and more equal than the proudest of us cared to know.  What a picture of our moral standing before God:

For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

There is NO one righteous…not even one.

Yet there it stands: the portico of God’s grace—shielding, protecting and—best of all--open to beggars of every kind: the earthly poor, as well as rich folks who know just how impoverished they really are…apart from Christ.

 
Go Make Babies  

Hey interesting people—go make babies!

Have I shocked you?  The words aren’t mine.  That’s an actual quote from an actual ad campaign for a national public radio station in Chicago.

If you’re offended, you ought to be.  Quite apart from the crassness of the remark, the statement,” Hey interesting people—go make babies”…raises questions on several levels.

First, there’s a complete lack of connection between being married and being parents.  “Hey interesting people—go make babies.” Whether that statement merely reflects societal trends or is itself causative, is a whole separate discussion.  But no biblical definition of family encourages pregnancy outside of marriage.

While the ad campaign fails to list the one biblical requirement for starting a family—being married—it oddly sets up a rather capricious standard when it says, “Hey interesting people.”

Now…who decides who’s interesting and who’s boring?  Employees at National Public Radio?  “Hey, interesting peole.”

You know what, I’ll be honest—I’m not sure I’ve met too many boring people in this world.  Truth is, just about everyone and everything interests me.  I could interview a garbage collector for an hour—without preparation—and be thoroughly entertained.

But what about people who would describe themselves as “less interesting”?  Should they refrain from having kids?  What about those who society would not call beautiful?  Should they refrain from having kids?  What about those who believe that there should be tolerance even for those who aren’t tolerant?  Should they refrain from having kids?

When an ad campaign proposes a disregard for biblical morality, while at the same time off handedly promotes a pop cultural form of eugenics, it’s time to call it what it is.  Beyond tacky, this campaign is just plain inappropriate.

And to anyone who would label my reaction as a tempest in a teapot…maybe you’re right.  I fully get the idea that this ad campaign is intended as tongue-in-cheek.  On the other hand, it seems to me that ideas—even those suggested partly in gest—really do have consequences.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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